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Making English Muffins isn’t as easy as I thought.

February 12, 2007

Softballs or muffins?

I don’t know why it got into my head that I wanted to make English Muffins. I kept seeing various blog postings about making them, and it seemed intriguing. Plus everyone kept saying how easy it was, so it seemed a natural for a dough newbie like myself. Oh, and I love English Muffins; they are a long-time breakfast staple in my world. How awesome would it be to have English Muffins I made myself? Well, I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong, but they are not so awesome, as it turns out.

I ended up with non-nooked and crannied, dense and heavy, burnt-on-the-outside-and-uncooked-in-the-middle English Muffins. It was such a sad moment! It was the first time I’ve ever had to throw away half of what I had just cooked! I have a few guesses about what I did wrong: the skillet I used probably wasn’t heavy enough, and I think I should have chosen a different recipe. I also didn’t give the dough a second, 15 minute proofing rise, which might have improved them a bit, though I’m not entirely sure what that does.

What I was left with is certainly not inedible. In fact, they are pretty tasty. They just aren’t what I think of as English Muffins. I will definitely be trying this again.

I debated whether to put the recipe here, even. Why bother writing up a recipe that didn’t turn out so great? In the end, I’ve decided to include it in the hopes that some one of you might be able to give me some helpful pointers, and also as a kind of archive of what I should NOT do next time. Besides which, I think the dough recipe might be fine, and that the problems were more with me than with this innocent recipe, which I found at The Fresh Loaf.

Perfectly Innocent English Muffin Recipe

  • 1/4 c. warm water (about 105-110F)
  • 1 T (1 package) of active dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 4 c. flour (I used a combination of whole-wheat bread flour and unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 c. warm milk
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • cornmeal

Combine the warm water, the yeast, and the sugar in a small bowl, and let it set for about 5-10 minutes, until its foamy. I realized this time around that it works a bit better if you actually combine the yeast and water, rather than just letting the yeast set on top of the water like, well, pond scum.

Mix together 2 cups of flour and the salt in a large bowl, and make a little well in the center. Add the egg, milk, butter, and yeast mixture, and mix it all until it’s a creamy, wet dough.

Wet English Muffin Dough

Add the rest of the flour (you might need a bit more than 4 cups total), 1/2 a cup at a time, and mix until you have a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl, and isn’t too sticky.

Doughy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for a few minutes, until it’s softer and more pliable. Return the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, turning it over a few times to coat the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to rise for about an hour and a half.

Sprinkle the work surface with cornmeal, and turn out the dough onto it, then sprinkle the top of the dough with more cornmeal. Roll it out until it’s about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick. Beware making them too thick–that is how I ended up with English Muffins that resembled softballs. Or rocks. Somewhere a bit less than 1/2 an inch should be ok. Using a drinking glass (or a cookie cutter, if you have such things) cut out English Muffin-sized rounds.

Heat a large (heavy-bottomed, preferably cast iron) skillet over medium heat. Place the muffins in the skillet, and cook them for about 5-10 minutes on each side. This is where I had some serious problems. The muffins burned. I mean, really, inedibly burned. And they were still wet and doughy in the center. Now, I used a pretty light, thin, and possibly aluminum skillet (dumb girl). You might not have this problem with a heavier skillet, and that will be the first thing I change next time. I tried to put them in a 350F oven for a bit, but that only caused them to puff up into ball-like shapes, which is just not right.

I ended up with about 5 or 6 worth keeping, and had one for breakfast this morning. It was a perfectly satisfying breakfast, and I’m certain I didn’t poison myself or anything. But it just wasn’t English Muffin-y. More like a bagel, or a sandwich roll or something.

Muffins for Breakfast

This is different from other recipes I saw that looked a little craggier (?) which is the way I like them. Stay tuned for English Muffins, Part II. Hopefully this time they will prove to be as easy as everyone else says they are.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Maggie permalink
    February 14, 2007 10:46 am

    I have been bragging about your attempt at these to everyone. They look delicious to me, beauty isn’t everything!!! Many asked if there was a special nooks & cranny tool?

  2. February 16, 2007 6:19 pm

    I just tried and failed at making english muffins, mine were dense too and seriously lacking in the nooks and crannies department. I’ll have to give it another go, with a better recipe. Or do I just need to be a better cook? Hm…

  3. January 30, 2010 8:46 pm

    I made English muffins for the first time this past week. (Blogged about it too.) The recipe I used was from Emeril Lagasse and maked 8 muffins. They weren”t like store bought either. Instead of cutting out, it said to divide the dough into 8ths and make a ball of each. (Next time I’m going to try for 10.) I quickly realized the medium heat was too high and turned it down to low and cooked each side about 6-7 minutes each. They were different but still good. I will try these again and my husband really liked them.

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