English Muffins

English Muffins

English muffins, toasted crispy with lots of butter…  Besides just being delicious, another thing I like about muffins is their versatility of being an anytime food: for breakfast with jam, for brunch, lunch or supper as Eggs Benedict, and also as a night-time snack. Definitely a handy thing to have ready in the freezer.  Organic English muffins are oddly absent from my local grocery stores’ shelves, and the muffins that I have purchased were pretty terrible.  One had printed on the package that they were “sourdough”, and I didn’t notice until later that they weren’t technically sourdough, but just had white vinegar added to the ingredients – ick!  So it seemed time to try making English muffins at home.  I decided to try 50% whole wheat and 50% white flour to see how they turned out, before attempting a 100% whole wheat version.  In retrospect, I think that 100% whole wheat would be ok, but maybe a bit heavy, as these puffed up and seem to have lots of elasticity, but are also a bit denser than regular white flour muffins.  However, it might be an interesting experiment.  Although, I have been craving crumpets lately as well…

I cobbled this recipe together by researching old English muffin recipes that I found online and in old English cookbooks, one of them as old as 1747 by Hannah Glasse, from her book “The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy”.  Most of the recipes are very similar, the main difference being that some leave the dough to rest overnight while others let it rise just before shaping the muffins.  I chose the same-day method because I didn’t want to wait.  The old recipes all used fresh yeast, but I used active dry yeast (Bob’s Red Mill brand) and it worked really well.  Most of the recipes I came across used either water or milk as the wet ingredient, however I chose buttermilk because I thought it would add a bit more depth of flavour.  Although regular milk, almond milk or even water would also be good.  These muffins have good flavour, and they have the “nooks and crannies” that muffin connoisseurs crave.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose unbleached wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
cornmeal for sprinkling over muffins

Mix together the flours, sea salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.  Heat the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat just to warm the buttermilk and melt the butter.  It shouldn’t go above 110° F or it may kill the yeast.

Once the butter has melted, stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, and keep stirring until everything is well incorporated and the batter starts to look smooth and shiny, about five minutes.  It will be a very sticky dough, so just scrape it all towards the middle of the bowl in a rough ball shape.

English Muffin dough
wet, sticky dough ball, before rising

Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise until almost doubled in size, approximately 30 mins to an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is.

English Muffin dough risen
after rising

Place a cast-iron skillet over low heat on the stovetop.  (It really does need to be quite low, I had mine on what I thought was low at first, but it browned the first muffins a bit too quickly, so they didn’t rise as much as the following muffins did after I turned the heat down a bit to “1” on my burner dial.)

Burner dial – this was too hot

Turn out onto a generously floured counter, punch down, and divide into 12 pieces.

shaped and rising
shaped and rising

Knead and roll each piece between your hands to form a ball, and place this ball on a piece of parchment paper to rise.  Press down each ball a bit so they are more of a disk shape than a ball.  Continue with the rest of the dough.  Cover with a sheet of parchment and allow to rise until increased by half (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal over each muffin and place as many will fit on your pan with some room to spare, cornmeal side down (I cooked three at a time).  Sprinkle a bit more cornmeal on the upper side of the muffin, and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the underside is a light golden brown.  Then flip over and cook the other side for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.  For some of my muffins, I let them cook free-form, and then for others I used the English muffin rings.  Both ways are fine, the muffin ring muffins just look a bit neater and are more uniform in size.

English Muffins cooking
English Muffins cooking

Once the muffins have finished cooking on the stovetop, transfer them to a baking sheet and continue to bake them in the oven on the middle rack for another six minutes.  This just ensures that the insides are cooked through.

Then transfer them to a cooling rack and allow to cool before splitting with a fork to toast.

Printable version:

English Muffins

Total Time 2 hours
Servings 10 - 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose unbleached wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
  • cornmeal for sprinkling over muffins

Instructions

  1. Mix together the flours, sea salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.
  2. Heat the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat just to warm the buttermilk and melt the butter. It shouldn't go above 110° F or it may kill the yeast.
  3. Once the butter has melted, stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, and keep stirring until everything is well incorporated and the batter starts to look smooth and shiny, about five minutes. It will be a very sticky dough, so just scrape it all towards the middle of the bowl in a rough ball shape.
  4. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise until almost doubled in size, approximately 30 mins to an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  5. Place a cast-iron skillet over low heat on the stovetop. (It really does need to be quite low, I had mine on what I thought was low at first, but it browned the first muffins a bit too quickly, so they didn't rise as much as the following muffins did after I turned the heat down a bit to "1" on my burner dial.)
  6. Turn out onto a generously floured counter, punch down, and divide into 12 pieces.
  7. Knead and roll each piece between your hands to form a ball, and place this ball on a piece of parchment paper to rise. Slightly press down each ball so they are more of a disk shape than a ball. Continue with the rest of the dough. Cover with a sheet of parchment and allow to rise until increased by half (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  9. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal over each muffin and place as many will fit on your pan with some room to spare, cornmeal side down (I cooked three at a time). Sprinkle a bit more cornmeal on the upper side of the muffin, and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the underside is a light golden brown. Then flip over and cook the other side for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. For some of my muffins, I let them cook free-form, and then for others I used the English muffin rings. Both ways are fine, the muffin ring muffins just look a bit neater and are more uniform in size.
  10. Once the muffins have finished cooking on the stovetop, transfer them to a baking sheet and continue to bake them in the oven on the middle rack for another six minutes. This just ensures that the insides are cooked through.
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool before splitting with a fork to toast.
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2 Responses to English Muffins

  1. WOW! These look perfect Sam!!! Do you get BBC’s The Great British Baking Show? ( PBS) They just aired English muffins on Sunday night and yours would have won the grand prize! I love all the research that supports your recipe and your technique for finishing them off in the oven, brilliant! ( that’s how I do my fried chicken) Christina Tosi ( pastry chef @ momofuku) has a good English muffin recipe and she serves them with a pickled strawberry jam.

    • Hi Carolyn,
      I just saw your comment now…thanks :). We don’t get any TV shows, no cable. But I can probably watch it on Youtube…? I think the research into food history is half the fun :). I’ll have to check out Christina Tofi’s recipe.

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