English Muffins

English muffins are one of those fond childhood memories - bumpy and full of holes, toasted and soaked with butter.  They're great just by themselves, or they are the beginnings of the best breakfast sandwiches, or super simple and fun do-it-yourself kid pizzas.  

As with just about anything, there are as many different recipes for this as there are cookbooks and food blogs.  I don't claim that my way is the only way, but this is just how I've been doing it and it works great for me.  My family loves them, so as far as I'm concerned that's all the approval I need.  And since these so-called "English" muffins aren't really English, or really muffins, and I don't think are traditional to anywhere - I don't think there is a right or wrong way to make them. 

One of my keys to getting through every day with two sets of twins is keeping things as simple and efficient as possible.  I've developed a bread recipe for my family that has been fairly foolproof.  I use my basic bread recipe for making sandwich loaves, rolls, pizza crusts, flatbreads - you name it.  It's a super flexible recipe that I've found works great for anything I've tried.  My bread recipe has very few ingredients, no oil, no milk, and can all be mixed in one bowl.  And so that is the recipe that I am using for making these muffins.  

You can click through to my complete post about bread if you want to read all my notes and variations.  But here is the basic version that I used for making these English muffins.  

  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or you can just use all white flour if you prefer)
  • up to 4 tablespoons wheat gluten (optional)
  • 2+ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package is 2 1/4 teaspoons, or if you have a jar just measure out two slightly heaping teaspoons).
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
  • corn meal, half a cup for so (this is just for coating the outside of the muffins)

(Note that adding the extra gluten is totally optional, but I've found that when using whole wheat flour, adding a little extra gluten makes the dough much more tender and easy to handle, and makes it rise better. Bob's Red Mill is the brand I buy.  The recommendation is about a tablespoon per cup of flour.)

Put all ingredients except the corn meal in your stand mixer and mix until well combined, and then knead for several minutes.  The dough should be not too firm, but not sticky.  Add a tiny bit of extra flour if it's sticky, or a little more water if it's just not coming together into a smooth dough.  I knead it with the dough hook in the mixer. (click over to my original bread post to read more about technique)  Then cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.  I like to let it get to at least double, and the amount of time this takes really varies depending on how warm your kitchen is. 

Once it has fully risen, punch it down, turn it out onto your counter and knead a few times until it's a nice ball. Then I sprinkle my counter with corn meal.  Divide the ball of dough in half, and then each half into 8 pieces - so one recipe should make 16 muffins.  Shape each piece of dough into a little ball, and then flatten into a round and roll or spread it out as much as you can.  Do this on the corn meal so that each side of the round gets some corn meal stuck to it.  Then I leave these on the counter in the corn meal and cover with a towel to let them rest and rise a bit.  Once they've risen a little, try to spread them out a bit more.

Some recipes will have you put the dough in rings to shape them as they cook, and some will have you roll out your dough to a big flat and cut out rounds.  I'm all about simplicity, and getting extra tools involved just feels like more work to me.  And I don't really care if they aren't all exactly, perfectly round.  So really the shaping is up to you.  If you feel like you want them perfectly round and you want to put in the extra work to do that, go for it. 

Once they've gotten to a size and shape you like, it's time to cook. Heat a flat pan to low/medium heat and put your muffins on.  You may have to experiment a little with your stove to get your temp just right.  You want them to get cooked all the way through without burning on the outside, so on my stove keeping the heat pretty low works best for me.  Cook on one side until it's as brown as you like, and then turn over and cook until brown on the other side.  

Once they've cooled enough to handle, they're ready to eat!  If you want that craggly texture that I remember from childhood, you need to split them with a fork.  Hold a muffin flat in your hand and take a dinner fork and insert it as far as you can into the side of the muffin.  Repeat this all the way around until if feels like you can pull it apart.  You can of course just slice them too, if you're in a hurry. 

And that's it!  I think pretty easy.  Let me know what you think!