Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

English Muffins

I've been baking since I was in high school. Since I am now mid 40s, that's a while. My husband says I wooed him with Cinnamon Bread. Of course, he also says that as soon as we were married that all the yummy stuff disappeared (can you hear "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"?). I say not true, it just isn't all for him any more.

I thought I had tried just about every sort of bread, cookie, pie, cake technique around. I'm not a pastry chef by any stretch, but I've done creme brulee and flan; pie shells, fussy meringues, custards, fruit fillings,and mousses; flourless, eggless, chiffon, jellyroll, pound, and angel cakes, as well as cake decorating; creme puffs, pastry cream, bread and rice puddings; b
illions of brownies and cookies; quick breads, yeast breads, rolls, and biscuits. You get the picture.

But, bust my buttons (don't you laugh), yesterday I did something new. Stuck at home with a feverish child (and no class), I decided to have baking day. I made a few loaves of bread, a couple kinds of cookies and English muffins. And there -- that last one -- was where I learned something new. Had I known they were so easy to make, I would have boycotted Thomas' years ago.

I used a recipe from and stuck pretty close to the directions since I didn't really know what I was doing. I wasn't certain how much the muffins would rise, so I started smallish. They got plenty puffy, but did not grow outward, so mine are smaller than store-bought. But that's o.k. Now I can have more than one and not feel guilty. I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut them. I think I will do it the same way next time. And since my guys really love English muffins, there will definitely be a next time.

The surprise for me (since I made a huge baking no-no and did not read through the recipe before I started) was that English muffins are not baked at all. They are cooked on a griddle for 10 minutes on each side. I used my electric skillet since it's roomy and I could control the heat fairly easily. The recipe did not stipulate a temperature, but I kept my skillet on about 275 for most of the time. The first few got a little dark after starting out at 350, so I turned it down for the rest of the time.

English Muffins
yields about 24 using a 3-inch cutter

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted shortening
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Warm the milk in a small saucepan (or in the microwave)
until it bubbles around the edges, then remove from heat.
Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
Let cool until lukewarm.
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast mixture, shortening and 3 cups flour.
Beat until smooth.
Add salt and rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough.
Knead. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise about an hour.

Punch down. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can.

Sprinkle waxed paper thoroughly with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise.
Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also.
Cover and let rise 1/2 hour.

Heat greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat.

Allow to cool and place in plastic bags for storage.
To use, split and toast.
For that nooks and crannies style -- instead of slicing them, use a fork to split them by "stabbing" into the side of English muffin all the way around.

For a really yummy breakfast treat, try these:

Gooey English Muffins

(makes 1)

1 English Muffin
2 t. butter
2 T. brown sugar
1 rounded T. coconut
1 T. sliced almonds

Preheat the broiler.

Toast English Muffin in the toaster.
Butter each half.
Divide brown sugar between muffins, spreading edge to edge.
Divide coconut between halves, sprinkling on top of brown sugar.
Sprinkle with almonds.
Broil until sugar is bubbly.
Cool momentarily and then enjoy.
Use whipped cream cheese on each bite if you dare!



Anonymous said...

why is there sugar in the recipe?

Anne said...

Oh! Those look beautiful! I'd love to try making some.

But I'm having one of those days (or weeks) with my little one that feel like I'll never be able to do anything so involved as baking...


scmom (Barbara) said...

Many bread recipes call for sugar. It feeds the yeast -- allowing it to rise quite a bit. You cannot taste the sugar; the muffins are not sweet to taste.

I'm sure you could leave the sugar out with not much difference, but the yeast will take longer to rise. You can probably also substitute honey if you'd rather, but I have no experience with using other sugar substitutes in yeast breads.

scmom (Barbara) said...

This does look time consuming, but, honestly, I was not in the kitchen long.

The dough, start to finish, was less than 20 minutes and I walked away during the yeast/water time (so less than 10 m hands-on). I left the dough alone to rise for an hour. It took me less than 5 minutes to roll the dough out (I don't even dirty a rolling pin -- just use clean hands) and cut the rounds. Then I walked away during the second rise. I even walked away (just to the next room) for the cooking time. I just set the timer for 8 minutes and left them alone.

So, if the baby can sit for short periods in his high chair, you can easily do something like this.

The great thing about these muffins is I got so many muffins for probably less than a dollar. Just split them and pop them into the freezer and you have breakfast for several weeks. Even add an egg to your breakfast and it's still really inexpensive!

Deborah said...

Barbara these look incredible. Have never actually tried making them, but will now. Tried a new gnocchi recipe (from italian cookbook The Silver Spoon) and it was an unmitigated disaster, poor kids were stuck with mac and cheese! ;-) Will stick with joy from now on!

You're so right about yeast breads not really taking much time. People are often so worried about working with them, but with mixing and needing it's only about 15 minutes tops. Especially as you continue to use yeast, it just gets easier and easier. And there is something incredible satisfying and rewarding about working with yeast dough. I just love it.

I will be making these tonight for breakfast tomorrow. Husband is off for a few days and Eggs benedict is one of his favourite meals. What a way to make it even better than with home made crumpets! Mmm!