I love English muffins, but it’s been too long since I’ve made them. When I made apple butter a few weeks ago, I decided that I had to make them again – nothing else would do.
Knowing that I can easily make bread at home, I almost always refuse to buy it at the grocery store unless it’s a super sale; homemade bread is that much better. I do occasionally buy English muffins, for the novelty of it, because I love toasting them.
So I’m so glad that I made these English muffins again. They take only 7 ingredients, and they’re easy to make. I wouldn’t say that they’re fast, but it’s a simple afternoon project to make them on a cold fall or winter weekend.
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I first made these on a lucky snow day 6 years ago. I had vowed to spend the day baking if I got to stay home, and I made good with that by making baking both brownies, and cooking Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary for a second time. I’m ambitious and had to get the most out of my snow day; I decided I wanted to make bread since I already had sweets in the house, and tackled English muffins, which had long been on my cooking wish list.
I’ve come across a few recipes for English Muffins (and even tried an Alton Brown recipe – twice – with very poor results) but the one that seemed the easiest to attempt was the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice .
What Are English Muffins? And Are They English?
Short answers here: delicious, and no.
English muffins are actually an American invention. They were originally called “toaster crumpets” by Samuel Thomas, a British ex-pat in New York, when he invented them in the 1880s or 1890s. (So are they American for being invented in the US, or English for being invented by someone from Britain? I don’t think I can weigh in on that.)
What are they? They’re not muffins like what Americans usually think of. They’re soft and chewy pieces of bread, made from a yeasted dough. They’re split in half across the middle using a fork, so that you create two textured surfaces that toast up nicely.
Honestly, they’re one of my favorite breakfast foods, and I simply don’t make them often enough (although I think that’ll change now).
How to Make English Muffins
Making English Muffins isn’t difficult, but since it’s a yeast bread, it does take a little time.
Ingredients are simple – flour, yeast, salt, a little sugar, a little butter or shortening, and milk. You can use any kind of milk in this – I expect nondairy milk would work fine as well, based on other breads I’ve made. You sprinkle cornmeal on each side of the dough after you shape it into muffins, but you can use cream of wheat or semolina instead if you’d like.
Amounts of flour and milk in this recipe are approximate; the amount you need varies depending on the season. Flour is a little drier in the winter, so you often have to add more milk then.
You want the dough to be soft and squishy, not stiff. Add milk, little by little, until it reaches this consistency. (If mixing by hand, I recommend holding back a little flour to start, and then adding more in, bit by bit, to firm up the dough; adding in liquid is tough to do by hand.) You want the dough to be tacky – like a Post-It note – not sticky, although lean toward the sticky side of things if necessary.
When you knead the dough, you will think it’s too shaggy and rough and won’t smooth out – but it will.
After letting the dough rest for 60-90 minutes (depending on the warmth of your house, of course) until it doubles in size, you divide the dough into 6 pieces and shape them. This is simple to do. Take the edges of a piece of dough and pull them underneath the dough. Keep smoothing those edges underneath and into the ball of dough, to increase the surface tension.
You place each ball on a baking sheet or parchment sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray each ball (very important, so that plastic wrap on top doesn’t stick to the dough) and sprinkle with more cornmeal. Let rise for another hour.
English muffins first are cooked on a griddle to get the nice crusty tops and bottoms, and then finish cooking in the oven. I use a non-stick electric griddle to cook mine, as this way I can cook all 6 at once. If you have to griddle the muffins in stages, you’ll need to bake them in stages too; if you wait to bake them all at once, the first batch won’t cook all the way through. I haven’t had to oil my griddle, but please oil yours if it needs it.
The English muffins work best if you use a spatula to transfer them onto the griddle, rather than flip them. They maintain their shape best that way. If they seem delicate when it’s time to flip them on the griddle, you can gently roll them over instead. Once they’re done griddling, you can put them back on the baking sheet they proofed on (after you’ve dumped off the excess cornmeal) to stick them in the oven.
How Do Homemade English Muffins Compare to Store-Bought?
I tried one English muffin about 30 minutes after baking them. I ate half untoasted, and toasted the other half. They tasted nice and English muffiny. They were denser than the ones you buy at the store, though; I think that’s going to be par for the course for homemade English muffins. But, they’re homemade, and only took 7 ingredients!
Even if they’re a little more dense than you expect, or they don’t have the same nooks and crannies that store-bought ones have, they’re very delicious. Next time, try using a tiny bit less flour or adding a little bit more milk.
How to Serve English Muffins
Always toast your English muffins. And, always use a fork to split English muffins across the middle. That way you have crags that toast nicely!
These English muffins are a little bigger and heartier than the ones you buy at the grocery store – perfect for making breakfast sandwiches. They’re traditional for eggs Benedict.
Personally, I prefer them with almond butter, or apple butter, or even just with honey.
How to Store English Muffins
Store in an airtight container at room temperature. I’m not sure how long they last – we all love them, so they disappear quickly.
I haven’t stored them in the freezer, but I expect that they would freeze well if you wrapped the cooled baked good a couple of times in plastic wrap, and stashed it in a freezer bag.
Like this recipe or have questions? Rate it or leave a comment below!
English Muffins are easy to make at home! Just 7 ingredients! Delicious, and incredibly satisfying.
- 2 1/4 cups bread flour (280 grams)
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar (8 grams)
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1 tablespoon butter (preferably softened)
- 3/4 cup milk (180 grams; plus a little extra if necessary)
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Stir briefly with a dough hook to combine. Add the butter and the milk, and mix on low until a dough forms. The dough should be soft, not stiff; if dough is stiff, add extra milk, little by little, until a softer dough forms.
Turn the stand mixer up to medium. Mix for 8 minutes (or 10 minutes, if mixing by hand), until the dough is soft and tacky, not sticky. (Tacky like a post-it note - it leaves behind little residue on your finger if you press it.) The dough should pass a windowpane test; take a small piece of dough and flatten it out with your fingers. It should stretch, not tear, and you should be able to get it thin enough to see light behind.
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm area for 60-90 minutes, until dough has doubled in size.
Turn dough out onto a clean and very lightly floured surface. Divide into 6 equal pieces (each about 3 ounces in weight). Take the edges of each piece and pull them underneath themselves to form a tight ball. (Continue pulling as long as it takes to get surface tension.) Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray the tops of the balls, sprinkle with more cornmeal, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for another hour or so, until they have doubled in size again.
Heat a griddle to 350F, and preheat your oven as well. Slide a spatula underneath each piece of dough to transfer it to the hot griddle. (If you don't have room for all the English muffins, keep the remaining dough covered.) Cook on the first side for 5-8 minutes, until well browned. Flip and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until you can't cook it longer without scorching it.
Transfer cooked English muffins to a baking sheet. Bake in the 350F oven for another 5-8 minutes to cook the middle. (If you couldn't cook all your muffins at once, do not wait for your remaining muffins; this will mess up the cook time.)
Repeat the cooking process with your remaining pieces of dough. Cool completely before splitting and toasting. Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
(Originally posted February 2, 2011. Updated October 2018.)
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