I am fortunate to live steps away from a fantastic bakery, which supplies me with warm, fresh loaves of bread on any given weekday. I don’t buy bagged supermarket bread, because fresh is so accessible and tastes so much better. And (because I love to wrap my fingers around a smooth ball of springy dough) what I can’t get at the bakery, I make myself.
One exception to the fresh-only rule has been English muffins – why? I don’t know. But I read the ingredients list on the last bag I bought…
“Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Canola Oil” – this is about where I’d expect the list to end – but no, we’ve got, “glucose-fructose, calcium proprionate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulphate, ammonium chloride, azodicarbonamide, diacetylated tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides (??!?), calcium peroxide and ascorbic acid” in there too. Yum?
I decided that bag would be my last!
I can’t believe I had never made English muffins before. They are so easy they practically make themselves, and they blow those bagged pucks out of the preservative-laden water. I made a double batch and froze them. Now I have an eggs-benedict vehicle at the ready whenever the whim should strike.
Have you tried no-knead bread? English muffins are just as easy, but with less waiting. You simply stir the ingredients together – no kneading – and only have to wait an hour. And if you haven’t made no-knead bread, you should get on that, stat.
The dough is very sticky, you’ll need a well-floured surface. I used a 3 inch biscuit cutter to make circles, but you could just as easily use an overturned glass.
The muffins are cooked first in a cornmeal-dusted frying pan (you could simply use more flour if you don’t have cornmeal, or wheat germ) and then transferred to an oven to finish baking. Don’t skip the skillet and try to shortcut them straight to the oven – tried this, and the result was flat buns, not english muffins.
Homemade english muffins are fresh and chewy, all full of craggly crevices for melted butter to seep into. Use a fork to stab around the circumference, then pry it apart (if you use a knife, you’ll lose the nooks and crannies!).
My recipe uses some yogurt to mimic the tang of a sourdough english muffin, and also helps to make them extra soft and chewy.
- 1½ cup milk
- ¼ cup cold butter, cubed
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 4 cups all purpose flour (or 2 cups whole wheat, 2 cups all purpose)
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Cornmeal, for dusting skillet
- In large microwave-safe measuring cup, microwave milk on high power until starting to simmer at edges, about 2 ½ minutes. Stir in cold butter until melted. When mixture has cooled to warm, stir in beaten egg and yogurt.
- Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. With mixer speed on low (using beater attachment), slowly add milk mixture. Beat 1 minute, until thoroughly combined. Dough will be very wet. Cover with saran wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for one hour.
- Scrape dough from bowl onto a floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of dough, and pat down until it is about ½ inch thick. Use a floured 3” biscuit cutter (or a upside-down drinking glass) to make rounds. Gather up scraps of dough and repeat. Use a floured spatula to pick up the English muffins as you go, and set them aside to rise for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F and heat a skillet (or two) over medium heat. Dust skillet generously with cornmeal. Place English muffins 1 inch apart in skillet and cook 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on bottom. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes on other side. Transfer to baking sheet as they’re done. Once all English muffins have been browned, bake in centre of oven for 7-10 minutes, until they sound hollow when you tap their tops.