Eureka! Homemade English Muffins
In this week's What's Cooking chat, a reader from Honolulu asked for a recipe for homemade English muffins
To the muffin-y rescue came a reader from Oakland, Calif., who shared a tried-and-true recipe from Winos and Foodies, a New Zealand-based blog. Oakland was kind enough to convert the measurements for us non-metric cooks. Details are below.
Also an English muffin virgin, I took this recipe as a cue. It was my turn as well to get griddlin' and see what the fuss was all about. I've always been impressed by restaurants turning out their own English muffins, but for some reason never thought I should recreate the experience myself. I kept thinking I'd never get that nooks and crannies thing down like our old pal Thomas.
I studied the recipe several times and kept thinking, what's the catch? This seems so easy. I even consulted "The Bread Bible," by Beth Hensperger, who offers a similarly straightforward version, albeit with more milk and butter.
So, last night, while switching between the 11 o'clock news and "Sex and the City" reruns, I made my dough, a yeasty, fairly no-nonsense mixture that turned baby-bottom soft after 8 minutes of kneading.
Just after seven this morning, I rolled out of bed, made a cup of coffee and said good morning to my happily-risen dough. As I rolled it into balls and prepared it for a second rise (flattened into discs by a baking sheet roof), I still thought, is this really going to work out?
I'm without a griddle, so I pulled out two cast-iron skillets in its place. Unlike American-style muffins that are baked in tins, English muffins (which date to the mid-18th century) are cooked stovetop, in a griddle-like apparatus, to bring out that flat golden top and lighty, spongy interior with those famous nooks and crannies we all love. I found some reference to the interior, described as "honeycomb," which is just perfect.
My first batch griddling away, I remained skeptical. How will these doughy things get cooked inside? I just couldn't fathom interior success. Lo and behold, 20 minutes later, both sides were golden brown and frankly, were getting even a little too brown. I had to take these babies off the fire and see what was going on inside.
The word "eureka" comes to mind. Really! I was so amazed at the beautiful network of air pockets that truly do resemble honeycomb. I bit into one, and I couldn't get over the sourdough notes, the gentle pillow with yes! a crispy, slightly chewy exterior. I had really done it.
While the second batch cooked, I toasted up a muffin, to see how it would compare to the English muffins I grew up on. It didn't. It blew that orange bag of so-called muffins away. I may never buy English muffins again.
Thanks to Honolulu and Oakland, I am now a true believer of the homemade English muffin school. This is alchemy at its best. Go on, try this one on for size this weekend. You won't believe it.
Adapted from the blog, "Winos and Foodies"
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
1/2 cup warm milk (same temperature range as the water)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, place yeast, sugar and half the water. With a fork, whisk until yeast is dissolved and cover with a towel for at least five minutes. Mixture should start to foam. Add remaining water and milk and cover for another five minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Add in yeast mixture. With a rubber spatula or your hands (or with a dough hook in the bowl of a standing mixer), gently mix ingredients, until just combined. Pour onto lightly floured work surface and knead (press, fold and turn) for up to 8 minutes. Dough will be very soft, which is a good thing.
Place dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic and a tea towel. Allow to double in size, at least 90 minutes, or alternatively, overnight. I kept my bowl out of the fridge, but on a warmer night, I might have done a cooler, slow rise.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Roll into a rope at least one inch thick. You'll want no more than 8 or 9 pieces from the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and roll in cornmeal or rice flour. Place on a baking sheet and top with a second baking sheet for a second rise, about 20 minutes.
When ready to cook, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease - butter burns too quickly, so I quickly changed to an oil spray. Beware of burning cornmeal; you may have to swipe pan clean with a towel.
Allow to cook on first side for about 10 minutes; you'll notice puffing and the first side getting golden. With tongs, turn onto second side and cook for about the same amount of time. Place cooked muffins in a tea towel to keep warm.
Open with a fork or serrated knife, and eat as is or toasted.
Freeze in an airtight zip-style bag for later use.
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