I have always had a lingering fear of working with yeast. I can’t recall a specific failure that could have caused this reaction, it’s more of a preemptive thing. And so I rarely bother to attempt any baking that calls for kneading or letting things rise. But last weekend, I had a serious craving for English muffins and a few spare hours to kill so I convinced myself to face my phobia.
I got words of encouragement via Facebook from my blogging buddy Liz who told me once I tasted homemade English muffins, I would never go back to buying them again. And so with my lofty dreams and high hopes defeating my fear of disaster, I gave it a shot. I found a few recipes I wanted to try but settled on this one from Brown-Eyed Baker, which is taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The only adaption I made was switching out some whole wheat flour for part of the regular flour.
It was an easy task from start to finish, but it was a long process — mainly because you have to let the dough rise twice which took about three hours in total. But it was the perfect project for a lazy Saturday evening, as I spent the “rising” time watching Twin Peaks on Netflix. I don’t know how I’ve missed seeing the cult hit until now, but I’m happily making up for lost time — it’s seriously addictive and super bizarre.
Actually speaking of Twin Peaks, I have an embarrassing confession for you: I have seen drinks called “The Laura Palmer” on bar menus for years and always assumed it had something to do with Arnold Palmer (as in, his wife perhaps?). Yeah. So that was eye-opening.
Anyways, on to the muffins!
Here’s my dough ball – ready for its first rise. The main problem I had was that it’s so cold in my kitchen I was worried that the yeast wouldn’t work. So I turned on the oven for a bit and after it was just barely warm, I turned it off and popped the dough in.
After it was about doubled in size, I formed six relatively equal-sized balls and sprinkled them with plenty of cornmeal. Then they went back into the oven, covered loosely with a towel, for another 90 minutes.
After they rise, you can either use a cast-iron pan or just a griddle to brown them. Since I was nervous about messing them up, I used my electric frying pan so I could monitor the temperature. They need to cook for about 7-8 minutes on each side.
While they may look like they are getting too dark, don’t worry. They need to be a deep dark brown in order not to fall flat when you flip them. They are not burnt – I promise!
Then split with a fork, toast and slather in butter: