Monday, December 27, 2010

English Muffins

There is a blizzard raging outside and my house is shaking. The weatherman just called it a "Wintercane", with up to 80 mph winds along the coast of Massachusetts. I just opened up the door and took a few pics...the first one on the left is my driveway. Anybody have an extra shovel? I think if they named this storm, they'd call it Cruella de Vil, The Wicked Witch of the East or Captain Hook. Where is Tinkerbell to come and take me away before it is time to shovel? Alas, since I am Earthbound I'll crank up the heat and fire up the stove. I'll make some slow food and experiment a little. My son, Zac has been making a lot of bread lately. He has been making rye bread, French bread, and pizza dough. He mixes and flours and kneads and rises. When he bakes it, the house is filled with a warm, yeasty and comforting aroma that lingers for hours. You can almost feel the butter melting on the freshly sliced bread and you can certainly feel the love and patience involved. I've wanted to make English muffins for a while, but hadn't had the time to research recipes and techniques. I put together a recipe from a few sources. The general consensus was that the dough had to be loose and sticky to form the nooks and crannies. I don't have a dream machine Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook yet, but I do have my trusty Cuisinart food processor. I use it to make my sugar cookie dough, and it makes it so easy. I thought I'd give it a try with the English muffin dough. As with any bread mixing in the food processor, the yeast mixture has to start cooler and the machine can't labor and heat up or it will kill the yeast. I felt a little like I was in uncharted territories as I began, but since I have a basic understanding of bread making, I felt comfortable experimenting. I'm glad I did. Almost like magic, they turned out beautifully.

Homemade English Muffins

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm, but not hot water (about 105℉)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2-3/4 cup warm, but not hot water (about 105℉.)
finely ground cornmeal

In a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade (don't use the dough attachment), pulse together the yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes to proof. It should be frothy with bubbles on top. Add flour and salt and pulse a few times to just mix. Add 1/2 cup of the water and the milk through the feeder tube, while pulsing. The dough should be loose and sticky, so add more water if needed. Pulse until just blended. Don't let the food processor motor labor or heat up. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes while covered. This allows the wet ingredients to combine with the flour. Pulse about 20 times to knead the dough. Again, don't let the machine labor and heat up. Using a rubber spatula, turn the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl. The dough should be soft, slightly loose and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and a slightly damp kitchen towel. Set in a warm place and let double in size. (If you don't have a warm place to let it rise, place a cup filled with water in a microwave and heat it about 3-4 minutes. Carefully take out the hot cup of water and put the covered bowl of dough in. Close the microwave door. This gives you a small, warm and moist place for the dough to rise. Just don't forget it is in there and turn it on!!)This will take 1 1/2-2 hours, depending on how warm your room is. Lightly flour a pastry board or work surface; sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto this surface and sprinkle lightly with flour and cornmeal. Using a bench scraper, work flour underneath the dough. Pat the dough to a thickness of about 1-1 1/2 inches, making sure it is lightly covered with flour. You want the flour to stay on the surface and not get worked into the dough. Remember, loose and sticky dough helps form the nooks and crannies. Using the bench scraper, cut into 8-10 evenly sized pieces. Eight will make larger muffins and 10 pieces makes medium sized. Sprinkle cornmeal on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Take each piece of dough and fold the edges under to make a ball. They will be 3-4 inches round. Sprinkle with cornmeal.Let rest uncovered while you lightly grease a cast iron griddle or skillet and preheat it over medium high heat.Place the English muffins on the griddle or skillet and let cook until medium brown. Using a spatula, turn over and brown on the other side. If the muffins are on the larger side they will probably need more cooking in the oven. Just check the inside to make sure they are not still doughy. If they need more cooking, bake in a preheated oven at 375℉ for about 5-10 minutes.

Fork split and toast. Serve warm with butter and jam and a nice cup of tea.Ahhh, now it is time to go out and see The Beauty and the Beast of this storm. I think I better take that shovel!

Peter Pan photos are from Harrod's 2010 Christmas windows.
China is Spode, Edwardian Childhood.
Blizzard is courtesy of Mother Nature.

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20 comments:

linda said...

we are homebound as well…having been hit by the same blizzard & no tinkerbell in sight!

it appears that your son is extremely talented… & how lovely for you to be reaping such wonderful "end results!"
i just purchased "beard on bread" to get me started on this journey as i have really never made bread (other than @ a workshop class)…so i thought this would be a great reference tool…
off to check my cake that is baking!
stay warm & enjoy your grand looking muffins!!

Cora said...

What lovely English muffins! I'm sitting here looking out at our snow and wishing I had one right now with my homemade orange marmalade.Stay warm!

