If you love to bake bread but haven’t tried English muffins yet, you’re going to be amazed at how easy and delicious homemade muffins really are. And if it’s your desire to be a bread baker, English muffins are a great way to get your hands in the dough.
Start your muffins the day before by making a simple mixture of flour, water, and yeast, and then letting it sit overnight. This pasty mix (known as a poolish) adds an amazing amount of flavor to the muffins.
Use room temperature water (about 65 to 70 degrees) to get the yeast active (that is, wake up and get busy making gas). Using water that’s too cold will inhibit the yeast's activity, and water that’s too warm will make the yeast too active, resulting in a shorter life span and less rise.
Unless you've made English muffins before, you may be surprised to learn that the muffins are cooked twice. First they are toasted on each side in a dry pan until golden brown, and then they go into the oven to finish baking. The hot pan sets the outsides of the muffins and adds to the crispy texture.
After baking, for optimal flavor and texture, cool muffins completely, cut in half, and pop them in the toaster until browned and crisp. Enjoy with butter and marmalade.
Poolish: 6.25 ounces bread flour (about 1 1/3 cups) 3/4 cup room temperature water (65-70˚) 1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
Muffins: 1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110˚) 2 tablespoons butter, melted 21.4 ounces bread flour (about 4 1/2 cups) 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt Cooking spray
1. To prepare the poolish, weigh or lightly spoon 1 1/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a medium bowl, stirring until almost smooth (mixture will look a little lumpy). Cover and let stand at room temperature 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
2. To prepare muffins, place poolish, 1 1/2 cups water, and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on low speed with dough hook until well combined.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon 4 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour, 1 tablespoon yeast, sugar, and salt; beat with dough hook at low speed 3 minutes, scraping down bowl after 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic (dough will be sticky). Scrape dough into a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85˚), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.
4. Preheat oven to 475˚.
5. Scrape dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface; fold in thirds, like a letter. Cover and let rest 15 minutes. Gently roll dough on a lightly floured surface to a 16 x 12-inch rectangle (do not deflate dough). Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut dough into fourths, then cut each fourth into 4 muffins. As the dough and muffins are cut, separate them a little so the cut sides do not stick together. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
6. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook muffins 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Place browned muffins on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake muffins at 475˚ for 8 minutes or until done (internal temperature should be 210˚). Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. To serve, cut muffins in half and toast to desired degree of doneness.
SERVES 16 (serving size: 1 muffin)