English Muffins

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I never gave English muffins much thought. I will say that they are curcual as an eggs benny vessel. As a kid, I did love eating them (with peanut butter melting into the holes) for breakfast, but what else? How about hot off the griddle pan and smeared with melted salty butter? The griddle pan as in, the pan you made them from scratch in. Yes, that’s when English muffins are worth giving more thought.

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There’s been a few instances when I’ve decided to make my own bread instead of buying it. It’s ironic that I chose to make English muffins, since I NEVER buy them. Ever. But I wanted something different, the recipe seemed pretty quick and why not?

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Well, I’ve made one and a half batches since that decision, and will probably be making more next week. I’m not sure why or how they are so good. Perhaps my laziness; allowing a longer resting (flavour-enhancing) time, or the fact they have good bit just a pinch a of sugar and butter in the dough.

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The dough was easy to throw together and the fact that there are two rising opportunities, makes it fantastic for lazy people. You can take the dough all the way to forming the discs, then cook them as needed. (I’d recommend this method, as if you make them all at once, you won’t have any left for breakfast the next day.)

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Aside from being everyone’s favourite person once you make these, it’s also a huge, entertaining ordeal. For my room mates and me, the fact that I was making ‘muffs’…well you know.

English Muffins

Makes 18-24

Adapted from Food52.com

  • 2 1/3 tablespoons active dry yeast (a little less than the contents of two 1/4 oz packets)
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk or 3/4 cup yogurt, 1 cup water whisked to combine
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • Cornmeal as needed (or yellow grits, in a pinch)
  1. Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook and whisk together to dissolve the yeast. I used a bowl/manpower here.
  2. Warm he buttermilk over low heat in a small pan on the stovetop just until it loses the refrigerator chill. Stir into the yeast and water.
  3. Add the flour, sugar, and kosher salt to the bowl, stir until just until it comes together as a shaggy, droopy dough 3 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add the butter to the dough a tablespoon at a time, while still mixing. (Make sure it’s at room temperature—you’ll overwork the dough trying to incorporate cold butter into it.)
  5. The dough will look as if it is separating, but just keep going. Knead it for 7 to 8 minutes, by which time it should be tacky but no longer sticky and hold its shape.
  6. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap (or dirty another fresh bowl, your choice)  and leave the dough to rest, relax, and rise for 1 hour.
  7. After the dough has risen, put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour to chill, to make it easier to handle.
    ** I put mine in the fridge for 24 hours, adding an amazing tanginess to the dough.

  8. While the dough’s resting, two of rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and cover them each with a ¼-inch-deep layer of cornmeal, into which you will nestle your muffins.
    (That’s way more cornmeal than will stick to the muffins, but whatever’s left over will be fine to use in another recipe.)

  9. Scatter your work surface with a very, very fine dusting of flour, and lightly flour your hands.
  10. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it a few times to deflate it. Shape it into a fat, smoothish log.
  11. For traditional-size English muffins, pinch off pieces about the size of a handball (which should weigh about 60 grams).
  12. With lightly floured palms, roll the pieces of dough into neat balls, applying as little pressure as possible. The dough should be pillowy and tender and delicate and have the tiniest bit of spring to it.
  13. As you shape them, transfer the balls of dough, one by one, to the baking sheet. Nestle each ball of dough into the cornmeal and pat it down gently so some of the cornmeal adheres to the bottom.
  14. Flip it over, gently patting the top so the bottom picks up some of the cornmeal. Leave about an inch between the muffins, giving them enough space to stretch and rise as they may need.
  15. You can proceed with the recipe directly, or you can wrap the baking sheets of proofing dough in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, after which time the muffins will be easier to handle.
    *You can also take a longer break: wrapped and refrigerated, the muffins will keep (and improve) for up to 3 days.

  16. Turn the oven on to 250°F. Warm a cast-iron skillet or griddle over the lowest heat setting possible for 5 or so minutes.
  17. Scatter the pan with a thin, even layer of cornmeal and warm for a minute more.
  18. Grab the proofed muffins one by one by their uncornmealed sides, dust off any excess cornmeal clinging to their tops and bottoms (you want a thin even coating, not a thick jacket), and transfer them to the pan, working in batches.
  19. This is the all-important nook-and-crannies-forming stage of English muffin cookery: you want the muffins to rise and griddle-bake slowly. You almost can’t take enough time with this stage.
    (And if any point before the final couple of minutes of cooking you smell cornmeal toasting or browning, instead of just warming, turn the heat down.)

  20.  After about 4 minutes, their tops will begin to puff and dome: that’s your cue to flip them.
  21. After 4 or 5 minutes on the second side, the bottoms of the muffins should still feel airy and light. Once they’re at that point, you can nudge up the heat slightly, and turning them every 2 to 3 minutes, toast their tops and bottoms.
    (Here the smell of toasting cornmeal is okay.)

  22. When the muffins are toasted—tops and bottoms mottled with brown – put them in the oven for 10 minutes to finish baking. Remove from the oven and let them cool until they reach room temperature.

 

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