As many of you know, I am participating in the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge, where each week we make a bread from the book of the same name.
I was holding off on the English Muffins for no real reason. In the end, there was a window of opportunity: Hurricane Felicia. You see English Muffins are not baked in an oven, but cooked on a griddle. During possible hurricane related power outages I could not use my oven even though it is a gas oven, because it has an electric thermostat and digital controls. But I do have side burners on my gas grill as well as a portable butane burner that I use for food demos. So cooking on a burner could be done in a hurricane situation.
If you have read my Hurricane post, you will also know that as every hurricane has historically done, even though Felicia was at one point a category 4 headed straight for Hilo, she first lost power over cold pacific waters and then veered North of us, missing our island entirely. She was a tropical depression when she hit Maui, the island above us and is now dumping rain on Oahu. We on the other hand had to water our potted plants yesterday and will again today. Nary a drop has fallen on us, not even our usual midnight sprinkles. I guess Felicia sucked all the moisture from the atmosphere. Good for baking!
So, even though I could bake this week (and will also be baking focaccia) I did my English Muffins in what was supposed to be a storm and which ended up being a sunny day! Go figure.
My "outside dog" Bingo.
My cat Kiwi sat next to me and watched the whole baking process:
The English muffin recipe varies from some I have done before where the muffins are made like crumpets with a batter that you pour into forms on the griddle. This recipe actually requires a dough that is soft, yet stiff enough to form into muffin shapes.
I used the Kitchen Aid Mixer to mix the dough and then switched to the dough hook to knead it into a smooth yet slightly tacky dough that passed the window pane test after about 7 minutes of kneading.
Because my husband surprised me and took me out to dinner last night (to celebrate the sale of our CA house) I had to stick the risen dough into the refrigerator over night and then proceeded to de-chill and form the muffins, which actually worked out nicely, as we had them for breakfast with some white pineapple and delicious local mangoes and papayas.
This recipe was also blogged by several other challenge members; Cheryl Tan who made some beautiful muffins (see what she did with them in her Shrimp and Tofu Burger post), Jeff of the blog "Culinary Disasters" who writes about his oven dying just after doing his English Muffins and Focaccia, Susie also one of my long time followers, Paul who made them loaf style, Phyl Divine who's blog I adore and follow decided to make a double recipe and did a loaf too which was a very smart move, as he said, "I knew 6 muffins were not going to last long around here." & Joelyn who did hers at 1 am so she could have them in the morning.
Peter Reihart's formula was straight forward and I followed it to the letter, using butter milk as he suggested as an option. I had noticed that some other BBA Challenge members had a size issue with the formula, in that it made 6 very large puffy English muffins so they suggested make 7 or 8 instead of 6. But I made just 6. In retrospect, I would make 7, even though it might be difficult dividing the dough. While they must rise to get those characteristic air bubbles making nooks and crannies for butter or whatever else you use them for, there is also a point at which a 3 inch tall muffin might be a tad too high (even though we have bagel sized toasters now days.) I think that this issue is best addressed when forming the muffins, starting out with flatter shorter muffins in the rising stage. I did a bit of an experiment, only because I had muffin rings, I let two of mine rise in the rings, making for a more uniform shape. I decided to cook them in the rings too. I sprayed the interior of the rings with grape-seed oil for easy removal.
One note, for ease of transfer to the griddle, I cut the pastry paper while the muffins were still on them and used them to move the muffins, then flipped the muffins leaving the paper on top once they were on the griddle. I then removed the paper. This is a very soft dough and the less handling the better, so this method worked well for me.
My dear friend Fran has a bakery, Puff City here in Hilo and while Cream Puffs are her trademark, she also makes some breads and English muffins to use in her sandwiches and for muffin pizzas. Hers I noticed (I was lucky enough to do some product testing for her) are flatter too. She does not use rings when making hers.
What I found was that the amount of dough used in the molds should be just a little more than half the size of the mold. With the one muffin that I used a larger amount of dough, I had some problems of over proofing in a vertical way, leaving a mark much like a soufflé which had been contained would do.
When I used a lesser amount of dough as seen above, I then had what would be a "perfectly shaped" muffin. I think you will agree. But do we really want a perfectly shaped muffin? If I were baking and selling them, the answer would be YES. However, look at the 2 larger free form muffins, they look like they would be perfect for splitting and making into pizzas don't they? So, while the actual formula worked wonderfully, sizing and shaping may be something that should be questioned here.
My mom used to make us English muffin pizzas, I decided to give that a try for lunch. I will add the pictures for that in an update later.
I will make a double recipe next time and have enough to make some muffin pizzas as well as some breakfast muffins, I may even try the loaves when I read more about what other bakers in the challenge thought of the loaves. I would like to try incorporating some whole wheat flour next time too.
On a final note, the muffins should be split with a fork, not sawed into with a knife. This preserves the crumb.