A customer recently popped in to get ingredients for making English muffins, and asked what they were traditionally dusted with. I admitted that I hadn't a clue, and advised, with not much conviction, to try semolina.
I realised that not only had I never made English muffins from scratch, I'd never even thought of doing so. Yet suddenly it was at the top of my to-do list.
That evening I consulted the great Google and learnt that yes, English muffins are dusted with semolina. However, many recipes called for polenta, regular flour, corn meal or farina cereal. Just to confuse things further, all of these online sources were adamant that theirs was the only proper English way.
As it so happened, I had both semolina and cornmeal in my pantry, so I decided to make a batch right away, dusting half with semolina and half with corn meal.
The results were basically identical, although I do like the speckled golden edge of the corn meal ones best. Flavour-wise, there was nothing in it.
So here it is, our English muffin recipe, cobbled together from the knowledge I gleaned online from two British bakers plus the results of my own tinkering about. I was delighted by both how easy they were to make, and how deliciously authentic they tasted.
They're truly delicious with both savoury and sweet toppings. We enjoyed a freshly made one with jam, then froze the rest before toasting them two days later as the base for a delicious Eggs Benedict.
Prep Time: 3hrs (includes rising time), Cook Time: 25 mins
1 ¼ cups milk, warmed to about 38°C (blood temperature)
2 tsp (7g) instant or active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
2 cups white heritage flour
1 cup whole wheat heritage flour
½ cup semolina flour for sprinkling and generally handling dough
Preheat oven to 180°c (160°c fan forced).
Prepare Dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the warm milk, honey, and yeast. Cover with a lid or cloth and leave for 5 minutes to let the yeast get to work. At the end of the 5 minutes you'll see that the top has become foamy, which means you're good to go.
Add the butter, egg, salt, half (1 cup) of the white heritage flour, and all of the wholewheat heritage flour. Stir vigorously with spatula or wooden spoon until combined, then add the remaining 1 cup of the white heritage flour. Keep mixing. After a couple of minutes a dough will start to form. It will be a very sticky mixture, but resist adding more flour- sticky is good!
Cover the bowl with cling film or foil or silicone wrap and leave to rise for 2 hours. It should double in size, have lots of air bubbles and be quite gooey.
Line two large baking trays with baking paper or silicone baking mats. Dust both trays with semolina.
Now it's time to shape the muffins: Don't punch the dough down after the 2 hour rise. Instead, just divide it gently. This dough makes about 12, so I find it easiest to roughly halve the mixture, then halve again so you have 4 equal portions of dough. Then split these quarters into thirds. Voila - 12 portions of dough. Shape each portion into a disc shape, aprox 2-3cm in thickness and 8-9cm in diameter. Place the discs onto the lined trays, 6 per tray, spaced well apart Sprinkle with more semolina then leave to rise for about 15-20 mins. No longer though, or they'll get too puffy.
Fry the muffins: heat a large frypan over a medium-low heat. Dust dry pan with a little semolina then use a spatula to carefully place the dough discs into the pan. They will expand a little as they cook so make sure to give them plenty of room by frying in batches, a few at a time. Sprinkle the tops with semolina. As they're frying over a low, slow heat, gently shape the edges with the spatula to encourage them into round, neat shapes. After 6 or 7 mins on one side, carefully flip them over and fry on the other side for another 7 mins or so.
Now it's time to finish off cooking them in the oven: Although you can skip this step, you may find the centres are a little doughy otherwise. Place the fried English muffins onto the lined baking trays and bake in the oven for 8-10 mins.
Remove from the oven and leave on the tray to cool for 10 mins. Then you can cut them through the middle so they're ready for toasting.
Toast in toaster as you would store-bought English muffins, and top with whatever takes your fancy.
Note: if you're not eating them right away, put the muffins back together after cutting them and store in the fridge for up to 2 days or freezer for up to 3 months.
Pimp My Recipe:
Want an even better flavour and texture to your English muffins? Give your dough some time in the fridge before frying! After the initial 2 hour rise, place the bowl of dough in the fridge for between 6 and 18 hours. Not only is cold dough easier to shape and handle, this extra time enhances the flavour of the finished product.
This recipe requires a high protein bakers flour. Feel free to use all white flour for this recipe, however I don't recommend using all wholewheat - the end result is a little heavy. I find that the ratio of 2 parts white and 1 part wholewheat is ideal.