I don’t particularly love English muffins, but I don’t hate them either. The other day, I had a hankering to make a bread of sorts, but I wanted to keep it easy both in technique and in ingredients required. I happened across the English muffin recipe in the “Mastering Shape and Size” chapter of my beloved Bread Illustrated cookbook and though hey – why not.
The required ingredients didn’t require a trip to the grocery store: all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, whole milk (I used 2%), water, unsalted butter, sugar, and cornmeal. I had polenta but not cornmeal, so I put a couple of tablespoons of polenta in the food processor and have it a whirl. Voila: cornmeal.
This was a pretty fun bread to make. It was interactive but easy. Day 1 involves mixing the dough together in the stand mixer; letting the dough rise; doing one set of folds; letting the dough rise once again; then chopping the dough with a pastry cutter into 12 pieces (this is my favourite part). I eyeballed while I chopped, but you could get more precise and measure the dough to ensure uniformity. (If I was on Great British Bake Off, that is what I would do.)
One by one, the hunks of dough get shaped into balls and placed on a cornmeal dusted cookie sheet. Once the sheet is filled with 12 little balls, you place a second cookie sheet on top of them. While it is tempting to squish the top sheet down to flatted the balls, you aren’t supposed to. It says to “gently place second baking sheet on top”. You’re instructed to let the sheets chill in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, letting gravity do its thing.
I left my dough in the fridge overnight, removing the cookie sheets the next morning and letting them rest at room temperature for an hour while I preheated the oven and warmed a skillet. I was disappointed to see that my English muffins weren’t that flat. I really wanted to squish that top cookie sheet down, but I resisted. In hindsight, I probably should have; my muffins turned out quick small and high, whereas flat and wide (hockey puck-esque, if you will) is the more traditional way.
The tops of the puck/balls gets dusted with more cornmeal, then you heat the muffins, four at a time, on a skillet over medium heat.
You’re supposed to leave them three to six minutes per side, but loose cornstarch started to burn and things were getting a little smoky. I was still traumatized from my Kouign-Amann disaster, so I only left my muffins for a couple of minutes per side. Even though I erred on the side of caution, some of my bottoms looked a little burned.
Post-skillet, the muffins get baked for about 10 minutes. Then, they’re ready for eating. The recipe recommends toasting before eating, but I liked them equally toasted and un-toasted.
Although my English muffins were a little baseball-y in proportions, they tasted like regular English muffins – only better. They were fresh and had a lovely texture, and they just seemed to taste more English muffin-ier than storebought ones do. It’s hard to explain – especially because store-bought English muffins don’t really taste like much at all. I recommend just trying to make your own and you’ll see what I mean.
We ate the English muffins with peanut butter; with jam; plain; and in sandwich form (Cedric called them sliders). The dozen muffins disappeared in no time.
I went into the English muffin baking experience with no expectations, but they were a surprise hit. English muffins: who knew?!
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