English Muffins

No oven needed !
These lovely bread-like delicacies, also known as breakfast muffins, originated around 1880 in United Kingdom. As the picture indicates, they are a small, round, flat yeast-leavened bread which is commonly sliced horizontally, toasted, and buttered. Instead of a normal baking in the oven, they are simply cooked on a cast iron oven top pan. The recipe calls for a dough starter, which adds complexity to the bread’s flavour as often used in breads that need a light, open texture with holes. Although a little more time consuming than regular bread, I can assure you, it is well worth the effort and patience as the dough does its magic overnight. When cooked, they are crispy on the outside and tender in the inside, with a lot of small pockets to welcome butter and jam !
One of the those recipes, once tested a few times, can become a regular staple in your home.

INGREDIENTS
For the Starter
2 Cups lukewarm water
2 2/3 Cups (400 gr) bread flour
1 1/4 Teaspoon (5 Gr) instant dry yeast
1 Teaspoon (6 Gr) Honey

DOUGH

4 Cups (600 Gr) Bread Flour
2 Tablespoon (30 Gr) unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups (310 Gr) Lukewarm water
1 Cup + 2 Tablespoon (300 Gr.) Starter
2 1/4 Teaspoon (1 Package 8 Gr.) Instant dry yeast
1 Tablespoon (15 Gr) Salt
1 Tablespoon (12 Gr) Sugar
Cornmeal, for sprinkling.

METHOD
Prepare the starter 12 to 24 hours ahead of making the dough. I prepare it in the evening to finish the recipe the following morning.
In a mixing bowl, stir the water, flour, yeast and honey using a wooden spoon until blended. The mixture will be soft and stretchy. Cover with clingfilm and leave room for the bubbles to grow.
Leave on the counter to rise overnight or for a day. It will make more than you need for this recipe, but once the muffins are made, you can add more flour & water and keep the starter going… or, as I often do, double the dough recipe.

For the dough, add the water, starter, yeast, salt and sugar and mix the dough on low speed of a stand mixer, until blended and continue to mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let is rest for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Turn the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out with a rolling pin (sprinkle flour as needed, so it does not stick on the work surface). It should be just about 1.5 cm thick – Using a 8cm round cookie cutter, or a large glass, cut the dough and place the circles on a pan covered with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes and sprinkle a little more cornmeal.
Using a cast iron pan or a griddle pan over medium high heat, grease it slightly with vegetable oil. Griddle the muffins, for about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. A work of patience, you will be tempted to increase the heat of the pan… which might burn the outside and leave the inside raw.
The inside temperature should be about 80 degrees Celsius when ready.
Let them cool… you will be tempted to eat them right away, but they will be even better the following day, when drier and crispier when toasted !

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