As many people know, I’m a HUGE fan of The Great British Bake-off, which is now in it’s fourth season here in the UK. I understand that one of the judges went to the States to try to replicate the program there (The American Baking Competition – they didn’t really put a lot of time into the name, did they) … no surprise that, with that name, it didn’t really take off. The whole premise is about home baking and traditional cooking with various themes each week like cakes, pies, bread, etc.
A couple of weeks ago, GBBO did their bread episode and I was positively inspired by their “technical challenge” which was English muffins. When is the last time you actually even thought about English Muffins? You pop down to the grocery and mindlessly throw a package of Thomas’s in your basket. Or you go out for brunch and order eggs Benedict and there it is, the trusty, chewy base. It adds a little texture, but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t stand up and take center stage.
Consequently, when you think about making bread, English Muffins aren’t really the first thing that come to mind. In fact, I can honestly say that, until I watched it on that episode, I never even thought about how they were made. Griddles! Who knew? A nice griddle or non-stick pan on medium-low heat is how you get that crispy top and bottom with the nice soft middle. It was a revelation, I tell ya!
I will tell you this – this is one of those recipes that really benefits from a standing mixer. Yes, you can mix and knead by hand, but it is an enriched dough, so is a little sticky, making kneading SUCH a hassle when a dough hook does just as well! If you DO decide to try this by hand, use oil on the work surface rather than flour – you don’t want to toughen the dough.
As with all bread recipes, the dry ingredients are in metric weight rather than volume … if you haven’t bought a digital scale, yet, what are you waiting for! BUY ONE!!
- 300 g bread flour
- 6 g salt
- 6 g instant yeast
- 15 g sugar
- 1 Tbsp butter, soft
- 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed to body temperature
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- semolina or fine cornmeal for dusting
In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the flour, salt, yeast, sugar and butter and start on low. Slowly add the milk and egg and mix thoroughly. Once fully incorporated, speed up the machine a notch or two to really get the gluten working and let it go for about ten minutes. As stated above, because this is an enriched dough, it’s going to be a bit stickier than your traditional bread dough, so be patient as the machine does the work. Stop occasionally to make sure everything is being mixed and kneaded. By the time ten minutes is up, you’ll feel the difference from how it was at the start – the gluten will give it a good body, but it will still be a soft dough.
Oil a large bowl and put the dough in it to rise for an hour or so until it’s doubled in size. Once it’s finished, tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and press or roll out to about 1/2″ thickness. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit and rest for about 10 minutes. While it’s resting, dust a large tray with the semolina or cornmeal.
Finally, use a 3″ round (not fluted) cutter to cut the dough into nice rounds and place them on the prepared tray by dipping the dough into it on one side and moving around a bit to make sure it’s evenly covered, before flipping over and doing the same on the other side. When they’ve all been dusted, they need to sit for about 30 minutes for their second proofing.
During their two to three minutes of proving, heat a non-stick skillet or pan over medium-low heat. No butter. No oil. Just dry heat. Put the muffins in without overcrowding the pan and cook them about five minutes per side. Then, slice and eat, baby! Loveliness!