For so long I had searched for a good English muffin recipe. Well, this may baffle you as everyone knows tons of English muffin recipes are just a Google search away. But here’s the thing: I am very picky about my English muffins.
As one clichéd saying goes: if you don’t stand for something, you fall for everything. To apply this to a recipe search, unless you know exactly what you look for (taste, appearance, texture, etc.), any recipe that does not produce catastrophic results seems good to you. And that’s fine. In the end, an ideal recipe is one that gives you what you want.
When it comes to English muffins, boy, do I know what I want. I don’t ask for much; I only need two things. I need spongy texture, and heavens know, I need my nooks and crannies. This is the reason why my search for a perfect recipe had been such a long process. I could not find one recipe that yielded these two things. When I found a web or cookbook recipe for English muffins, first thing I looked for was the pictureof the finished product. Dense, fine, bready texture with no nooks and crannies? I packed up and moved on.
To me — and you may not agree — the spongy texture and the nooks and crannies are the sine qua non characteristics of English muffins. Without them, you have nothing but English muffin-shaped rolls. The same thing goes for bagels. Without the definitive bagel “chewiness,” you’re left with donut-shaped rolls. Good Ciabatta and Focaccia, in my bigoted opinion, need to have crusty exteriors and open texture on the inside; otherwise they’re just regular bread that happens to be flat.
With several disappointing recipes behind me, my sense of discernment had become sharper. In fact, lately, I could just scan an English muffin recipe and know right away whether it would be worth trying. For example, when I came across a recipe that told me to shape the dough into balls, flatten them with my hands, and dust them with cornmeal, I immediately moved on. I had gone through too many of those. None of such recipes had worked for me. They may produce the kind of English muffins that suit the taste of the recipe author, but not mine.
The only recipes that had come anywhere close to my ideal English muffins all involved a soft and wet dough and I mean, very wet and very soft. Yet even those few good ones fell short in one way or another.
When I came across Alton Brown’s English muffin recipe, right away I had a feeling this could be “it.”
When I read the recipe and saw that the dough would be so soft that you would have to scoop it into the muffin rings with an ice cream scooper, I almost jumped up on my kitchen counter and yodeled with joy.
But oh, the results … And here’s another thing which makes this recipe stands out above the rest: it works consistently.
If you’re into nooks and crannies, this recipe is it.
You can find the recipe for Alton Brown’s English muffins here. The procedure is simple enough and the only special equipment you need is the English muffin rings which aren’t that difficult to find these days and can easily be substituted with tuna cans with both ends removed.
For those who prefer measuring dry ingredients by weight and liquids by volume, here’s a converted version of AB’s recipe:
- 36g nonfat milk powder
- 14g sugar
- 2g salt
- 14g melted shortening or vegetable oil (Use flavorless oil.)
- 8 fl. oz. (1 cup/236 cc) hot water
- 7g dry yeast
- A pinch of sugar
- 2.7 fl. oz. (1/3 cup/78 cc) lukewarm water
- 250g all-purpose flour
- 2g salt
- 2g (1 teaspoon) baking soda
- Mix the first five ingredients together in one bowl; stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and let it cool down to lukewarm. (Mixture #1)
- Mix the remaining ingredients, except the last two (2g salt and baking soda), in another bowl and let it rest until the yeast has dissolved. (Mixture #2)
- Add Mixture #2 to the bowl containing Mixture #1 and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
- Set a nonstick pancake griddle over medium-low heat; coat it lightly with vegetable oil spray.
- Add the other 2 grams of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda (see notes below) to the batter and mix thoroughly.
- Place English muffin rings on the griddle and coat the insides with vegetable oil spray.
- Fill each muffin ring about ¾ full; cover with a cookie sheet (see notes below) and cook for 5-6 minutes
- Remove the cookie sheet and flip the muffins over with a pair of tongs. Cover with a cookie sheet and cook for another 5-6 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the muffins from the griddle, rings and all.
- Carefully remove the rings and let the muffins cool completely before splitting them.