BBA #12: English Muffins

March 25th, 2011 by Chris


Finally, after two challenges that I had little interest in (the Cornbread and Cranberry-Walnut Bread challenges) I was definitely psyched up to do this one. Why? Well, two quick reasons off of the top of my head: first, I am a serious lover of the English Muffin.  Second, this challenge had a odd component that broke things up nicely – you have to use a griddle. After weeks of just using the oven to bake the bread in a conventional fashion, I found this a nice needed twist on the process a well needed break from standard operating procedure.

As I’ll discuss below, English Muffins are actually suprisingly simple to make. I thought it would be more difficult, but it wasn’t. So that was a big plus. On the other hand, although I liked the product, I was a little disppointed - I was hoping they would come out a lot lighter and airier than they turned out to be.  (As always, as my fellow BBAers stream in, such as Joanne and Nancy, Coz and Jim, I’ll quick link to their products here).

Difficulty

As I mentioned, these are pretty easy to make, at all stages of the process. Still, because I think of difficulty level in terms off the newbie, I’ll rate these as novice. I think to do them right requires a more hydrated dough, which is tough to handle, and the griddling is a bit odd for a novice, I would think.

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Comments on the Process

English Muffins has three steps, I’ll say. (a) dough and rise, (b) griddle, (c) bake.

Step One – Dough and Rise

I don’t know about you, but I like my English Muffins light and airy. I want them soo light you need to put a paperweight on them for fear that they will float away. I wanna see big holes all over the crumb of the English Muffin to trap the butter after they are toasted.
With that desire in mind, I had a suspicion that Reinhart’s hydration rate was too low for what I was looking for. Now, in the directions, he does say that you can add “anywhere between 3/4 and 1 cup of milk” to the dough. That’s a wide difference on hydration – from 70% to 80%. From the recipe, you get the impression that you should shoot for 70%, but perhaps use the other milk only just in case, to get things to come together right. I went right for the 80% and didn’t mess around.  Here’s what my dough looked like in the bowl:
Of course, at this level of hydration it’s not easy to handle. I basically used a little oil on my hands and used it to pull together the dough into a workable ball, staying away from adding any extra flour. I then worked the dough into the six pieces and made them into boules. I must admit this part was a little funny – the pieces were so small, and I’m not used to shaping such tiny pieces of dough. It was somewhat amusing, though I can’t explain why! Once they were done, they were ready to proof:
After 90 minutes, they were done proofing and ready for the griddle!
Step Two: Griddlin’
Griddling dough is a new thing for me, so it felt a little odd at first.  Reinhhart says to go 5 – 8 minutes for each side. I went the full 8 after reading a few posts from people who did this in a 2009 BBA challenge say that they thought 5 was not enough. So griddle away I did:
And then I turned them over, and griddled them some more. I must admit, they looked really good. Now, when I turned them over I did use the spatula and applied presure to each one, to make sure that they came out English Muffin shaped, as opposed to taller. I looked at other BBAers from 2009, and a lot of their products didn’t look like English Muffins to me due to this. I suspect they did not push down on the dough at all. So I recommend doing that.
Step 3: Baking
The last step is to put the Muffins in the oven for 8 minutes to make sure that the insides cook. Again, after reading old BBAer posts on this, many of which complained that the insides weren’t done right, I went 10 minutes just to make sure.

Comments on the Final Product

The English Muffins are good. I’m just thinking that they can be quite a bit better with some tweaking. With this in mind, I just want to point out a few issues here with the final product. Before mentioning these, here’s a final shot of a toasted English Muffin:

1. Not airy enough. Now I went to 80% hydration, which is super high. But the crumb was denser than I figured it would be. What else should you do? Higher hydration still? Or is it the milk? Should you use water instead?

2. I’m not sure I’d eat these out of the oven. They strike me as done in the way that an English Muffin you buy in the store is done. Meaning: ready for the toaster, not meant to be eaten out of the bag. I’d apply the same rule here. I wonder whether older BBAers ate them out of the oven, because there were a lot of complaints about the insides not being done right. If you eat them without toasting them, you might have the same impression.

