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Friday, May 3, 2013

May ABC challenge: English Muffins

For this challenge, the ingredients were nothing unusual, but the technique was new to me.  For one thing, you have to work with what is supposed to be a really wet dough (to achieve all those crunchy nooks and crannies, no doubt) and beat it for 5 minutes with a paddle attachment or in a bread machine.  Well, I don't have either.  I wasn't about to do all that beating by hand, and I didn't think my little hand-held Hamilton Beach mixer was up to the task.  Enter... the food processor.  I'm not even sure IT was up to the task.  (I've pushed the limits on more than one occasion.)  But into the container went the ingredients.  I used half whole wheat, but otherwise followed the recipe, adding the flour last, slowly, keeping an alert nose for the smell of a burning motor.

Shortly into this process, I decided to move the processor to a steadier surface.  A minute or so later, the processor started to over heat, so I stopped it to let it cool a bit.  Before turning the processor back on, I checked the dough and it was already extremely stretchy, so I decided to move on and set the dough to proofing.  (Since a food processor turns so much faster than a mixer, kneading time is shorter, so I wasn't too surprised at the quick results.)  Into an oiled bowl and a warm oven it went, while I headed to the couch and my book.

Some time later, the dough was nicely puffed and ready to be shaped.  And that's when I saw it -- the last 1/2 cup of flour still sitting on the counter, unincorporated.  What to do, what to do?  The dough didn't seem to need any more flour.  In fact, it was quite easy to handle -- not at all what I'd consider a "wet" dough like the recipe described.  (I was even starting to worry about my crannies!)  It must have been the "thirstier" whole wheat flour.  I decided to ditch the left-over flour, and next time I'll hydrate the flour in advance.  (This is why I say baking is more about technique than measurements.)

I wish I'd taken the photo just before flipping --  
they were SO poofy!

The rest of the process -- shaping and griddling -- went easily.  I have an old O'Keefe & Merritt oven/stove with a built in griddle; it held 8 muffins perfectly.  (I followed someone's advice on the recipe page and kept the rest of the dough in the refrigerator while the first half cooked.)  I cooked the muffins 15 minutes on one side and 10-15 on the other.

They could have been a little less toasty.

At first, I was really disappointed in how these turned out.  They were extremely soft and poofy and mashed into near nothingness under the butter.  They didn't have as open of a crumb as I would have liked, but that was my own fault.  Furthermore, you really need to be able to re-toast them on only one side, otherwise the cooked side gets too dark.  (This has always been an issue for me with English muffins.)  However, by the 5th day, they had lost some of their moisture and firmed up considerably.  When I bit into one this morning, it held it's ground and supported the butter and jam nicely.

Conclusion:  I would make these again, with a couple of adjustments.  I would reduce the salt slightly, perhaps increase the sugar a bit (to compensate for the slightly bitter whole wheat) and hydrate the whole wheat flour in advance.  I would also attempt to toast them less on the outside during griddling so they don't get over-brown when re-toasted later.

Recipe:  English Muffins via King Arthur Flour


  1. Hi Paula these look really good and all so are fluffy and the pictures are nice too / great work Paula....P.S. thank you for stopping bye.

  2. Your muffins look great! Wow, 50% WW flour. You go girl! I stopped at 25%. Great job on the quick action of not adding more flour. Since you've made English muffins before, which recipe would you say is your favorite so far?

    1. Hi Hanaa! I always do 50% unless it's a sweet bread, or some other flavor I don't want to interfere with. This is the first time I think it might have caused a difference in the results, but yeah that was serendipitous that I left that flour out -- otherwise I would have ended up with dinner rolls!

      This was the first time I've made English muffins. People seem really happy with that other KA recipe (using sourdough?), but I think I've heard it's more complicated and these are just as good. But since I wasn't thrilled with the flavor, I might (someday) try this one again with the adjustments, or move on to a different one. (Although they really were much better after several days. I guess I just don't like fluffy bread.)

  3. Great muffins, half whole wheat is great too, good to know that this works so good.

  4. These look great Paula! My toaster has a "bagel" button which I imagine would work for English muffins too. Congrats on making the decision not to add that extra flour. Very serendipitous.

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  6. Very interesting, your experience with the food processor. I was actually tempted to try it, too, because the kitchen of my holiday apartment had one, but now I know better.
    Nevertheless, your muffins look good. Perhaps you should consider adding more water next time, with so much whole wheat and a dough that is supposed to be highly hydrated:
    Here is Peter Reinhart's recommendation for adding more water when you substitute white with whole grain flour:
    Up to 10%: no additional water necessary.
    Over 10%: increase water by 14 g/0.5 oz for every 56.5 g/2 oz whole grain flour you substitute.

    1. Oh, good to know! Normally, I go by feel rather than measure, but since this was entirely new I measured everything. I figured my dough was a little too dry, but I didn't think it was beyond salvation so I just went with it.

  7. Hi Paula,
    Yes, do make this again, and don't forget the flour! :)
    These muffins are wonderful, with chewy crust and soft on the inside. I really love this recipe. Have plans to make this again, very soon!