Wednesday, April 29, 2015

English Muffins

A while ago I struggled to get yeast to work with me.  It seemed that yeast was never going to cooperate, so I let it go.  My French bread tasted good, but just didn't have the airy deliciousness it should have.  Other breads didn't quite rise they way they should.  So I dropped yeast and yeast created items from my cooking and concentrated on cooking.  Then I decided I would try some simpler breads...first was Irish soda bread.  That turned out great; it was easy and tasty.  I thought maybe I should attempt yeast again.  I even made my own sourdough starter from scratch which basically takes natural yeast from the air, so you don't even need to buy any.  I continued to bake with yeast and things suddenly worked out.  I learned that bread and yeast can be very forgiving if you just are patient and watch how things are processing.  I still have mistakes here and there, but overall it just works out better now.

So, last weekend I decided I wanted to make English muffins.  I found a recipe from a book I have from the library, Huckleberry.  I had seen Huckleberry in a store a few weeks back, but thought that I wouldn't buy it for myself as I have a lot of baking books.  I did buy it for a friend as I knew she would like the things in there.  Once it arrived, I only took a morning to look through it before I shipped it to her.  Then, I kept thinking about those polka dot pages and decided to borrow it from the library, so I could spend more time reading through it to decide if I really wanted to own it.  The pictures are beautiful.  I couldn't get past the English muffin recipe, so I decide that I must make them.  They turned out beautifully and tomorrow my co-workers are going to get the benefit of me liking to spend time in my kitchen.

English Muffins
3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 1/2 tablespoons honey
6 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup cornmeal

Warm 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk in the microwave, just until lukewarm (and a finger placed in it doesn't feel cold).  Be sure it doesn't get warmer than about 110 F or else the yeast will die.  Place 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk in a kitchen aid bowl along with the 2 tablespoons of yeast.  Whisk to combine.  Add the warm buttermilk and whisk again to blend.  Add the butter, honey, flour, sugar and salt.  Mix on low speed with a dough hook for about a minute.  Once the dough has come together, turn the speed to medium and work the work for 1-2 additional minutes or until it is smooth.  Transfer the dough to a greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Remove dough from the refrigerator.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the cornmeal onto a clean work surface.  Dump the dough onto it.  Sprinkle the top with additional cornmeal.  Pat into a circle about an inch thick.  Sprinkle the remaining cornmeal onto a cookie sheet.  Cur into 3 inch rounds.  Be efficient as you cannot use any unused dough (due to the cornmeal being mixed in).  Arrange the muffins on a cookie sheet and let rise at room temperature for an hour.  (At this point you can also refrigerate and then let them rise at room temperature for an hour the next morning.)

About 30 minutes before you want to bake, preheat your oven to 350 F.  Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium high heat.  Drop the English muffins into the pan and cook for about 1 minute per side until each side is golden brown.

Return the muffins to the cookie sheet and immediately bake for about 10 minutes.  They should be light and fluffy when removed from the pan.  If you have more than one sheet bake it as soon as the last muffin comes off the pan.  Makes about a dozen.

(Note: I didn't want to waste the dough, so I did combine the dough into two additional muffins, but the insides had cornmeal throughout the dough, so was not the typical English muffin, but they baked up nicely.)  These will keep up to 3 days at room temperature.

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