Letting Life Lead
For whatever reason, my bread baking attempts usually turn out miraculously well even if I’ve never done it before. That’s not to say that they always come out perfect, but I haven’t yet lit any on fire or produced anything that was completely inedible. I don’t have an formal training in bread baking, but I’ve come to learn that while proportions of ingredients are helpful to get a consistent product or the effect that you want, there is a great deal of feel and instinct involved. Flour doesn’t always have the same moisture content and that means the amount of liquid you use today that was perfect will very likely be too much or too little the next time.
Back in June 2014, I had it in my head that I wanted to make English muffins (I am pretty sure they are just called muffins or Toasties in other countries). In America we like to make things unnecessarily complicated. These aren’t at all like any of the actual muffins that we call muffins which are sweet quick breads shaped like cupcakes. English muffins are flat, round yeast breads that we need to call English so we can tell the difference. If you ask for a muffin in America, you won’t get an English muffin. Is that clear? No? Good.
We were on a rather strict grocery budget and I suddenly had a craving for the English muffins of my childhood — both Thomson’s and Sunbeam brands were a staple in my youth. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at reading recipes and determining if it’s going to work for me or if will come out as intended (except for the marble cake fiasco of 2013 I have a pretty good track record; I still think it was a sous chef issue not a recipe problem.) I found a sparkling little gem at Macheesmo: Cooking with Confidence and used his recipe for Homemade English Muffins — after I got chuckling over the punny blog title. The recipe uses a stove top and oven technique to get that lovely color and rise that is so typical of English Muffins. I was very excited!
I didn’t think to take a picture of the dough as I was preparing it, but Macheesmo has plenty of step-by-step photos. I used the dough setting on my bread machine to mix the dough for me, but I stopped it long before it was done because my machine has a tendency to over knead on that setting. It is a very we sticky dough and you have to pay attention not to make it too wet, but it shouldn’t be too dry. I prefer my breads to have a more rustic, uneven look but if you want something more round you can use pastry rings or tuna cans to scoop the dough into the way Alton Brown does it.
I prefer to use a double burner griddle for this because I can do two or three at once. It really does not take that long to get that pretty golden brown crust–about 5 minutes each side. They will be finished off in the oven, so at this stage they are still quite underdone.
It only takes 8-10 minutes at 350F in the oven to finish them off. They were fantastic plain, even better with butter, insane with a little cinnamon sugar, and proved dangerous with jam. Try them. They’ll likely ruin you for store bought ones forever.
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