Memorial Day Weekend: English Muffins

Memorial Day Weekend English Muffins

May 24, 2015

EnglishMuffins5-2015Inspired by Peter Reinhart’s marvelous “Artisan Breads Every Day,” I woke up two days ago thinking about making English Muffins. You’ll need some crumpet rings (canning jar lids will do in a pinch, but they are smaller in both dimensions). You’ll also want a fairly heavy pan or griddle. Mine is well-seasoned cast iron and covers two burners.

The actual distinctions between crumpets and English Muffins are rather fuzzy. Having a wetter batter, this recipe falls somewhere closer to the crumpet line, but it does depend on yeast and is cooked on both sides – characteristics of English Muffins. (I depend on someone else for expertise in this, as in so many things…but, both are done on top of the stove, rather than in the oven.)

There is virtue in slow rising breads. And there is real depth of flavor in sourdoughs (I have a forty year old sourdough that I started on the Upper West Side in New York City in 1975).

Consider this a multi-day project with a little mixing time on Day One, and then the griddle baking on Day Two (or three, or four…).

I let the dough rise for about 18 hours, mixing it up in the early afternoon of day one and finishing them on day two. But, the temptation of letting the dough sour a little is high. I just didn’t want to wait, which translates into not planning quite far enough ahead.

DAY ONE: For 8 – 10 English Muffins

Mix wet ingredients:

2 tsp. Honey
1 T.     Vegetable Oil
1 ½ c. Luke Warm Milk (whole or 2% at up to 95° F)

Mix dry ingredients:

2-2/3 c. Bread Flour
¾ tsp.   Salt (or 1-1/4 tsp. Coarse Kosher Salt)
2 tsp.     Instant Yeast

Add wet to dry.

Mix to incorporate and then whisk for a minute or so. Scrape down the bowl. Whisk another minute (you should see strands of gluten developing in the dough as you are whisking it). Scrape down the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight (or several days in a cool place or the refrigerator). It will rise, so use an adequately sized bowl.


If refrigerated, allow dough to move toward room temperature for two hours before proceeding.

Mix together:

¼ tsp. Baking Soda
3 T. Warm Water

Fold this into the risen dough gently, like you were folding in egg whites. Let it rest covered for a half hour or so, if you have the time.

[Consulting other recipes:  you can add more flour, or a mixture of flour and cornmeal to the batter now to get a wet, very tacky dough you can just barely handle with heavily dusted hands. Working quickly, you can portion it out  into 1/3 c. balls of dough and press them down into the cornmeal dusted rings to rise a bit before heating them. My dough was a little on the drier side and the last few I made this way.]

Prepare the crumpet rings by oiling the inside of each and dipping them in corn meal to coat them. Lay them on the cold or preheated griddle you plan to cook on. (Cold is fine. Slow and low heat is key to not burning the outside before the inside is done.)

You can crowd the griddle with rings and cook as many as you can fit at one time.

Brush the griddle inside each ring with oil and then dust the oiled surface with cornmeal. (I used a little bacon fat, but any neutral oil or fat will do) Next time, instead of using my fingers to distribute the cornmeal on the griddle, I’ll put some in a small sieve and tap it into place, the way one applies powdered sugar to finished baked goods.)

Spray a 1/3 cup measuring cup with oil inside and out and fill it with dough. (It may be glutenous enough to want to pull itself out of the cup, so I used a stiff off-set spatula to press and cut the excess off.)

Turn 1/3 c. of the dough/batter into each ring. (Encourage the dough out toward the edges of the ring on all sides, if it’s on the dry side and won’t spread out on its own.)

Once all the rings are filled, dust the tops with cornmeal and turn the griddle on low. (Cover any remaining batter-dough tightly.)

Now, the only tricky part of this is that you are baking these with heat from one side at a time. There is a very real chance that you will burn the bottom before the middle is done.

You’ll be able to smell the cornmeal toasting. Or burning. Try to avoid the latter by letting the griddle and muffins slowly warm up together on low.

When you smell that lovely toasted cornmeal smell, turn the griddle off for a few minutes and let the residual heat cook out some of the moisture.

I dodged my griddle off and on two or three times on each side. Cooking time was around 15 minutes per side. I then transferred the muffins to a baking sheet and put them in a 300° F oven for about another ten minutes and let them cool leaning up on their edges on a baking rack before trying one.

They should cool for a good while before you split them. The inside will predictably be a little doughy while they are still warm. Use a fork to poke all around their circumference and then split them, hoping to preserve the little nooks and crannies these are treasured for.

We had a little lemon curd lying about. We have less now. These muffins chill and freeze perfectly well. I made a double batch.

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