Ohhhh, the nooks and the crannies…is there really anything better in the world of toast?? Not for peanut butter fanatics, like me. English muffins are everything that makes the experience of slathering a piece of crispy toast with something sinfully delicious a good one. The characteristic holes catch the deliciousness and hold it there until you’re ready to rediscover it. Yes. Fantastic.

I don’t often indulge in such a delightful breakfast, but when I do, I can absolutely assure you that it’s a moment to remember, and one to emotionally revisit, until my next inevitable splurge.

I have made bread of all walks of life, but had not (yet) tackled English muffins. Why not? Well, I was kind of intimidated. How could I possibly replicate such a distinct texture and constitution? One day, I realized that I needed to stop cowering in the corner, and get to it. And so I did.

When it came down to figuring out where to start, I came to the realization that there are two main methods for making these little guys. One method is similar to the dough-making process of many breads: make a dough, knead, let rise, shape into balls, cook in a pan or on a griddle, finish in the oven. The other method creates a more fluid dough which is mixed, risen, scooped into greased rings which are placed in pan or on a griddle, and cooked on both sides until done. Since I didn’t have the required rings at my disposal, I went with the first method. These were tasty, but didn’t really have the emblematic nooks and crannies that I was anticipating.

Next time, I’m going to try method numero deux (…and I’ll keep you posted).

English Muffins

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 tablespoon shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4-1 cup milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

cornmeal, for sprinkling

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or simply in a large bowl), combine the flours, sugar, salt and yeast. Mix in the butter (or shortening) and 3/4 cup of milk (or buttermilk). Add just enough of the remaining milk to form a dough and incorporate the dry ingredients. Knead with your stand mixer, or by hand on your lightly-floured counter, for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be tacky (but not sticky). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and shape into balls. Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Move the dough balls to the baking sheet, spacing them evenly with room to rise. Mist the rolls lightly with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal then cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another hour, or until the rolls are nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat a flat griddle to medium (you can also use a skillet on the stovetop if you don’t have a griddle). Brush the griddle lightly with oil and gently transfer the dough balls to the griddle a few at a time. Allow them to cook for 5-8 minutes or until the bottoms are a rich golden brown color. Carefully flip and cook the other side for 5-8 minutes more. They should flatten as they cook.

Remove the muffins from the skillet and transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes (to ensure that the middles are cooked). As the first batch is baking, move the second batch to the skillet.

Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

Top with whatever your dreams are made of…mine just so happen to involve a lot of peanut butter.
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