ENGLISH MUFFINS FROM SCRATCH
COOKING IN THE TIME OF CORONA VIRUS
What do you do when someone reaches up and basically flips the switch on life as we know it?
- Kids out of school
- Adults out of work
- Everyone is wearing a mask
- Shortages at grocery stores
- Thousands getting sick every day
- Hundreds dying every day
- No one knows what to expect next
Between the shortages at stores and the unknown concerns about getting out of the house, I start cooking. No recipe is out of bounds, nothing takes too long. Too many steps? Nah…..
It was about Covid Stay Home Day #7 when my husband says, “I wish we could have Eggs Benedict today.”
Running over the needed ingredients in my head, I say, “We don’t have English muffins.” I start the mental ingredient check again for a substitute and come up empty.
Then, wait for it…..wait for it….
“I’LL JUST MAKE ENGLISH MUFFINS…FROM SCRATCH”
So I did.
Why are English Muffins Called “English”?
Well, the story goes like this. A man from England immigrates to America. He has to make a living. He has some baking skills, so he opens a little bakery.
Said Englishman has fond memories of home, and fonder memories of crumpets.
Crumpets are kinda like English muffins; they are poured into molds on a griddle and only cooked on one side.
But this crazy Englishman, full of patriotism and hope made the earth-shattering decisions to:
- Cook them on both sides
- Fork-split them before selling
Then he called them English muffins. They caught on. Big.
So, Mr. Samuel Bath Thomas found success in his new homeland. Big Success. Sam Thomas. Like ‘Thomas English Muffins’ successful.
How to Get Those “Nooks and Crannies” in English Muffins
Two things – loose sticky dough, single knead.
Usually with yeast bread, you mix it up, let it rise, punch it down, and let it rise again.
With this English Muffin recipe, the dough is loose and sticky – and you only let it rise once. That extra moisture and single rise results in large air pockets in the dough.
If you punched it down for the second rise, the yeast pockets would be smaller on the second rise. Think of comparing a slice of white bread with an English muffin. The crumb and air pockets are much smaller in a piece of bread than the English muffin.
How to Store English Muffins
If you have any leftovers (sometimes that is IFFY,) you can store the cooked muffins in an airtight bag or container. They will keep 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator. Also, you can freeze baked muffins (again, airtight container)
ENGLISH MUFFINS FROM SCRATCH
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 Tbs honey
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or 1 package instant yeast
- 1 large egg
- 4 Tbs unsalted butter melted
- 5 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- cornmeal for dusting
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey over low heat until it reaches 105-115ºF. Remove from heat, stir in the yeast, and set aside for 5 mins. Whisk in the egg and melted butter.
- Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. with the mixer on low speed, gradually pour the milk mixture into the flour.
- Continue to beat on low until the flour is incorporated, stop and scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough is smooth and sticky.
- Scrape the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl. Brush a little oil over the top of the dough. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, using as little flour as possible, gently knead the dough together. (The dough is very sticky. Add just enough flour to make it easy to handle.)
- Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 8 equal sized pieces. You should have 16 dough balls. (If you want smaller muffins, divide each half into 11 pieces to equal 22 dough balls.) Roll each piece into a ball and flatten the ball into a disk.
- Place the disks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal over the tops. Cover with a lint-free towel and set in a draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- Heat a griddle over medium-low heat. Gently lift each disk with a plastic spatula and place it on the griddle. (Handle the dough with care so you don't deflate it) Cook them for about 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned on both sides. Work in batches.
- Place the muffins back on the cookie sheet and bake them for 10-15 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
- Split the English muffins with a fork and toast them a toaster until the edges are lightly browned. Serve warm with your favorite jam or butter.
How Do I Serve English Muffins?
- Fork Split and Toasted, with butter and jam … or honey … or preserves! If you split them with a fork instead of cutting them with a knife, you preserve the “nooks and crannies” that everyone loves.
- Any of the splendid poached egg and hollandaise dishes – Eggs Benedict (Canadian Bacon,) Eggs Florentine (Spinach and hollandaise,) Oscar – style (lump crab and asparagus,) or Smoked Salmon Benedict (sub lox for the protein) or Crabcake Benedict (crab cake!)
- English Muffin Pizzas – spread a little red sauce, mozzarella and your favorite toppings
English Muffins Important Info
It can be tricky to recreate some recipes in your home kitchen. Most of us don’t have professional equipment that gives restaurant food that extra … something. So don’t be hard on yourself when this recipe (or any other recipe for that matter) doesn’t come out exactly like a commercial or restaurant-produced product. But here are a few things you might consider:
- Bread flour is used to give the muffins a chewy texture. And though I have never used it, I’m thinking about using Vital Wheat Gluten. From what I have read, it helps you bread have that professional quality. It’s available on Amazon.
- The dough is sticky! A sticky dough means there’s optimal hydration to yield nooks and crannies that English muffins are known for.
- The muffins are toasted on the stovetop then baked in the oven. Baking them ensures the middle is completely done.
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