English Muffins

November 6th, 2012  |  Breads, Breakfast  |  3 Comments

I can't believe its been a whole year since I was in Napa meeting and greeting and spending time with some of the most legendary and amazing culinary personalities in the world at the Napa Valley Film Festival.  I learned so much and was so honored to be a part of such a wonderful event and my thoughts are with all the folks who will be enjoying the film and food there this weekend!

By far my favorite food we enjoyed on the culinary stage last year was Model Bakery's famous English muffins.  They were OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD.  and if you haven't had them before, you simply must put that on your bucket list.  For real.  I would actually drive to Napa just to have one.  I wish my inner thighs and bread had a better relationship... I'm pretty sure the lack of a friendship between the two is what has kept me from making these sooner!

As you can see here, I am totally gushing {having just gone glutton-wild} after inhaling THREE of these extra-large pieces of heaven with Sarah Hansen, the owner of Model Bakery.  Her English muffins are unlike anything else I've ever had.  They are big, they are soft, they are foccacia bread cooked in butter.  Need I say more?

While the thought and process of making English muffins might sound daunting, the truth is there's only one extra step you have to take by making a "biga" a few hours before you begin.  Don't get all freaked out 'cuz I said a new word.  Its really not hard and its what gives the muffins that artisan pungent flavoring that is essential.  What I'm trying to say is that if I can do it, you can do it and I'm going to walk you through the process step-by-step, holding your hand all the way through cyber space.

Ready?  Here we go:

Ingredients:

For the Biga:
7 tablespoons bread flour
1/4 teaspoon fresh active dry yeast
4 tablespoons water

For the Clarified Butter:
1 cup unsalted butter

English Muffins:
1 tablespoon warm water
3/4 teaspoon fresh active dry yeast
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup water
3-3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring kneading surfaces
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/3 cup cornmeal

Directions:

Make your biga:

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, yeast and water to make a sticky dough.  Transfer the ball of dough to a tightly covered container.  Allow biga to sit on the counter for about 3 hours until you can see air bubbles in the dough and it has at least doubled in size.

Make your clarified butter:

Melt butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and get frothy, about 30-45 seconds.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Carefully skim the foam off the top of the butter and discard.  Place the clarified butter into the refrigerator until it hardens, about two hours.

Make your dough {after biga is ready}:

In a small bowl, add warm water and sprinkle yeast over the top.  Allow yeast to activate and become frothy, stirring a little if necessary, for about 5 minutes.

Transfer yeast mixture, biga, water, oil, 1 cup of the flour and salt to the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachments.  Pulse mixture {on the M setting}  until it begins to come together.  Add the remaining two cups of flour and turn mixer on to the lowest setting {Setting 1}for about a minute to make a soft and sticky dough that cleans the side of the bowl.   Remove paddle attachments, cleaning off any dough that may be sticking to it and return dough to the mixer.  Replace the paddles with the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes on the lowest setting {Setting 1}.

Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it.  Knead the bread with your hands for about 3 minutes

and then transfer it to a large airtight container.  Place dough into the oven on Proof setting for about two hours until it doubles in volume and air bubbles are visible.  If your oven does not have a Proof setting, just put the dough in a warm, draft-free place.

Lightly flour your work surface again {assuming you cleaned it up two hours ago} and turn the dough out onto it, being sure you get all of the dough out of the bowl.  Flatten the piece of dough out and cut {I used a pizza cutter} into six equal pieces.

Shape them into 4 inch rounds and then place them onto a rimmed baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal.  Flip them over so that both sides get some of the cornmeal.  Place the dough rounds at least 1 1/2" inches apart on the baking sheet.  Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with olive oil and place it over the muffins, covering as well as possible.  Place baking sheet back into the oven on Proof setting for one hour more until rounds have doubled in size.

Heat a large griddle over medium-high heat and add half of the clarified butter.  Butter may splatter a little bit, but when it gets hot, carefully begin transferring the dough rounds to the oil with a metal spatula.  You don't want to disturb the rise, so handle them with care.   Cook the rounds for about four minutes per side, being careful not to burn them.  {I did burn mine a little, but that was on purpose.}  If you are working in batches, you will need to add additional clarified butter and probably need to clean up some of the burnt cornmeal with a paper towel in between batches.

Transfer muffins to a rack lined with paper towels so that any excess butter can be absorbed.  Do not cut into or otherwise disturb the muffins for at least 20 minutes.

Muffins are best if sliced in half and then toasted.  I enjoyed {one of} mine with cream cheese and orange marmalade.... then I had another one for dinner with scrambled egg and American cheese.  Holy.  Moly.

3 thoughts on “English Muffins

  1. Amy – I was just thinking about trying my own English muffins, and you posted this! I clicked on the recipe on Pinterest before I even knew it was you – ha! Thanks much. I will definitely try this out.

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