Tuesday, January 17, 2012

English Muffins - Challenger Number One

And we have our first challenger in the English Muffin Off!

My first attempt at English muffins was so successful, that I mentioned trying a couple of other recipes, just for fun.

Today I tried challenger number one - Peter Reinhart's recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I've had the book for a while, and I love every recipe I've tried so far, so it seemed only fair to have this one be first up to compete against the Alton Brown recipe I made before.

While the ingredient list is fairly similar, the process was different between the two recipes. In the Alton Brown recipe, the yeast was activated first, but otherwise, everything was just mixed together with a wooden spoon, and the dough only rested for half an hour. It is a very quick recipe, as far as yeast bread recipes are concerned.

This one? Not quite as quick.

First, the dry ingredients were whisked together, including the dry yeast.

Then, using the KitchenAid, butter and milk were mixed in.

At this point, the paddle attachment is switched for the dough hook, and the dough is kneaded for eight minutes. The dough, while soft and silky smooth, is much more of a bread dough than the Alton Brown dough, which is more of a batter.

At this point, the dough rests. In my normal dough-resting spot.

And it rests for much longer than the previous recipe. This rest, during which the dough ferments, is 90 minutes long.

After which the dough is shaped into balls, something that was impossible with the other dough. Though this does eliminate the need for those trusty English muffin rings...

Then the tray of shaped dough balls is rested. Again. In my normal dough-resting spot.

And this is another 90 minute rest.

Then it is time to cook the muffins. Like the previous recipe, these are cooked on a pan.

The idea is that, once they hit the pan, they'll flatten out a bit... umm... after the recommended 5-8 minutes on the first side, the bottoms were golden brown, but they hadn't flattened much...

5-8 minutes on the second side, and here was the other difference... they needed to be put into the oven to finish cooking through.

So after 5-8 minutes on each side, then another 5-8 minutes in the oven, they were finally ready.

The cornmeal and color gave them the look of real English muffins, but they were definitely rounder and taller than I'd expected. They didn't quite stack like the others had.

But the test isn't in how they stack, it's in how they stack up!

I ate my first one straight off of the cooling rack - no splitting, no topping, no spread, I just ate it. And it was delicious, and pretty light. But very different from the other ones. A bit more bready and definitely less sweet.

Later tonight we actually split one open to do a real comparison.

Well, the crumb was beautiful, but not quite nook-and-cranny looking. But toasted with some butter, daddy said that these tasted more authentic, more like the store-bought English muffins you think of. And little miss liked these more than the others.

Me? I think I like the other ones a little bit more, but they are both absolutely delicious, and I am glad to have a couple of options available to me now!

So if you are keeping score, we actually have a tie right now... I prefer the Alton Brown English muffins, little miss and Daddy have these slightly ahead. You'd think that would put these in the lead, two votes to one, but this is my blog, so my vote carries extra weight... or something like that... Little man likes them both.

So if you have some extra time, definitely give these a shot - they are worth the wait.

English Muffins

2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (I used active dry, as that is what I have)
1 tablespoon shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature (I used unsalted butter)
3/4 to 1 cup milk or buttermilk at room temperature (I used milk)
cooking spray
cornmeal for sprinkling

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Using the paddle attachment, stir in the butter and 3/4 cup of milk on low speed. Mix until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still loose flour in the bowl, dribble in some of the remaining 1/4 cup of milk. The dough should be soft and pliable, not stiff. (I needed about 1/8 cup of the remaining 1/4 cup.)
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 8 minutes.
Cover the dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest (ferment) at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, until the dough doubles in size.
On a clean work surface, divide the dough into six equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.
Place all six dough balls on a baking sheet, which has been covered with parchment paper, sprayed lightly with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Then mist the tops of each ball with more cooking spray and sprinkle them with a bit more cornmeal. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. (I use the same piece as before.)
Proof the balls of dough for 60-90 minutes, until they nearly double in size.
Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the pan lightly with cooking spray then transfer the rounds to the pan, with the rounds about an inch apart and not touching. You may need to work in batches (I did three at a time). Keep the rounds not being cooked covered with plastic wrap.
Cook the rounds on the pan 5-8 minutes, or until the bottoms cannot cook any longer without burning. The bottoms will be a rich golden brown. Carefully flip each muffin and cook on the other side for another 5-8 minutes as before.
Transfer the muffins, once cooked on both sides, to a baking pan and bake them at 350 degrees for 5-8 minutes. It is important that you transfer each batch right from the stove top pan into the oven and not wait for the second batch to come off of the griddle, as they will not respond as well to the final cooking if they cool down from the pan.
Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.



  1. I have never tried my hand at English muffins. These look good!

  2. These look great! Definitely taller than I would expect, but I like that you can make them without the rings! I'm going to try these!


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