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Baking English muffins to perfection
May 12, 2017, 8:05 pm
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If you are wondering whether preparing English muffins from scratch is worth your while, then the answer is yes. These fluffy-on-theinside, chewy-on-the-outside baked goods are easy to prepare and fancy enough to present to guests. They are just as versatile as bagels and can be paired with spreads, jams and jellies. Here is everything you need to know about preparing English Muffins.

The dough: English muffin dough is most commonly enriched—with butter, milk (or other dairy), and/or sugar—though often only lightly so (and eggs are not usually in the mix). It is a yeast-raised dough that benefits from the structure or higher protein levels of bread flour. Unlike doughs that are intensely mixed, English muffin dough requires minimal handling, which means there is no need for strong, intense gluten strands. Breads that are rigorously mixed, like brioche, have a tight crumb structure, whereas those that are handled minimally have a more open structure. It is also worth noting that the dough should not be overly tacky: If you find yourself with sticky dough, knead in a few tablespoons of extra flour until it is smooth and easy to handle. 

The slow rise: Because English muffin dough takes time to rise, you can always mix the dough the day before preparing using room temperature liquid and refrigerate overnight. Not only does this save time, it also provides excellent flavor—a depth of yeasty goodness that is usually provided by the use of a pre-ferment. Just remember to bring the dough back to room temperature before shaping. But, if you are an all-in-one day type of baker, simply use warm liquid and let the dough rise for an hour before shaping and 15 to 30 minutes after shaping. 

Rolling and shaping: English muffin dough is so soft and tender that it does not require much work to roll into shape. There are a few ways you can handle the shaping process: You might choose to roll out the dough and use a cutter or shape into individual rounds. Once cut into your desired shape, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise for 15 to 20 minutes on your work surface. 

Dipping the outside: Before you can cook the English muffins, they need an important garnish of sorts. To create the signature outer, the English muffins are dipped in a textured flour or meal, the most common being semolina flour or cornmeal. This coating on the exterior will help the muffins from sticking during the first part of their cooking process.

‘Cooking’ the crust: Once the dough has been shaped and has had its final rise, it is cooked in a cast-iron skillet before it hits the oven. The hot skillet gives the outside a golden, crackly appearance and sets the crust, then the soft interior gets finished in the oven. While this is one extra step, it also means a shorter overall bake time. Make sure the skillet is nice and hot—but not smoking—before adding the muffins. Cook until golden (two to four minutes), then flip and repeat on the other side. If you have a large cast-iron griddle, you can do them all at once. If not, work in batches. Transfer the finished muffins to a parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Baking: English muffins bake at a high temperature for a short amount of time. Bake for seven to nine minutes at 246 degrees Celsius. These muffins will be much puffier and fluffier than the kind you are used to seeing, and since they will not brown too much more in the oven, it can be difficult to tell when they are done. The best way is to stick a thermometer in there. Go in at the side so that the hole will be easier to hide to whomever you are serving and make sure you settle the thermometer in the very center. Look for an internal temperature of between 93 and 102 degrees Celsius. 

Cooling: Muffins must be cooled for five to ten minutes before serving. They will still be nice and warm, but their crumb structure will have had time to set and some steam will slowly escape from the interior. If you are making your muffins a good bit in advance, no problem either. Let them cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. The cooled muffins can be warmed in a low oven or toasted to perfection. 

Serving: Grab some butter, jam or jelly. Then slather, bite, and repeat.

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