3. When you toast them, beware of the quick burn factor. I found it very difficult to toast these, even lightly, without burning them on the outsides. This may be because I griddled for 8 minutes. When I do these again, I’ll griddle for 5 min, and see if that helps. I think it would.

Well, that’s it. Let’s get on to the next bread!

Next Week: Foccacia

I’m definitely super excited to do this one. One, because it’s Italian, and you know how I am about Italian food. Two, because I just love Foccacia, and I can’t imagine it’s all that simple to make correctly, so I think this is going to be a challenge. I’m looking forward to it! I haven’t decided whether to go with the regular one or the pizza one. I typically go plain at first, just to get a feel for the recipe, but this time I’m not sure. I’m feelin’ the pull towards the pizza one.

See you next week!

26 Responses to “BBA #12: English Muffins”

  1. Joanne Jones Says:

    They look awesome! Mine are still rising in the kitchen. I could have sworn the last recipes I found for english muffins had baking powder in it and it was more a batter than a dough. I will have to look around and see what I find. Your’s look great though.

  2. Cameron Says:

    I have been contemplating making my own english muffins. My sister loaned me a baking book that she found which contains an EM recipe abut I am dubious because the naan and a number of other recipes are completely different than the ones I know to work. It appears this is the case with the EM recipe as well. Could I get your recipe? I’ll trade you a great italian pork and fennel stew recipe!

  3. Joanne Jones Says:

    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/breakfast-sandwich-muffins-recipe Here is the recipe, but I was wrong about the baking powder. It is however a LOT wetter dough than what we are using. Here are pics from it: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2008/05/22/mcmake-%E2%80%99em-yourself-breakfast-sandwiches/

  4. Frieda Says:

    I loved the English muffins, though they were devoid of the little holes to catch the melted butter…..perhaps due to the level of hydration. Milk is a “tenderizer” for breads, adding extra fat. Try water and see what happens ~

    Foccacia was a REALLY good bread, but be forewarned not to use the entire amount of herbed oil in the recipe. I used fresh herbs and used half the oil PR recommends.

  5. Chris Says:

    @Frieda –

    Right, that’s exactly what I was complaining about above – not enough hydration, and I went to the extreme end on this recipe, too. I think I might stick with water – I agree.

    @Joanne –

    Interesting recipe from Hamel. Okay, so that recipe, as far as I can tell, is well over 100% hydration. Perhaps 130% or so? It’s more like batter at that point. I can see why he uses the rings – the dough won’t stay together at that level. I’m intrigued enough to try it, but I’ll have to buy the rings.

    @Cam –

    I’ll send it to you later on, and will be expecting your recipe in return! Also, I’d check out the Hamel recipe that Joanne linked to above, which sounds good to me.

  6. Chris Says:

    Joanne -

    I misread the Hamel recipe – the hydration is closer to 100%, not 130%. Still, that’s very high.

  7. jim Says:

    Chris,thanks for the advice,will make mine tommorow,Sat, planning to have eggs Charleston for Sunday breakfast(crabcake on eng muffin),instead of hollandaise ,prefer a cheese sauce.
    @ joanne,Freida, appreciate your input.

  8. Moopheus Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was just thinking about trying that very recipe. It occurs to me that maybe you could handle the toasting problem by toasting on the griddle rather than in the toaster–cut them in half, place them face down in hot butter. Then you are toasting only the cut side.

  9. Joanne Jones Says:

    Yippee!!! My English muffins are done and I got the best compliment from my husband. He gave them his seal of approval, which means I will definitely make them again. I might try Hamelman’s recipe that I posted above at some point, but for now this one will work! Here is a pic….

  10. Joanne Jones Says:

    @Chris I toasted mine under the broiler in the oven, after reading what you said. I didn’t want it to burn. I still think yours look pretty awesome! The hydration with Hamelman’s recipe might have to do with adding the potato flake/flour to the recipe, they require some water for hydration. When I add potato flake to a recipe, I will add about 90 grams water for each 1/3 cup potato flake.

