Tuesday, March 18, 2014

English Muffins

It's day two of Breakfast Week, and today we have English muffins on the blog!  English muffins are a breakfast item that I definitely ate as a kid (my mom loved them), and then all of the sudden, for reasons that I don't still don't quite understand, I stopped liking.  Out of nowhere.  I went from an English muffin person to a non-English muffin person overnight.  The thought of English muffins just seemed to bore me, and I never really wanted to eat them.  This weird phase of mine actually lasted a few years, until one random day in college.  I was in the dining hall figuring out what I wanted to eat for breakfast, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a package of English muffins sitting there on the counter next to a toaster.  My body kind of went on autopilot, and before I even realized it, I had a toasted English muffin on my plate.  I wasn't about to put the toasted English muffin back (because that would have been awkward) and I wasn't about to throw it out (because I hate throwing food away for no reason), so I was left with no choice but to eat the toasted English muffin.  I put a little butter and strawberry jam on it, and all of the sudden, my mind had been changed.  These little things were actually so good...what had I been thinking all those years!? 

Once I re-discovered just how great English muffins were, they became a regular item in my breakfast rotation while at school.  I just loved the way those nooks and crannies captured every bit of butter and jam!  I remember when I was younger I never understand just what a "nook and cranny" was.  I sort of knew that they meant some kind of place, like a hiding or holding place, but it just didn't make sense in terms of an English muffin.  I kept thinking of big hiding places to hide stuff in, like big stuff, so I was completely clueless as to what all the fuss about nooks and crannies was anyway.  As an older and wiser individual, I started understanding.  Those nooks and crannies are what hold all that butter and jam and bring it into the English muffin!  

For a long time now, I've had a random urge to actually make my own English muffins.  I don't really know why, because these are one of those things that just don't seem to be worth the trouble to make from scratch.  I think it was when I learned that English muffins are actually dry-fried slowly over a griddle, rather than baked in an oven, that I became really intrigued about making my own.  I had never made anything using that technique before, so I felt obligated to give the method a try!  It seemed really like a really interesting way to work with a yeast product, and since I knew Breakfast Week was coming up, it seemed like the most fitting moment to attempt English muffins for the first time. 

Aside from the slightly unconventional cooking method for the English muffins, the rest of the recipe is actually no different than any other yeast recipe.  Really, I mean it!  It's a simple dough that comes together in minutes if you use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.  All the ingredients get combined at once at the start, and after that, it's just a matter of letting the dough rest for two hours.  Once the dough has rested, it'll be as soft as a pillow and beautifully smooth.  The dough is gently punched down, and then cut into 16 equal portions.  Each portion is then rolled into a smooth ball, and then gently flattened into a round disc.  Then comes the dry-frying part.  A griddle is covered in lots and lots of cornmeal, and the discs of dough are placed on top to rest for another 20 minutes.  After that, it's time to get cooking!  Turn the heat up to a low temperature, and let the English muffins cook for about 10 minutes per side so they turn golden brown.  The interior will cook at the same time, and once it reaches 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, the English muffins are ready!  If the interior isn't a that temperature by the time the top and bottom is golden brown, then simply finish cooking them off in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes (I had to do this, so no worries!).  After that, you're done!

I can't even tell you how much I loved these English muffins.  They were so much better than any English muffin I ever tried from the store.  I love my English muffins lightly toasted, and with a nice coating of butter and jam. Toasting the English muffins makes those lovely nooks and crannies nice and crunchy, and they cradle the butter and jam perfectly.  They're such a satisfying way to enjoy breakfast, and I know I'll have to make these again soon.  Stay tuned for a new breakfast recipe tomorrow, and but in the meantime, enjoy these English muffins!

English Muffins
recipe from King Arthur Flour


1 3/4 cups lukewarm milk
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
cornmeal, for sprinkling on the griddle


Begin by combining all of the ingredients (except the cornmeal) in the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix the ingredients together on low speed until they combine into a dough, and then turn up the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is satiny-smooth and shiny, about five minutes.  Scrape the dough into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After two hours, prepare your griddle.  If you have two griddles, it makes cooking the English muffins easier, but if you don't, just work in batches.  An electric or stovetop griddle will work just fine (I just used a stovetop one). Heavily sprinkle the griddle you decide to use with cornmeal.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 16 equal pieces (use a kitchen scale for accuracy). Shape each piece into a round ball, and then gently flatten them until they're about 3 1/2" in diameter.

Lay the flattened muffins on the prepared griddle (as many as you can fit, and keep the rest on a baking sheet sprinkled with more cornmeal).  Cover the muffins with a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for 20 minutes. They won't rise very much, but will puff up a bit.

Cook the muffins on low heat for about 10-15 minutes per side, so that their crusts turn golden brown. The interior of the muffin should read about 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.  If you notice that the muffins have browned before they're cooked all the way through, just stick them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking the inside of the muffins.    

Remove the muffins from the griddle (or oven), and let them cool completely.  To serve, make sure to use a fork to split the muffins rather than a knife.  You'll only get those delicious nooks and crannies if you use a fork to split them!  Enjoy!

Makes 16 English muffins


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