A few weeks ago, the kids and I were having some English muffins with our breakfast when we all concluded that we just didn't like them. It occurred to me that we've gotten so unused to processed baked goods that we can taste all the extra stuff in store bought English muffins. I remembered liking English muffins so much as a kid that I couldn't imagine my tastes had changed that much. If not my tastes changing, it had to have been the English muffins that changed.
So, I set out to test that hypothesis by making my own English muffins using the recipe from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. First off, they were easier than I'd anticipated, but with two 60-90 minute rises, took longer than I'd thought they would. Secondly, they were so worth it! Seriously...they were fabulous. Fabulous enough that I made a second batch last weekend and they're already gone. Don't these look gorgeous?
Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 Tbsp shortening or butter (at room temperature)
3/4 – 1 cup milk (at room temperature)
cornmeal for sprinkling
1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. mix in the shortening and 3/4 cup of the milk. add the remaining milk if the dough is too dry.
2. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. place in a lightly oiled bowl and roll to coat. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and shape into balls (this is where you need to use your judgement...you might easily get more than six...we got roughly 9). Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet and spray (I used a Silpat) or lightly coat with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Move the dough balls to the baking sheet evenly spaced apart (giving them room to rise more). Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow them to rise for another hour.
3. Heat the oven to 350 F and heat up a skillet on medium heat on the stove top or an electric griddle at 350F (I used an electric griddle). Brush the skillet with oil and gently transfer the dough balls to the skillet a few at a time. Allow them to cook on the skillet for 5-8 minutes, until the bottoms are nicely browned. carefully flip and cook the other side for about 5-8 minutes more. They should flatten as they cook.
4. When the muffins look as if they are about to burn, remove them from the skillet with a spatula and transfer quickly to a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 5-8 minutes. Do not wait until all of the muffins have been cooked on the skillet before moving them to the oven – as the first batch is baking, move the second batch of muffins to the skillet.
5. Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving. serve with lots of butter and jelly. store them as you would muffins you buy in the store – in a sealed ziploc bag in the fridge or freezer.
After making this recipe twice, I have a few tips:
1) If you forget to make your milk room temperature, your first rise will take forever. (Yes, I did that the second time I made them...oops.)
2) Doubling the recipe gets you roughly 18 English muffins.
3) A kitchen scale is my new best friend. Measuring flour accurately is so much easier with a kitchen scale. It eliminates the issues with compacted vs. non-compacted flour. I found mine for $2.99 at a thrift store.
4) If you really want huge English muffins, make each muffin 4 oz as the recipe calls for. Otherwise, for normal-sized English muffins, stick with 2 oz. (Again, the kitchen scale came in handy here...we just weighed each hunk before we formed the muffin balls and ended up with a uniform result.)