Sunday, April 12, 2015

Homemade English Muffins

English muffins are one of my favorite breakfast treats - more special (and tastier) than toast. I like an English muffin well toasted with lost of crispy, craggy goodness to catch butter, homemade jam or honey. I started making my own when I found some commercial varieties to be gummy without much flavor.

I like this recipe because it uses a starter with a long (and flexible) rise time, which helps develop flavor. It's also reliable - I've used the recipe several times with consistent results. The muffins can be dry-fried (325 degree ungreased skillet for about 10 minutes per side), but this method sometimes produces a muffin with a doughy center. Baking always produces a fully cooked muffin.

I use muffin rings, available at most baking supply stores or online retailers. Muffins baked in rings are straight sided, easy to cut and fit well in the toaster (and are perfectly round for pretty egg sandwiches). You can make free-form muffins that are just as tasty. They just won't rise as high.

Combine starter ingredients and leave at room temperature for at
least four hours and up to 16 hours. Starter will be bubbly when it's ready.
 This starter sat on the counter for seven hours.

Combine starter with dough ingredients, beating for 6-8 minutes. Cover and let rise 1 hour.

I have a few English muffin rings. While they're not
a necessity, I like uniform muffins with straight sides. 

Grease the rings and place on a lined baking sheet. Fill with scant 1/4 cup batter.
 I've lost a few rings, so some muffins are free form. I should've made 12,
rather than 11 muffins. Some of the rings are too full (see finished product).
After they rise, place a second baking sheet on top of the rings to prevent doming
during baking. Do not place second pan on top of free-form muffins. 

Left to right: baked without the ring (free form); baked with the ring and the
pan on top - notice the excess dough that rose over the top of the ring;
and baked with a ring without a pan on top - the domed top will
have to be cut off to fit in the toaster.

Crispy, craggy and delish. Perfect with a bit of butter or a great base for an egg sandwich.

English Muffins
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup water
1/8 tsp instant yeast

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup warm milk
Cornmeal for sprinkling

Make the starter
Mix flour, water and yeast in a medium bowl to form a smooth batter. Cover and leave at room temp at least 4 hours and up to 16 hours. The batter will be puffy and full of holes when it's ready to use.

Make the dough
In a large bowl, combine starter and all dough ingredients. Mix 6-8 minutes. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Spray 12 English muffin rings with nonstick spray and place on a parchment lined baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. If you don't have rings, make free form muffins by dropping batter onto pan.

Stir dough and drop scant 1/4 cup of dough into each ring (resist the urge to overfill the rings). Smooth dough with fingers dipped in water. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover the pan and let rise until muffins have grown by at least a third, up to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If you're using rings, place a clean baking sheet atop the muffins to keep muffins flat on both sides so they'll fit in the toaster. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before toasting.

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