These big, thick, homemade English muffins are actually fairly easy to make and amazingly good. The recipe doesn't use a preferment, so it comes together in about 4 hours. The dough is stiff enough to be formed into little boules which rise for a second rise on a sheet pan. Once risen, you slide a spatula under the boules and put them in a hot skillet to brown well on both sides; you then finish them in the oven. The resulting muffins are wonderfully light and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. They taste really good but since the dough is not as wet as in most other recipes, they are a little more bready and have a finer textured crumb than your usual purchased English muffins. They're excellent toasted and spread with butter and jam or honey, or split and filled with your favorite breakfast sandwich fixings. Making them is a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Mix in the shortening/butter and 3/4 cup of the milk/buttermilk until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Slowly add the remaining milk, as necessary, to form a soft, workable dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, sprinkling in additional flour, as necessary (but as little as possible), to form a tacky dough. At this point, the dough should pass the windowpane test. (The windowpane test is preformed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently streching, pulling, and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane. If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue kneading for another minute or two and test again.) Place dough a lightly oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on room temperature).
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, lightly spray with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal; set aside.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and shape into boules (dough balls). Then, to create surface tension, strech the outside of each boule into an oblong, being careful NOT to squeeze out the gas trapped in the dough any more than necessary. Repeat this streching motion, bringing the opposite ends together to make a ball. Tighten the surface tension by pinching to seal the bottom of the dough where the creases come together. Place the boules on the prepared baking sheet, evenly spaced about 3-inches apart. Lightly spray the boules with oil and loosely sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let rise, at room temperature, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until boules are almost doubled in size, in both height and in width.
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet or seasoned griddle over medium heat for several minutes. (If using an electric griddle, heat to 350 degrees F.) When hot, brush skillet/griddle with vegetable oil or mist with oil spray. Using a metal spatula, gently transfer the dough rounds to the skillet/griddle, a few at a time, spacing them at least 1-inch apart. (Keep any remaining rounds covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out or forming a skin.) Cook rounds for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely browned. (Rounds will brown quickly but will not burn for a while resist the urge to turn them too quickly, otherwise they will collapse when they are flipped over.) Using a metal spatula, carefully flip the rounds and cook the other side for another 5 to 8 minutes in the same manner as the first side. When the muffins look as if they can't cook any more without burning, transfer them to a sheet pan and immediately place the pan onto the center rack of the oven. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes to ensure that the muffin centers are completely cooked. While the first batch is baking, return to any uncooked dough rounds and cook them, then bake them, as you did with the first batch. (I use two skillets at a time so I can cook and put all of the muffins in the oven at the same time.)
Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before splitting open or serving. Split with a fork and serve as is or toasted on both sides. Top with butter and your favorite jam or honey, if desired. Store muffins in a sealed ziploc bag or an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 6 muffins.
Cornmeal burns easily...if you experience problems with burnt cornmeal, try substituting semolina or even farina (a.k.a. Cream of Wheat) for the cornmeal.
These muffins don't have to be toasted and can be eaten right off the griddle they don't have that raw taste that storebought english muffins have.
This recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker?s Apprentice." This is one of the best books on baking bread that I have read. It covers all of the basic techniques needed to make a great loaf. It also gives you a better understanding of all the aspects that affect how a loaf turns out. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, and I think beginning as well as advanced bakers will learn from the explanations. I highly recommend this book.
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|Serving Size: 1 Serving (124g)|
|Recipe Makes: 6|
|Calories from Fat: 38 (10%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 4.2g||6 %|
|Saturated Fat 1.4g||7 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 1.3g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 0.9g|
|Cholesterol 3.4mg||1 %|
|Sodium 26.9mg||1 %|
|Potassium 170.5mg||4 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 70.1g||21 %|
|Dietary Fiber 2.6g||10 %|
|Sugars, other 67.5g|
|Protein 12g||17 %|
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Calories per serving: 372
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