How to Make English Muffins or Bread
You can buy English muffins at any grocery store, but the taste is usually pretty bland and the texture is often doughy or too dry. This recipe takes many hours of elapsed time to make but the actual preparation time is about one hour. This is far from the simplest recipe for English muffins, but it is by far the best tasting I have ever found. The recipe will make about 32 muffins about 4" in diameter or three large loaves.
This recipe will also make what everyone that has tried it says is the best loaf bread they have ever tasted. Not only the taste, but the texture -- in loaves, this bread can be sliced thinly and will hold together even for "wet" sandwiches. Fantastic toast, French toast, or any other loaf bread use!
2 packets yeast, or 4 teaspoons of powdered yeast
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 1/2 cups bread flour, approximate
6 tablespoons cornmeal, approximately
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt or sea salt
2 cups water
Make a sourdough starter.Combine 2 1/2 cups of flour, one packet of yeast, and 2 cups of warm (90-110F) water in at least a 8 cup bowl. Mix with a spoon until it is a smooth batter. This will sit and "cook" for at least 4 hours during which time it will increase in volume a lot (hence the big bowl). Cover with some plastic wrap or a cloth and leave in a warm place (room temperature is fine).
Make a sponge using half of the starter from the first step (not a critical measurement) and adding more flour and yeast.Combine 2 cups of flour (we are up to 4 1/2 cups total so far), about half of the starter, a packet of yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of warm (room temperature to 100F) buttermilk in a very large bowl.Use a heavy-duty mixer such as a Kitchenaid to make the dough. Initially mix the batter until smooth using a spoon. Let stand covered in a warm room (just like the starter above) for at least one hour. This will increase in size but not quite as much as the starter did.
To the sponge, add 4 cups of flour (this should be 8 1/2 cups total), 1/4 cup honey, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kosher or Sea salt, and 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal.Add the rest of the starter. You can mix this with a heavy wooden spoon or use the bread hook from your mixer. If using a mixer, assemble the bowl and hook in the mixer with the bowl in the "down" position (assuming your mixer has the "lift" feature). Start the mixer on the slowest setting and slowly raise the bowl. (If you raise the bowl too quickly, you will have flour flying all over the place!) Mix/knead until the bowl is clean (or relatively clean). Stop the mixer and give the dough a pinch -- it should be moist but not sticky. If it is too soft and sticky, you need to add some flour -- I suggest adding a 1/2 cup. I have never needed more than this extra 1/2 cup. Knead a bit longer to mix in the new flour.
- It may not be necessary to hand knead. You can do some of the kneading by hand to make sure the dough is the right texture and has the right moisture content. Spray your counter top with some nonstick cooking spray. You can also spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray.
- If the dough gets too sticky, sprinkle some more flour on the mass and knead some more. Again, I would not expect to use more than maybe 1/4 cup additional flour but let the dough dictate what is needed.
Put the kneaded dough back into the mixer bowl and let it rise until approximately double -- about 45 minutes to an hour or so.
To make English Muffins:
- Once the dough has risen, spray some Pam on the counter top and hands. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/2" thick. Cut circles of about 3 1/2" to 4" from the dough and put these on a cookie sheet (Pam or some cornmeal will keep the dough from sticking to the sheet).
- Cover with a cloth and let sit about 45 minutes. You don't want them to be too thick or it will be more difficult to cook them.
- Heat a griddle or frying pan. To cook, heat a large griddle or frying pan on the stove until it is about 300 degrees F (a drop of water will sizzle on the surface). Sprinkle the griddle with some more of the cornmeal. Transfer some of the dough circles to the griddle and cook about 10 minutes while turning them every couple of minutes. They will get fairly brown on both sides. You can tell when they are done best by sticking a thermometer into the side of a muffin -- when it reads about 180F, they are done. Remove them to a rack to let them cool and cook the rest of the muffins. A tip for too-thick muffins -- if they are brown and you think they will burn before getting to 180F internally, put a few (maybe up to 6) in the microwave for about a minute and check the internal temperature. If you don't get the internal temperature to about 180F, the insides tend to be a bit doughy.
- Cool the muffins to room temperature. Once cool you can put them into plastic bags, suck out the air, and seal. These muffins have no preservatives -- not even any butter or oil. Hence, they must be refrigerated or frozen but wait until they cool to do this. You can store English muffins for about 4 days on the kitchen counter. Bagging before they cool will result in soggy muffins!
- Prepare the English Muffin for eating. Eating is the last step! To split an English muffin, you use a dinner fork and drive it into the sides of the muffin with the tines parallel to the faces of the muffin and about half-way between the faces. Do this all around the muffin and you should be able to separate the halves easily. If you buy "fork-split" muffins in the store, this is approximately what happens in the factory. You can simply cut the muffin in two, but the fork splitting results in a rougher texture that holds more butter, preserves, etc. Toast the two halves -- if your toaster has a "bagel" setting, use this to toast only the inside of the muffin since the outsides are already "toasted" from cooking. A broiler is great for toasting many muffins at once.
Bake a loaf of English Muffin bread by following these steps:
- An additional rising will give you a finer textured bread. For loaves, I usually do one extra rising. For "country style" bread, skip the additional rising.
- Butter the pans.
- Divide the dough into three equal lumps. A scale is handy but not required. Form each lump into a loaf shape -- roll the dough out into a roughly 12"X12" rectangle, fold from the top and bottom to the middle and fold again down the middle. Pinch the edges together and put the crease bottom-down in the buttered pan.
- Cover the pans with a damp towel and let rise until roughly doubled (45 minutes or so). Preheat the oven during this time.
- Bake at 375 °F (191 °C) for about 30 minutes. For the first couple of minutes and immediately after inserting the pans into the oven, spray the oven (right on the bread is fine) with water mist. This will help with the early rising during baking.
- Use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the bread after about 20 minutes and bake until the bread's internal temperature is 180 °F (82 °C).
- Remove bread from the oven to cool. You can brush melted butter on the bread, if you like.
- It is far easier to add flour as needed for mixers and add water as needed for food processors. Bread making is somewhat of an art since the flour can vary tremendously in weight per volume and moisture content. This will affect the amount of water you add and only a bit of experience will "tell" you how much water is ideal. Err on the sticky side as too-dry a dough can be very brick-like.
- Cooled muffins or loaves will last for a long time if stored in plastic bags (3 gallon bags will work better) and frozen. (I have never needed to try for the maximum time as the muffins and loaves simply don't last before being eaten.)
- To thaw a frozen loaf, move it to a new bag (a 1 Gallon works great for one loaf) and let it defrost in the refrigerator. Defrosting on the counter will result in too soggy a loaf.
- To keep defrosted loaves, store them in the refrigerator.
- Toasting will reform the gluten. In most cases toast the bread or muffin before making sandwiches or buttering.
Video: How to Make English Muffins | Bread Recipes | Allrecipes.com
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