Here it is…February already. It seems the Husband and I made it through the recent blizzard event, lovingly dubbed “Snowzilla” relatively unscathed. And tomorrow, my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if perhaps Spring is on the way. Groundhog Day is nigh!
Phil & all the folks up in Punxsutawney aren’t the only folks celebrating now. February 1st, which falls half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, also marks the festivals of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas, all of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. Quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 5th year anniversary of the my cooking blog! Yup… Five years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.
I’ve posted some tasty “Anniversary Edition” recipes since then as well like Banana Rum Muffins:
And last year I was able to successfully bake up a genuine Crack Pie!
I mean who doesn’t love an English Muffin? With all of those delightful nooks and crannies, it’s just the perfect vehicle for lashings of salty butter and sweet fruity jam. Seems I’m not alone in my adoration of the muffin. Folks have been enjoying these for a long, long while. Certainly you’ve heard the traditional English nursery rhyme “The Muffin Man”
Oh Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?
In Victorian England folks were able to have fresh “muffins” delivered right to their door by a fellow known as….you guessed it, The Muffin Man. In 1874, Samuel Bath Thomas moved from Plymouth England to New York City. Once there he set up a bakery and began selling what he called “toaster crumpets”. They were similar to English crumpets but were thinner and pre-sliced. He was the founder of Thomas’s English Muffins which are still sold in many groceries today.
And whilst I’m thankful to Mr. Thomas, having enjoyed the convenience of easily buying a packet of English Muffins, whenever the mood struck me, I’ve got tell you…those store-bought muffins don’t really hold a candle to these homemade gems! Oh Good Lawd above! Once you taste these big honking, tender, moist & fluffy Homemade Muffins, you’ll be hooked. Sooooo worth the effort. You’ll never be found in the Muffin aisle of your local grocery again. (Sorry Mr. Thomas!)
Now there are many recipes out there for homemade English Muffins, but this one from the Model Bakery reigns supreme! There is a reason their muffins were featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. The Model Bakery has been open in Napa for over 80 years. Dedicated to authentic artisan baking traditions, they specialize in Artisan Breads but also will tempt you with a complete range of pastry products. And if you’re not planning on visiting Napa anytime soon, they not only mail order some of their delicious baked goods, but have also published a great cookbook: The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery , so that you can bake them at home. I’m telling you these muffins are just heavenly. Larger than your usual English Muffin, they bake up wonderfully fluffy and light as a cloud, yet are substantial enough to hold up to any breakfast sandwich you might send their way.
And with this dough, you don’t have to fiddle around with any old-fashioned muffin rings. You cook them up on a griddle, completely free form. If you can resist eating the whole dozen in one sitting, a feat of self-restraint that would definitely be worthy of admiration, I’m glad to say these little darlings freeze well, allowing you to have these awesome muffins on hand at the drop of a hat! So what are you waiting for…
The Model Bakery's English Muffins
From: The Model Bakery Cookbook
Special thanks to Steven & Julie, fellow baking enthusiasts, for sharing this killer recipe with me!
For the Biga:
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
- 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
For the Dough:
- 1 1/3 cups / 315 ml water
- 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
- 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows) as needed
To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.
To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)
Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)
Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)
Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.
Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.
Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.
Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Psssst: If you can’t be bothered making your own clarified butter, you can just go buy some Ghee off the supermarket shelf or order on Amazon!)
The Model Bakery’s English Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Helpful Links to Kitchen Tools & Ingredients I used in making these English Muffins:
So this is a new feature I’m adding to my blog. Below you will find a list of Amazon Links to some of the Kitchen Tools and Ingredients which may not be found in your local grocery store, that I used in making the above recipe. You certainly don’t have to order them from Amazon if you’d prefer not to, but you can at least take a look at them there and then proceed as you wish. You also might be able to make the recipe perfectly well without any of these tools, but I use them and feel they make things much easier for me.