Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Favorite Frugal Recipes: Homemade English Muffins

The past few weeks have been challenging for me health-wise because of stress and dizziness/headaches. While I haven't struggled with some foods that have additives in the past, lately it seems that mystery ingredients (hello, sandwich bread!) or certain regular ingredients (like corn) have caused problems. Because of that, I am realizing the importance now more than ever of making as much as I can from scratch.

This past Monday I tried a recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. I've enjoyed using this book in the past for artisan breads, but he also has tons of other recipes for things like English muffins, bagels, Danish pastries, croissants, and more.

I was gifted with a used breakfast sandwich maker recently from a friend, and I've really wanted to use it, but haven't wanted to eat store-made English muffins for reasons listed above, so when I saw Reinhart's recipe, and saw that the batter was something that could be made the night before, I knew I needed to try it.

The batter was easy to mix up, and the next morning, all I had to do was pull it out of the refrigerator two hours before I planned on cooking it (you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 4 days). When it was time to cook them, all I had to do was heat up the griddle (in this case, 2 cast iron pans) and spray the English muffin rings with cooking spray and coat them with cornmeal. The recipe called for putting 1/3 cup of batter in each ring, and while it looked small at the time, you can see how the batter spread out and rose to fill the rings in the photo below:

I burnt the bottoms a little from not paying close attention to the heat (you're supposed to cook them for 12 minutes on each side) but I was impressed with the nooks and crannies created by the muffins. I think adding the baking soda at the very end before cooking helped with this. I had a fresh muffin, toasted, and thought it was good, though I guess I'm still used to the cardboard-like muffins and so it didn't taste just like store-bought, but my husband thought they were fantastic.

All in all, I think that English muffins are very easy and cheap to make, so I will find a way to build this into my weekly made-from-scratch routine. The cost was basically for milk and flour and came out to around 40 cents for 8 very large muffins.

Peter Reinhart's English Muffins (from Artisan Breads Every Day)

2 tsp. honey (I used sugar)
1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (95 degrees F) whole or nonfat milk
2 2/3 cup unbleached bread flour
3/4 tsp. salt, or 1 1/4 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 Tbsp. warm water
cornmeal, for dusting
English muffin rings (I use 8 of these)

The night before, mix all ingredients except for the baking soda and warm water. Scrape down the bowl, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

The day you plan to make the muffins, remove the batter from the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking. The batter/dough will begin to form bubbles as it approaches room temperature. When you're almost ready to bake, mix the warm water and baking soda and incorporate into the dough. Let the dough/batter rest again for 5-10 minutes until it starts bubbling again.

Pre-heat your cast iron pans or griddle over medium heat (if using an electric griddle, pre-heat it to 300 degrees F). While the griddle is heating, take your English muffin rings and lightly spray them with cooking spray and then coat them in a small dish of cornmeal before placing them in the pan. I was able to put four rings in each of my 2 pans.

Spray a 1/3 cup measuring cup with cooking spray, and then put 1/3 cup of dough into each ring. It will look like there is not enough dough to fill each ring, but as the dough cooks, it will spread out and rise to fill the rings. Reduce the heat to a medium-low if cooking on cast iron pans, and watch the bottoms carefully to make sure they aren't scorching. They should cook for about 12 minutes on each side in order for the interior to fully cook.

When finished, let the muffins rest on their sides for about 30 minutes to cool. When you are ready to eat one, use a fork to separate the muffin into two parts - this will create more nooks and crannies.

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