Farmhouse English Muffins

English Muffins at 1840 FarmI have fond memories of English muffins from my childhood.  I grew up in Kansas City and there was a Wolferman’s Bakery a short drive away.  Every so often, we traveled there to treat ourselves to their delicious fresh muffins.   The store was a beautiful shop and I loved to wander, looking at every type of muffin, at each spread and jam offered to top those thick muffins.  I loved every single moment of those trips.  For a kid who loved food, who dreamed of eating and creating decadent meals, those trips were like being set loose in a candy store.  Sadly, the store closed when I was 11 and those trips came to an end.

Many years later, I found myself craving an English muffin yet unable to find those thick, delicious muffins I treasured during trips to the bakery as a child.  The “artisan” style English muffins that I found at specialty shops weren’t a viable option for our family due to food allergies.  If I’ve learned one lesson during our decade living and eating around food allergies, it’s that if you can’t find a safe option, you just figure out how to make it yourself.

So that’s what I set out to do.  I looked at several different recipes and tried a few.  In the end, I combined elements from a couple of those recipes and added a few adjustments of my own.  After a few tries and a few tweaks, I had indeed created an English muffin as delicious as those I remembered from my childhood.

These English muffins are simple to make and so delicious toasted with plenty of butter and your favorite jam, jelly, or honey.  It has those tiny nooks and crannies to capture the melted butter and toppings in the most delectable way.  One bite and you’ll wonder where these muffins have been all your life and then you’ll make plans to make a second batch. With any luck, you’ll continue making them for years to come and create your own memories of delicious homemade muffins enjoyed around your family table.

Farmhouse English Muffins
The process of making homemade English muffins is unique. The dough is unlike any other I work with, often seeming too wet and sticky to possibly create lovely muffins. Don’t worry, they always do! Unlike most other breads, these muffins aren’t baked in the oven. Instead, they cook beautifully in a cast iron skillet or on a griddle. Whatever you use to prepare pancakes in would be ideally suited. In fact, the process has a lot in common with pancakes. The trick is in being patient, cooking over low to moderate heat, and not flipping the muffins any more than necessary which helps to preserve their soft texture. Many people use biscuit cutters or muffin rings to create perfectly round muffins. The rings often stick and you need to have 12 of them on hand to make a batch. I have used rings in the past, but have decided that I like the handmade farmhouse style version better. They’re much less fussy to make and I don’t mind that they aren’t perfectly round. If you do, then you can simply place the dough rounds in an oiled muffin ring when you place them on the pan to rise. Transfer the muffin in the ring to the skillet and cook in the same manner. No matter how you shape them, you’ll have beautiful muffins to share at your table.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ¼ cup milk
  2. 1 Tablespoon honey
  3. 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  4. ½ cup buttermilk
  5. 1 large egg
  6. 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  7. 1 Tablespoon lard
  8. 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  9. 4 ¾ cups bread flour
  10. cornmeal for dusting
Instructions
  1. Warm the milk to lukewarm in a small pot over low heat or by microwaving in 30 second intervals. It should be warm but not hot to the touch, around the temperature of bath water. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk and honey. Stir to incorporate and then sprinkle the yeast over the top of the warm liquid. Allow the yeast to proof for a few minutes as you gather the remaining ingredients.
  2. Add the buttermilk and egg to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter, lard, salt, and flour to the bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix for 5 minutes at low speed. The dough will become very stretchy and sticky, clinging to both the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Place in a warm spot or in a bread proofer and allow to rest for 60-90 minutes or until it has almost doubled in size.
  4. English muffin dough is very sticky at this point. It has an incredible amount of stretchiness and is quite wet. It doesn’t look like biscuit dough or dinner roll dough. Don’t worry about its seemingly gluey texture. Mine looks the very same way. They’ll cook up beautifully.
  5. Prepare a sheet pan or tray by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal. The cornmeal will help to prevent the very sticky dough from becoming stuck to the pan. More is better; use plenty of cornmeal for this step.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 portions. I use my digital food scale and make balls of dough that weigh between 90 and 100 grams. If you don’t have a scale, you can portion the muffins using approximately ½ cup of dough for each. Shape each portion of dough into a round disc and place on the cornmeal lined pan allowing at least 1 inch space between muffins. Repeat until all of the dough has been shaped.
  7. Set the muffins aside and allow them to rest and rise for about 30 minutes. You can also place them in the refrigerator overnight. If you choose to refrigerate them overnight, cover them loosely with plastic wrap or parchment lightly sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  8. When it’s time to cook the muffins, warm a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. The skillet needs to be warm enough to brown the muffins without burning them during their time in the skillet. When the skillet is warm, lower the heat to low and sprinkle a bit of cornmeal into the bottom of the pan. Gently transfer a few of the dough rounds to the warm skillet taking care not to crowd them.
  9. Cook the muffins for 5 minutes before carefully peeking underneath to see if they are evenly browned. Cook for 2-4 additional minutes until they have browned sufficiently. Use a spatula to flip them over and cook on the other side in the same manner. The muffins should puff up nicely and begin to resemble the most gorgeous English muffins you have ever seen. If you have an instant read thermometer, the perfectly cooked muffins will register between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. They will feel fairly firm to the touch yet still spring back when pressed in the middle.
  10. Transfer the fully cooked muffins to a wire rack to cool. Repeat the skillet cooking method for the remaining muffins. Adjust the heat as needed to achieve browning without burning and add more cornmeal if necessary. My cast iron skillet heats up and holds the heat so well that I often need to reduce the heat a bit with each successive batch.
  11. Serve your English muffins toasted with butter and topped with your favorite delicious toppings. Room temperature muffins can be stored in an airtight container for several days or frozen for long term storage.
1840 Farm http://1840farm.com/

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