Sometimes, standing in the bread aisle of the grocery store, I’m tempted to just give up. Have you read an ingredient label lately? How food manufacturers turn something so elemental to human existence into a bagged chemistry lab is beyond me. C’mon, do I really need xanthan gum, caramel color, and high fructose syrup in my bread? Or dough conditioners? Not to mention all those preservatives! What exactly gives “white wheat” the same flavor and mouth-feel of Wonder Bread? I don’t think I want to know.
When I saw this recipe for homemade English muffins on A Mighty Appetite, I was excited. Yeast. Sugar. Water. Bread Flour. Salt. I can handle those. As Michael Pollan might say, even my great-grandma would recognize such ingredients. Although I haven’t tried this recipe yet, I’m dying to make my own nooks and crannies—soon. Wouldn’t you love to mix up your dough on Friday night to make into a toasty treat on Saturday morning (well, if you’re me, early afternoon)? This is Kim’s recipe verbatim:
-2 tsp. active dry yeast
-1/2 tsp. sugar
-1 c. warm water (between 105 and 115F)
-1/2 c. warm milk (same temperature range as the water)
-2 1/3 c. bread flour
-2/3 c. all-purpose flour
-1 tsp. salt
1. In a small bowl, place yeast, sugar and half the water. With a fork, whisk until yeast is dissolved and cover with a towel for at least five minutes. Mixture should start to foam. Add remaining water and milk and cover for another five minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Add in yeast mixture. With a rubber spatula or your hands (or with a dough hook in the bowl of a standing mixer), gently mix ingredients, until just combined. Pour onto lightly floured work surface and knead (press, fold and turn) for up to 8 minutes. Dough will be very soft, which is a good thing.
3. Place dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic and a tea towel. Allow to double in size, at least 90 minutes, or alternatively, overnight. I kept my bowl out of the fridge, but on a warmer night, I might have done a cooler, slow rise.
4. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Roll into a rope at least one inch thick. You’ll want no more than 8 or 9 pieces from the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and roll in cornmeal or rice flour.
5. Place on a baking sheet and top with a second baking sheet [to slightly flatten tops] for a second rise, about 20 minutes.
6. When ready to cook, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease—butter burns too quickly, so I quickly changed to an oil spray. Beware of burning cornmeal; you may have to swipe pan clean with a towel.
7. Allow to cook on first side for about 10 minutes; you’ll notice puffing and the first side getting golden. With tongs, turn onto second side and cook for about the same amount of time. Place cooked muffins in a tea towel to keep warm.
8. Open with a fork or serrated knife, and eat as is or toasted.
Photo credit: mookarama.com