Monday, October 26, 2015

English Muffins

I was discussing with a friend our mutual affinity towards English muffins.  We both admitted that we like them better than bagels.  Personally, I like them because they are generally a little less substantial and offer up a bunch of nooks and crannies for your butter to melt into.  That's pretty amazing. 

Plus, the dough for them is a little spongier which lends the butter another way to get soaked up even when it isn't falling into some crevice along the surface.  That's just the magic of an English muffin I guess.

So I went about trying to make them.  I used the recipe from Bouchon Bakery which was different than most recipes I found online.  The biggest difference was that these were baked in the oven versus cooked over a skillet.

Also, I had to use a starter which meant I had to make a starter--which meant I couldn't actually make the muffins for at least a week more--which was kind of a drag. Nevertheless, I made the starter and eventually set to task.

The thing with baking them versus frying them over a skillet is that they tend to look more like actual muffins in that they had a stump and a muffin top.  I've never seen an English muffin look like that and the recipe didn't mention it.

So I assumed I made a misstep at some point.  What I did was place each portion of dough into a three inch pastry ring to proof.  And--yay--they proved really well but were rising out of the pastry rings in a mega way.

So I tried to contain them within the confines of the rings--i.e. getting rid of the muffin top--which concluded in me deflating them a little. It kind of worked but I think that may have stunted the formation of all of those nooks and crannies we are so used to seeing in a normal English muffin.

On the flip side, they were still light and the texture seemed spot on.  That said, overall it was a good recipe but I think that I might try and cook them on the stovetop next time just for kicks.

Recipe via Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller

274g all-purpose flour
25g granulated sugar
11g instant yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
247g of your favorite starter
274g whole milk warmed to 75 F
22g vegetable oil
22g coarse corn meal

First, set a baking stone on the middle rack of your oven and then preheat your oven to 425 F.  Next, in the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt.  Using the paddle attachment mix the dry ingredients on low until they are evenly distributed.  Then add the starter and mix on low speed for 2 minutes.  After that 2 minutes is up, slowly add the milk and the oil to the bowl while the mixer is still running for another 2 minutes or just until everything is fully moistened and the mixture is smooth.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and then mix on medium speed for 2 more minutes.  Then, cover the bowl and let the dough rise for an hour at room temperature.

Once the hour is up,  get your molds ready.  I didn't have the suggested molds referenced in the cookbook (Flexipan cylinder molds from JB Prince) so I used eight 3 1/4 inch pastry rings.  I greased the insides of them and placed them on top of a silicone lined baking sheet.  Then I sprinkled the corn meal on the bottom of each pastry ring.  Next I divided the dough evenly between each pastry ring, covered it with a tea towel and let it proof for about a half hour.  After they proved really really well, I tried to push the dough that was flowing outside of the edges back into the safe confines of the pastry rings--which may have been a mistake...  Anyway, once you think the muffins have proved enough, smooth the tops out with a wet finger if you like.  Get a water bottle ready and then place the baking sheet on the baking stone in the hot oven, quickly spray water in the oven and close the door fast.  Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Remove the freshly baked muffins from the oven and let them cool.