Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 8, 2013

Homemade English Muffins

The inspiration for this recipe for homemade English muffins comes from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Her tour de force on the history, components and applications of the bread baking tradition in Great Britain is a scholarly tome. But the recipes work, and the American measurements in the revised edition make it possible for those of us who are Colonial Cousins to enjoy the fruit of her labor as she intended.

Where Ms. David has a choice in historical records, her interpretations veer toward the austere. I made the English muffins as the recipe directed the first time. Consensus decreed the homemade finished product was ‘nothing special’. I tweaked the recipe to meet my less austere sensibilities after surveying her historical samplings carefully. The homemade English muffins below are indeed something special.

Adjustments for a homemade wholewheat English muffin are given below the main recipe.

Homemade Sour Cream English Muffins

3 cups + 3 Tablespoons, 16 oz, unbleached flour

7 oz water

1 cup, 8 fluid oz, sour cream–you could substitute full-fat yogurt, but not Greek yogurt for preference

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 Tablespoon salt

cornmeal

Put the flour in a heat-proof bowl and set it in the oven. Turn the oven on to 200°F and set a timer for ten minutes. Stir the flour once or twice as it warms. In a small saucepan, gently heat the water and sour cream stirred together. When the liquids are ‘blood warm’–100°F or so, stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top, removing the saucepan from the heat. Let the yeast cream for about ten minutes.

Stir the salt into the warmed flour. Now add the liquids. This dough is nearly a batter, so stir it hard until it becomes smooth and elastic, about five minutes by hand or three with a dough hook in your stand mixer. Cover the bowl and set it in a draft-free corner to rise for an hour.

Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper or kitchen parchment. Sprinkle cornmeal on the prepared pan, heavily. Tuck the risen dough down in the bowl with a wooden spoon. Put a cup of water into a small bowl, dip your fingers in this and shake off the excess. Keep your fingers damp to prevent the dough from sticking as you form the muffins.

Pinch off a piece of the English muffin dough, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball. Tuck the dough into a ball. Set it on the prepared cookie sheet and press the top flat. The dough should be a fat half inch, 1.5 cm, thick. Leave room between the muffins for them to expand as they rise. Cover the sheet when it’s full, trying to keep the plastic wrap or tea towel from settling on the rising dough. They won’t double in size, but will become puffier in about 30-40 minutes.

Take a dry, heavy bottomed frying pan or griddle, and heat it over medium low. Using a spatula, gently slide the English muffins into the dry pan, again leaving room around each for it to expand as it cooks, cornmeal side down. Put a lid or a sheet of aluminum foil, or a large cookie sheet over the pan. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Check the undersides of your muffins at 8 minutes to see if they’ve taken their characteristic light, biscuity color. Give them another two minutes if you want them more colored.

Flip the muffins, put the ‘lid’ back over your pan and give them another 8-10 minutes. Set the batch of muffins to cool on a rack for at least ten minutes, and start the next batch of English muffins if they didn’t all fit in the first round. You may need to bring the flame down under the second batch of muffins and/or reduce their cooking time–monitor them carefully.

These keep at room temperature for several days, and are happy as clams in the freezer (properly wrapped) for a month or more. Don’t cut your muffins in half with a knife. Insert the tines of a fork all the way around their equators to split them, and finish by pulling apart. Now you’re ready to toast your homemade English muffin and have your way with it.

Homemade Wholewheat Sour Cream English Muffins

Substitute 3 cups, 15 oz, wholewheat flour for the unbleached flour.

After the first rising, for which allow 1 1/2 hours, set the covered dough in the fridge to rise for six hours, or overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to temperature for an hour before proceeding to form and raise the English muffins as directed above.

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