For Christmas this year, my younger daughter gave me David Chang's Momofuku cookbook and the first thing I turned to - the English Muffin page - was the one and only yeast bread in the book. Fate, I tell you! I could not get the recipe out of my head, so yesterday, on a whim, I mixed up the dough, and baked the English muffins today.
- I made a half batch of these English muffins, and used fresh yeast and food processor (instead of active dry yeast and stand mixer), so I switched up the mixing process a bit. The recipe, as I made it, with additional notes, is at the end of this post. [edit to add: the recipe, pretty much as written in the book, can be found here]
- I used a nice, thick, tangy, buttermilk from a small local dairy, and some of their butter as well.
- After an hour's rest in the fridge, the dough had a glorious texture.
- Chang says to make the dough balls 30 grams each for mini English muffins, 60 grams for "traditional-size" English muffins. I made some 30 grams, some 45 grams, and some 60 grams. In my opinion, the 60 gram ball of dough doesn't produce a full sized muffin, and the 30 gram ones are almost doll-sized.
- I used my largest cast iron skillet, and cooked my half recipe of muffins in 2 batches. I had to use my gas stove's simmer plate to get the heat low enough.
- To serve the finished English muffins, the cookbook gives directions for splitting them, then griddling them, and topping them with a bay leaf butter/lard mixture. While that sounds fabulous, after I fork split my English muffins I opted for toasting them in the toaster and spreading with good old salted butter.
I bounced up and down and exclaimed "Oh my!" out loud (even though I was the only person in the house) when I tasted one of the mini English muffins. It was, hands down, the best English muffin I've ever eaten. I'd even say it's my favorite bread: the flavor is exquisite, the texture is substantial yet tender, and there are nooks and crannies galore! They are definitely a bit fussy and time consuming to griddle-bake, but oh, so worth the effort. My husband, who isn't the biggest fan of English muffins, agreed that these are on the highest level of all the breads I've baked. In fact, this recipe is so special, I'm making a point of writing this post on the day that I baked the English muffins.
18 g fresh yeast
25 g cool water
200 g cool buttermilk
300 g unbleached bread flour (I used King Arthur)
25 g granulated sugar
11 g sea salt
35 g butter, at room temperature
1. Add the flour, sugar and kosher salt to the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the regular blade (for a full recipe, switch to the dough blade). Process briefly to mix the dry ingredients, about 30 seconds.
2. Combine the yeast and water and buttermilk in a small bowl, and stir.
3. With the food processor running, steadily pour in the buttermilk mixture. Process until the ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.
4. Add the room-temperature butter into the bowl and process the dough for a minute or more until it is tacky but no longer sticky, passes the “windowpane” test, and registers 77 to 81 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
I finally was able to shoot a one-handed windowpane test!
5. Oil a large mixing bowl or dough rising bucket and scrape the dough into it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest and expand for about 1 hour, or more if needed. My dough took over 1 ½ hours to increase by 50%, and rose a bit more in the fridge.
6. After the dough has risen, place the bowl into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour to chill, thus making the dough easier to handle.
7. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with a 1/4-inch thick layer of cornmeal. (Evidently the extra cornmeal on the sheet can be reused for another recipe.)
8. Scatter your work surface with a very fine dusting of flour and lightly flour your hands. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it a few times to deflate it. Shape it into a fat, smoothish log.
9. Pinch off clumps of dough - anywhere from 30 to 60 grams each (or even larger) and lightly roll the piece of dough into a neat ball, applying as little pressure as possible.
10. Nestle each ball of dough into the cornmeal on the baking sheet, then pat it down gently to adhere some of the cornmeal. Grab the ball very gently by its sides and flip it over, lightly pressing to adhere cornmeal to the bottom. Leave about an inch of space between each ball to give it room to rise. You can proceed with the recipe directly or refrigerate the baking sheet, wrapped in plastic wrap for up to three days. Chilling the dough will make it easier to handle, and delaying the cooking will help the muffins to develop more flavor. I let my dough rest for a day in the fridge.
11. Preheat the oven to 250°. Warm a cast-iron skillet or griddle over lowest heat for 5 minutes. You should be able to hold your hand over the skillet and feel warmth but be able to keep your hand in place. Sprinkle the skillet with a light, even layer of cornmeal and heat for an additional minute.
12. Pick up the proofed muffins by their uncornmealed sides and dust off any excess cornmeal clinging to their tops and bottoms. There should be a light layer of cornmeal, but not a thick cornmeal crust.
13. Working in batches, transfer the muffins to the griddle. Griddle-bake the muffins very slowly, allowing a full 4-5 minutes or until their tops are slightly puffed up. Using an offset spatula, carefully flip each muffin and allow to griddle-bake on their other side for another 4-5 minutes. You should notice the muffins beginning to form a noticeable skin. Flip them again and cook for another 5-6 minutes and then flip them again. Repeat a third pair of flips, if necessary, until you have firm tops and bottoms, but the muffins are light. According to Chang, you almost can't go slow enough with this process (mine had three 5-minute stints on each side). At this point you can slightly bump up the heat and gently toast their tops and bottoms, flipping every 2-3 minutes or until they are patchy brown and uniformly golden, another 3 times per side, or so.
14. Place the muffins on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking. I didn't check the interior temperature or treat the smaller muffins any differently from the larger ones. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet until cooled to room temperature.
15. Using a fork, puncture an equator of tiny holes around the middle of each muffin and then pry apart the two halves.
Makes between 1 and 2 dozen depending on size.
I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly compendium of all things yeasted; stop by and check out all the yeasty goodness!