2 Stews said...

Linda...I used to have a paperback "Beard on Bread" years ago until I loaned it out. I love the Banana Bread recipe. Enjoy the book. Yes, Zac has certainly raised the bar around here! He won't use anything mechanical in the process, though. I, on the other hand, welcome shortcuts. Maybe it's from years of doing everything the long way :-)

Your cake must have made the house smell so wonderful during this storm. It's still snowing here!

Cora...Homemade Orange Marmalade? Yum...I wish I had that with my English Muffin!! What a touch of sunshine that would be.

Thanks for the visit.

Diane

La Table De Nana said...

We have been hearing about you!

What great pics..and what beautiful English muffins you have!

I think I would like to try and make these..Will they be as nice as yours..?
I love when you talk about Zack's talents.. baker..photographer..etc:)

You must miss your beautiful daughter..Do you Skype?

Thank you.. stay cozy~

La Table De Nana said...

N.B..J'aime beaucoup ta tasse:) Si jolie!!!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

That is a lot of snow. I love the nickname Wintercane. Your muffins look lovely and I'm sure your house must smell delicious.
Sam

Janus said...

Among the the things your son had been making was pizza dough, so I have a question for him. Has he tried the new Pizza Crust Yeast from Fleischmann's, and if he has, what does think of it?

2 Stews said...

Monique...Yes, the news coverage of this blizzard has been nonstop. We've all had wild weather this year. I'm sure if you make the English muffins they'd be works of art as is everything you do. Please let me know how they come out if you make them :-)

I'm glad you like to hear about the kids. I love hearing all about your family, too. They are what we hold dear. I do Skype with my daughter and we instant message every day we are home. I don't know what I'd do otherwise, because I'd miss her even more!

I got the cups and saucers for the kids in London years ago for Christmas. They are fun. We love them, too!

Sam...The weather in the Carolinas has been crazy, too. Baking does make the house seem cozier when it's cold outside, but all in all, I could use a little southern warmth!!

Janus...I asked my son about the new pizza yeast, and he wasn't aware of it. He uses a recipe that slowly rises and ferments in the fridge over a few days. Here is the link:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2175.0.html

It is really good, and handy to have it all set to go. He bakes the pizza on a preheated pizza stone which makes the crust crispy and it also has a nice puffy edge. I recommend it!

Thanks for stopping by.

Diane

Chocolate Freckles said...

These look so good!! Interesting to know they are not baked!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful! They look so irresistible.

Gorgeous snow pictures too!

Cheers,

Rosa

Linda said...

These look wonderful...nice to know you can make them without English Muffin rings or tuna fish cans!
I have not made them in years...will have to give your recipe a try!
Stay warm...we are still digging out here in New Jersey!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I bought some English Muffin rings and have this on my recipe bucket list. Your tutorial really helped to inspire me to just make them. I would have never thought to use my food processor and I'm all for taking shortcuts when possible. Great tutorial and these are lovely muffins! I'm so glad I found this.

Melanie said...

I never even thought of making these! Fantastic!!

Janus said...

The pizza crust yeast is formulated where you don't have to wait to let it rise. Here's their website:

http://www.pizzacrustyeast.com

lostpastremembered said...

30" of snow and I am sooo homebound... just went out today and NYC is a soupy icy mess.These look wonderful... I make english muffins with potato but want to try this recipe now! Hope you are surviving the blizzard but I must say... it is beautiful!!!!

TheDelicious said...

LOVE that your english muffins came out so HIGH!

Anonymous said...

You listed water twice???

2 Stews said...

Janus...thanks for the yeast info and link. We're going to give it a try.

Anonymous...water is used twice. First it is to dissolve the yeast and the second is to add into the food processor with the milk while processing. Thanks for asking, sorry if it was confusing.

Thanks all for visiting!

Diane

Dinners and Dreams said...

I don't usually bother making English muffins but I might after seeing this recipe.

Happy New Year!

Nisrine

Anonymous said...

Followed your clear, straightforward directions and got a beautiful, yummy product! So nice not to have to knead by hand; thanks, Cuisinart! It's very forgiving IMO, unless you absolutely "must" have a perfect circle; and even then, the cooking process helps obscure many sins. The nooks and crannies are present throughout and all good yummy sizes.

I used a cast iron skillet with a smidge of bacon grease to cook these up on my Wolf gas range and I found med-hi to be too high; then again, that thing provides an inferno. I went with medium or even a bit below to ensure they were cooked through and not burned. For me, less was more with the corn meal; I got too generous at first and it burned a bit but was easy to brush off. Using this lower temperature enabled me to tell they were cooked through when the sides were "done" looking (no longer shiny).

I wanted to try this because our hens give us a plethora of eggs. Why not have the whole breakfast sammie "home sourced", I said-and oh man, these have ruined me for the "store bought" variety.

I may try buttermilk next time for a change. Thanks so much for posting this recipe.