How to Make Astoundingly Perfect English Muffins Every Time
A Muffin Isn't Always a Muffin
In the words of Gertrude Stein, "A rose is a rose, but a muffin is not always a muffin." When you hear "muffin," I'm assuming that your thoughts go to those cupcake-shaped cake-like treats filled with fruits or nuts and adorned with a streusel or chocolate-drizzle topping.
But that is not the shape or flavor of today's topic. An English muffin is yeasty, flat, and heavenly! Here is their story.
Who Was the Muffin Man? (And Where Is Drury Lane?)
English muffins were not always like the breakfast bread we have come to know and love. Today's muffins are soft on the inside with a craters-of-the-moon appearance, perfect for grasping pools of melted butter or sweet berry jam. The exterior is golden, crisp, and lightly dusted with cornmeal.
But during the Victorian era, they were nothing more than a mash of scraps for the "downstairs" servants. Leftover bread, bits of biscuits, and cold forlorn mashed potatoes were combined to create a "dough" that was fried crisp on a griddle. Despite their humble beginnings, they were eventually "discovered" by those who dwelt upstairs and became a teatime treat.
In time, English muffins were produced in quantity, and muffin vendors sold their wares from wooden trays.
They've Been Upgraded
Unlike the bread of Victorian England, the recipe I share with you today does not rely on leftover dough and potato mash. Here's what you need to make buttery soft English muffins in your own kitchen.
Equipment You Will Need
- liquid measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- dry measuring cups
- 1 small mixing bowl
- 2 large mixing bowls
- stand mixer with dough hook or sturdy spoon for stirring
- plastic wrap to cover bowl
- large griddle (optimum) or electric frying pan
- clean kitchen towel (to cover shaped muffins before baking)
- baking sheet
- instant-read thermometer (not mandatory, but helpful)
Makes about 1 dozen
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast (not rapid rise or bread machine)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
I am going to present two methods of preparing your English muffins. One is for those who have one griddle large enough to accommodate all of the muffins at one time. The second set of instructions is for those who will need to finish their muffins as two separate batches.
They Begin With These Simple Steps
(1) Combine water, sugar, and yeast in small bowl. Let stand for 10-12 minutes or until bubbly.
(2) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. (I use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, but you can make the dough by hand). Pour in the yeast mixture and the olive oil.
(3) If using a stand mixer, process until a smooth ball of dough forms. It will release from the sides of the bowl. If mixing by hand, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 5 to 8 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
(4) Place dough in a clean bowl which has been lightly greased. Cover and set in a warm, draft-free place. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
(5) When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl. Roll out on a generously-floured surface to 1/2-inch thickness.
(6) Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or the rim of a drinking glass will work in a pinch), cut out rounds. Be careful to push straight down; don't twist the cutter or glass rim. That distorts the sides of the muffin and affects its ability to rise straight up.
You should be able to get about 12 muffins from this recipe.
If Cooking All of the Muffins at One Time on a Large Griddle
(7) The easiest way to handle and cook these muffins is to lay them right onto the cold surface you'll be frying them on. That way, you don't have to move them once they've risen; and they won't mind cooking very slowly as you fire the griddle up to its desired heat.
(8) Cover the muffins (a kitchen towel works well), and let them rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
(9) Cook the muffins over medium-low heat for about 7-9 minutes per side, until their crust is golden brown, and their interior is cooked through. When done, the center of a muffin should register about 200 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer. If you find the muffins have browned before they're cooked all the way through, no worries; simply pop them into the preheated 350 degrees F. oven for about 10 minutes or so, or until they're thoroughly cooked.
But If You Need to Cook the Muffins in Two Batches
(7) Prepare two baking sheets. One will be dusted with cornmeal and will be the resting place for your formed English muffins. The other will be lined with parchment paper and set aside for final baking of the muffins (if needed).
(8) Place your rolled and cut muffins on the cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in warm, draft-free place to rise. They should double, and this will take about 1 hour.
(9) Heat your griddle or frying pan to medium-low heat. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
(10) Very carefully transfer your risen muffins (one-half at a time) to the preheated griddle. Be gentle so that you don't deflate them.
(11) Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 9 minutes per side, until their crust is golden brown, and their interior is cooked through. When done, the center of a muffin should register about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. If you find the muffins have browned before they're cooked all the way through, no worries; simply pop them into a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes or so, or until they're thoroughly cooked.
The Perfect Foundation
Now that you have the perfect English muffin, what will you do with it? Toast it and slather on butter and jam? Use as the basis for a breakfast sandwich of eggs and sausage patty? Or will you go full-on gourmet and create Eggs Benedict?
Someday I'll share with you how to make the perfect E.B., but that's another story for another time.
© 2018 Linda Lum