Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Authentic English Muffins: A Recipe To Work On

I have been looking for a good English muffin recipe for a long time. 
I love Jim Lahey’s no-knead cookbook, My Bread, where he researched old Italian bread making and developing this sticky dough, overnight rising bread with awesome flavor.
In fact, I’m hooked and will never make anything but overnight bread.

This muffin recipe comes from Sheryl Canter and I made it for brunch. It had the perfect taste but it was also slightly doughy so it needs a little work.

Recipe Challenge: She is on to something here with the overnight proofing though. It just needs a little fine-tuning.
Let me know when you get it perfect and I'll be over for breakfast!

Bon Appetit!
This recipe makes six muffins.
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1 packet (2¼ tsp) dry yeast
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt

Heat the milk to simmering, then drop in the butter and the sugar or honey. Stir so they melt and combine, and let the mixture cool. When it’s lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast, stir, and let it sit for 10 minutes until bubbly. Don’t use an aluminum bowl because that can interfere with the yeast. Glass is best.
While that’s happening, measure out the flour and salt and mix together well. When the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the flour and beat vigorously for a couple minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter (not in the refrigerator) overnight. It will overproof – rise and collapse. This is what creates the English muffin’s characteristic sourdough taste and large bubbles.
In the morning, scrape the sides of the bowl with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and remix a little. Then use a spatula and spoon to drop muffin-size globs into a small bowl of cornmeal, as pictured in the previous section. Don’t try to handle the dough – it’s too sticky. Lift each muffin from the cornmeal with a slotted spatula, shake off the excess, and place in an ungreased skillet.
When the skillet is full, cover it (with a glass top, if you have one), and let the muffins rise for 30 minutes. They won’t rise much at this point because all the sugar has been eaten by the yeast, but they’ll puff up a little more when they start to cook. Remove the lid before cooking.
Set your stove’s burner to medium-low. If it’s electric, let the burner preheat. If you have an electric skillet, you’ll have to let the muffins rise somewhere else so you can preheat it. I’ve read that electric skillets should be set to 300°F, but I don’t have one so I can’t verify that. I used a cast iron pan and set the burner to medium-low.
Warning: don’t set the temperature too high. The muffins have to cook slowly or the inside will be doughy while the outside is burned. Don’t crank up the heat because it’s not sizzling. It’s not supposed to sizzle. Just because it’s not making any noise doesn’t mean it’s not doing anything. It’s cooking.
The muffins can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per side, depending on how high you set the skillet temperature. Turn them over when the first side is browned.
When the second side is browned, remove the muffins to a cooling rack and let them cool completely. If you don’t let them cool, they will be doughy inside. Also, they taste best if they are fully cooled and then toasted. Split them for toasting by pulling them apart with your fingers, rather than cutting with a knife. This maximizes the nooks and crannies that are so great for holding butter and jam.
English muffins are a quick and easy breakfast because they were designed to be quick and easy. The batter is made the night before, and no rolling is required. You mix everything together, go to sleep, then cook them up in the morning.
Overproofing is what gives the characteristic taste and texture – no vinegar or baking soda required.