Thursday, February 3, 2011

English Muffins

Having previously tackled bagels, the next breakfast breadstuff we set our sights on was English muffins. Before we got nookin' and crannyin', we had to pick a recipe, so we went with the time-honored "just use the first one that comes up in Google" technique. This just so happens to turn up with this recipe at After parsing it out, it was clear there were some efficiency improvements that could be made, so the modified version is below.

The resulting dough, made with a portion of whole-wheat flour to cram a little more nutrition into it, was very supple and easy to work with. A bit too easy, in fact, because I rolled the dough out too thin, resulting in flatter and crispier muffins than I would have liked. (A nap that went into overtime while the muffins were rising also contributed to this problem.)

The fun part about these is that rather than baking them in the oven, you cook them on a griddle. This gives them that honest-to-goodness pattern of browning that you're used to seeing in your packages of Thomas's and whatnot. Given the muffins' unfortunate thinness, they cooked quickly, but the end result was still tasty, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and quite irresistible fresh off of the griddle with a nice pat of butter between their fork-split halves. Next time, I will heed the half-inch thickness guidance in the recipe, which is:

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast, or about half a package
2 tbs vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour, substituting whole-wheat for up to half the amount
1/2 teaspoon salt

Microwave the milk, water and sugar together until the milk is lukewarm (but not too hot! or you'll kill the yeast). Add the yeast, mix, and let sit for 10 minutes until mixture is bubbly.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, then add milk/water mixture and mix until combined. Knead with the dough hook for 5-6 minutes, adjusting amount of flour and liquid as necessary to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. Put in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until about doubled.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's 1/2 inch thick (but no thinner!). Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle some corn meal over the paper. Use whatever sharp, cylindrical, English-muffin-sized object you have to cut out the muffins, then place them on the cornmealed parchment. When you're done, sprinkle some more corn meal over the muffins-to-be. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1/2 hour or until puffy (note: if you take a nap at this point, set an alarm).

Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet up and lightly spray with cooking spray or brush with oil. Place the puffy muffins on over medium heat and cook until toasty on one side, then flip and cook the other side. When nicely browned and firm, remove and cool on wire racks. Before serving or freezing, use the tines of a fork to puncture around the circumference of the muffin for that authentic "fork-split" look. Enjoy!

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