English Muffins

When I woke up Tuesday morning, before I knew that there was a disappointing amount of snow on the ground, all I could think about was making eggs benedict with smoked salmon. My day had been cleared in prep for the snow storm and it felt like a weekend, which made me think of brunch, which naturally led to daydreaming about foods covered in hollandaise.

On Monday morning, in the middle of the first blizzard panic of the season, the supermarket lines were out the door. I found myself in the crowd at a Citarella picking up fresh fish for my client’s dinner. As the checkout line slowly wound its way to the registers, I got pulled in by all the delicious foods we were passing. At the last second I grabbed a package of smoked salmon. (As you might know, from the title of this blog, I have a thing for smoked and cured fish.) So, as I lay in bed on Tuesday, I was all ready to pull together my Salmon Eggs Benedict.

The plan was to use regular bread, but now that I had an empty day, I decided to spend the morning baking English Muffins and enjoy my eggs benedict for a late brunch. Thankfully, the ingredients are all household staples for us, so I didn’t have to venture out into the, uh, couple inches of snow and um, cleared sidewalks. Is it cool if I just pretend we were completely snowed in? Survival English Muffins!

After reading a dozen different recipes for English muffins, I learned that there are two common issues. 1. The dough can be super sticky and a mess to work with and 2. Cooking methods and times vary greatly, and it’s hard to tell when the muffin is done baking.

I pulled from different recipes and made the adjustments that I thought would help with the stickiness. It totally worked! The dough definitely pulled and stretched much more easily than other bread doughs, but it wasn’t a mess to transfer or handle.

For the cooking times, I found a recipe that combined both the stovetop and the oven, and the results were great! I will say that I had a minor panic attack when I opened a muffin and the inside was still kind of soft and doughy. The nooks and crannies were there, but it felt a little raw.

As I stood there trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, a memory from childhood surfaced. I haven’t bought English Muffins in a very long time, but as a kid I remember trying to eat a Thomas English Muffin right from the package and hating the mushy texture and sour taste. I had completely forgotten about the step where you toast the muffin! I popped my freshly baked muffin it into the toaster for a few minutes, and there it was! The taste and texture of spot-on English Muffin. Winning!

This recipe made SO many muffins, which are now mostly in my freezer. And that’s awesome because homemade English Muffins are ridiculously good. Now I can have them when the mood strikes.

The next time the snow comes down outside, make it rain flour inside. Or just block off a morning and get to work on these!

Oh you were wondering what happened to the Salmon Eggs Benedict on my homemade English Muffins?

Right about when I was going to make my late afternoon brunch, I planned a date with a friend who lives a couple blocks away and we ended up making beautiful Benedict’s for dinner. Here’s a photo I took on my phone before we inhaled them. They were so totally worth waiting all day for. Brunch: The good-for-all hours-of-the-day meal.

English Muffins

Serves: Makes 16-18

Ingredients
  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1¾ cup whole milk, warmed (to take the chill off - I warmed it in a saucepan until it wasn't cold and I could put my finger in without it being hot)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened but not melted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 4½ cups of all purpose flour
  • Cornmeal, semolina, or farina
Instructions
  1. I made this in a stand mixer. You can make it in a bowl by beating all the ingredients together and kneading it at the end but I don't have the exact specifications.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the cornmeal, semolina, or farina) to the bowl and mix, with the flat beater, on medium-high for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth. I had to take breaks in the mixing to scrape down the dough as it creeped up to the gears at the top of the attachment. Keep an eye on it as it will move around. If the dough isn't where you want it, you can use the dough hook at the end for a couple minutes to finish the kneading, or knead it by hand just until it's smooth.
  3. Take the dough out and form it into a ball, or as close as you can get it, and place it into a lightly greased (canola or vegetable oil work great) bowl that has room for it to rise. Cover it with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours until it's at least doubled in size.
  4. Prepare 2 baking sheets. Cover one with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside. On the other one, generously cover the surface in cornmeal, semolina, or farina.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, gently pushing the air out and place it on a work surface. (Use a little flour if it's too sticky.) You can divide the dough into 16 pieces or weigh out the dough to about 60g per servings. Roll each serving into a ball shape and place it onto the grain-covered baking sheet. Gently press it into the grain and then lift it up and press the other side into the grain. This will help keep your muffins from sticking in the next steps. As you dip each muffin, line them up on the grain-tray so they are resting on top of the grains. Let the muffins rest, covered, for 20 more minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300°F
  7. Warm a cast iron pan or griddle on the stove on medium-low heat. If you know your pan runs hot, lower the temperature even more. This should be done low and slow.
  8. Working in small batches, place your muffins in the pan or griddle and let them cook for about 4 minutes on each side. You don't want too dark a brown on them but you don't want them too light either. They will puff up a little as you go. When each side is complete transfer them to your second baking tray.
  9. Place the muffins in the oven for another 10-12 minutes to finish cooking the insides.
  10. Let cool slightly before diving in and remember to toast them! For optimal nooks and crannies make sure to split them with a fork and/or your hands - a knife cut won't give you the same result!

These keep 2-3 days before they start to harden or you can freeze the remainder for on-demand English Muffin eating!