Those who have read my post on the best homemade English muffins, detailing how much and why I love Alton Brown’s English muffin recipe with my little tweak, are well aware of how picky I am when it comes to the texture of English muffins. I am aware of most of the English muffin bread recipes that are out there on the interwebs and given several of them a try only to have my belief exponentially reinforced, i.e. a very, very wet dough is the way to go. After having spent several months experimenting with different ratios and formulae, as of March 20, 2010, I have found this recipe to consistently produce the most satisfactory result and — thank heaven — the easiest to make.
To reiterate what I’ve written in the homemade English muffin post:
Below is a picture of a toasted slice of this English muffin bread. See those little nooks and crannies? Yup. That’s where the melted butter goes. The kind of light, crispy, airy-yet-substantial toast like this can only be achieved with fresh bread that has spongy and open texture like that of a liveporous corallum. So if this is what you’re after, you don’t want to go with English muffin bread that has fine, tight texture; you want these tiny little air chambers and lots of them.
Pedantic rambling aside, here’s how to make this English muffin bread — what I believe to be the best homemade English muffin in loaf form which I have found to date. This bread is phenomenal toasted — as it is meant to be. (However, I must say, the untoasted version is not too shabby, especially fresh out of the oven.)
The only caveat: I have not been able to get the sour taste. While this bread has great flavor, it’s not as sour as I think English muffins should be. In fact, looking back, that was the thought that crossed my mind when I tried Alton Brown’s recipe for the first time as well. In the course of my experimentation, I found one formula that gave me the sour taste. Unfortunately, that formula was a big fat failure in terms of texture. And since, personally, texture means a lot more to me, I’m more than happy with this beta version.
You may notice the odd presence of vinegar on the ingredient list and wonder if the lack of sour taste could be remedied simply by increasing the amount of vinegar. You see, the reason for the vinegar has nothing to do with taste and everything to do with texture. Baking soda alone is not enough to create this many holes which you see here. The trick works when you make the traditional English muffins on the griddle, but when the bread is cooked as a big loaf, I have found that baking soda alone is not enough. Together with the baking soda, the acidity of the vinegar helps achieve many and evenly-distributed holes. But too much acidity causes too much fermentation. The dough rises too rapidly, develops a large air pocket on the top which deflates after it’s baked resulting in an unsightly sunken top. And this explains why more vinegar cannot be added for taste.
My experiment will continue, but as of today, this is my best work yet.
English Muffin Bread (with Lots of Nooks and Crannies)
Makes one loaf
306 g all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur.)
156 g bread flour (I use King Arthur as well.)
26 g nonfat milk powder
14 g sugar
10 g instant yeast
10 g salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Do not use olive oil which is too strong; use something bland.)
1/2 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 3/4 cup (14 fluid ounces) water
Follow the instructions very closely for consistent results: