Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: English Muffins

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

If you're ready for a little adventure and a lot of learning then keep reading.  I've never made my own English muffins, probably because I don't eat them all that often.  Every once in a while I'll get a craving for the chewy toasted rounds loaded with nooks and crannies.  These characteristic craters are ideal for holding melted peanut butter.  Trust me.  I decided it was about time to try my hand at English muffins, and I learned quite a bit in the process.

There are multiple ways to make English muffins, all vary quite a bit in technique.  Here's the gist of what I found out.

Dough vs. batter:
- wet like pancake or muffin batter
- stiff like bread dough

Achieving nooks and crannies:
- add baking soda to form more air bubbles
- let wet dough stand overnight and overproof (also giving a sourdough flavor)

- roll out a stiff dough and cut out circles with biscuit cutter
- shape dough into balls and flatten
- pour batter into ring mold
- spoon semi-soft dough globs onto cornmeal then transfer to skillet

Baking vs. cooking:
-bake in oven like bread
-cook on griddle like pancakes

Keeping with my interest for old recipes I used the overnight method.  Busy pioneer woman would mix the dough and let it sit out overnight so it would be ready early in the morning.  This extra fermentation time gave the dough large air bubbles to form those characteristic craters.  What I overlooked is the fact  that "overnight" is a much shorter time period for a hard-working farm woman than a for a girl who sleeps in.  By the time I was ready to begin it was closer to lunch than breakfast and the dough was so overproofed it was too sour.  Still convinced I could learn a thing or two about technique, I proceeded to play with the batter.

I knew the rings I had were a little small so I planned to follow the suggestion of  tuna cans with both ends removed.  In theory, tuna cans make perfect ring molds.  In real life, the bottoms of tuna cans are no longer removable with ordinary can openers.

With my griddle already hot, I searched the kitchen for other ring-like objects.  The egg rings weren't tall enough to hold a scoop of batter.  I ended up greasing a custard cup and sprinkling it with cornmeal before scooping in the batter.  Then I flipped it over onto the griddle.  Some recipes advised covering the muffins with a glass lid anyway, so this solved two problems at once.  Overflowing ring molds and up-side-down custard cups, sometimes it just happens.  At least I didn't have to worry about a tuna aftertaste.

How you split open the muffins is also key.  Cutting them in half with a knife seems obvious, but it actually isn't your best option.  To get the best nooks and crannies you actually use a fork to split the muffin in half.  If you look closely at the pictures you can see some that were sliced with a knife and some that were split with a fork.  I like the fork method myself, it gives you even more surface area for toasting.  And toasting, of course, is the best way to eat an English muffin.  Let's just say the toaster and a whole lot of peanut butter and honey went along with my lopsided first attempt at English muffins.

If you'd like to try your hand at English muffins, I suggest starting here or here.

Food for Thought: "Be willing to be a beginner every single morning." -Meister Eckhart 

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