english muffins

At diners, in supermarkets, the English muffin would arrive, ready-made, and I never thought much about it, excepting that it must be a difficult thing, to make an English muffin. Possibly requiring specialist equipment. Mysterious. A very different muffin from the handmade sort I grew up with, certainly, one that slotted effortlessly into a toaster. It wasn’t until I actually made them this weekend with my little girls, and our English friend, that it dawned on me. Allow me to show you.

english muffins © elisa rathje 2012

The Ingredients

500g spelt flour or similar
325g tepid water (or a scoop of sourdough starter topped up with tepid water to this amount)
5g dry yeast (or 10g if you’ve no sourdough starter, or, skip it if your starter is strong!)
10g sea salt
a glug of olive oil if you like

We took the very same recipe that we use for pizza dough and flatbreads and breadsticks, since we had lots of it. We’d mixed it well, kneaded it smooth, and left it to sit for a few hours, covered with a plate and a beeswax cloth.

The Method

Form the dough, about the size of a mandarin orange, into little rounds. Small hands are excellent at this part. You’re meant to pat them flat, but I forgot that bit.

english muffins © elisa rathje 2012

Lay them out on a floured woodblock, covered to keep out air, and leave them by the wood stove or somewhere cosy to rise til double in size. We just couldn’t wait that long and got started after a half hour. The dough had risen plenty, having been made the day before, so nothing to worry about.

english muffins © elisa rathje 2012

We heated a pan to a steady medium heat on the hob, or you can set a cast iron pan on the wood stove and settle a few rounds in for a minute.

english-muffins-5l

Then we flipped them, and kept flipping them, every now and then for a dozen minutes, to cook them evenly on each side. All of a sudden they looked just like English muffins! Oh! They’re flipped back and forth, cooked in a dry pan! Thus the flatness, the scone-like cracks! What do you know.

english muffins © elisa rathje 2012

Best of all, they are magical with a pat of butter and a spoonful of homemade marmalade.

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