  11. Chris Says:

    @Joanne –

    Those look good! Nice birds too! I checked a few other sources, btw, on EMs, and most of the ones I saw had the same hydration rate as PR – about 70%. I’m not sure how you get the open holes at 70%.

    @Moopheus –

    That’s not a bad idea!

  12. NancyB Says:

    My English muffin post is up: http://nlbarber.blogspot.com/2011/03/bba-12-english-muffins.html
    Same problem as other reported: not enough holes! I’m with Chris in thinking these need a higher hydration level, though I went almost (1 T. short) to the max amount specified. I’ll try it with more next time, maybe comparing to the crumpet recipe I used to make that has lovely holes. Of course, crumpets are a batter bread…

  13. Frieda Says:

    Just re-read my muffin post (http://www.friedalovesbread.com/2009/07/bba-english-muffins.html) and discovered that “fork splitting” is supposed to preserve all the nooks and crannies…what do you think?

  14. Chris Says:

    Freida –

    It definitely does. I fork split some, and then used a knife on another. Totally different planets. The knife split has no nooks or crannies, and doesn’t that that rough texture typical to the EM. No question – fork split them!

  15. Joanne Jones Says:

    @Frieda I remember reading that too, but I am not really sure exactly what the nooks and crannies look like in the first place. I thought mine looked pretty close to what I buy in the store, but I did use 50% whole wheat flour in them which would have made them a little denser than using all bread flour. Besides, comparing to a store bought English muffin is setting the bar kinda low when you are talking fresh baked! I really need a reference point, since I haven’t had an English muffin in a real long time unless you count the ones made into sandwiches where you can’t see the muffin crumb at all!

  16. NancyB Says:

    I may try *real* forks on my last muffin, though I did use a pick to split the one in my crumb shot that didn’t really show the classic English muffin texture. I don’t expect forks to be greatly different, but I’ll give it a try. Breakfast tomorrow!

  17. jim Says:

    Seems I’m last this time,but all the posts are so helpfull.I followed the recipe using 6 oz +1tsp butter milk,over poured a bit.the dough was sticky,then tacky after kneading and dusting of flour.I’m happy with the taste ,fork split mine as I recalled that’s what’s on the store muffin packages as a tip. Hadn’t read the later post about doing just that.
    We had them this morning with Shrimp Burgers,topped with poached egg and cheese sauce..
    My post is here
    http://ovenminded.blogspot.com/search/label/BBA%2312%20English%20Muffins

  18. Chris Says:

    Jim –

    Nice look overall, but especially nice toasted crumb on your EMs in those last pics!

    Your breakfast shot almost gave me a heart attack just visually. Whoa! Looks great, but oooh that must pack a whallop on the arteries!

  19. jim Says:

    Thanks Chris,Once a week we treat ourselves,and if you consume plenty of fiber most (cholesterol) will flush out.

  20. Joanne Jones Says:

    Just had to share this link with you all:

    http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/05/the-english-muffin-experiment-homemade-vs-store-bought-trader-joes-thomas-wolfermans-fred-meyer.html

  21. Coz Says:

    Chris, your english muffins look wonderful. I like your step by step photo’s. I got behind on my baking. I was the Mother of a 16 year old birthday boy and had 6 teenagers have a slumber party here this weekend. I’ve now recovered and ready to get caught up on my baking!!!

  22. Coz Says:

    I got my english muffins done. Here it is at my blog. http://www.scratchbaker.blogspot.com

  23. Joanne Jones Says:

    Great looking breakfast! Going to check out your blog right now…

  24. Chris Says:

    Coz –

    Those look great! The whole plate!

  25. Geraint Says:

    Finally got around to making these after a request from my love.

    I think I should have made them a bit wetter as they didn’t flatten out at all when cooking & also I had the pan much too hot so they got a bit dark, but even so they were a big hit with Tess. They disappeared quickly.

    Didn’t quite get around to the full Eggs Benedict, but we did have a couple with poached eggs.

    Will have another go at these soon.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sgratch13/sets/72157626820622580/with/5766380588/

  26. Frieda Says:

    Lovely! I thoroughly enjoyed drooling over all your beautiful breads in your fliker gallery!!

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