A plate of homemade English muffins.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Even though the nearest store is 120 miles from our Alaskan
home—and our one fall shopping trip must last the
family for seven months—we manage to provide
ourselves with all kinds of special goodies during
the long winter. For example, instead of buying such
"luxury" items as bagels and English muffins, I keep
the cost of our grocery bill down with homemade bagels and homemade English muffins.
The fact is that once an ambitious chef overcomes his or
her fear of the unknown, both of the distinctive "rolls"
are extremely easy to make and require no special
equipment. (You will find, though, that a tuna
can—opened on both ends—serves as an excellent
Whole Wheat English Muffins
To prepare about 24 muffins, add 1/2 cup (1 stick) of
butter, 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 cup of honey to 2
cups of scalded milk. Cool the liquid to lukewarm, and stir
in 2 packages of yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of tepid water, 2 beaten eggs, and four cups of sifted whole wheat
flour. When all the ingredients are blended well, knead in
another 3 to 4 cups of flour and then let the dough
rise until it's doubled in bulk.
When it's "up to size," cut the sweet-smelling lump into
two sections, roll each piece out until it's about a
quarter inch thick, and use your converted tuna can to
cut the individual muffins. (Knead the trimmings until they
hold together, roll them out, cut more disks, and repeat the process until all the dough is used up.)
Next, cover the dough "patties" and let them rise for about
half an hour. When the time is up, sprinkle cornmeal on an
ungreased griddle, cook the muffins until their undersides
are unevenly dark brown, then turn them over and "toast"
Whole Wheat Bagels
Preparing bagels involves two separate cooking steps, but
the chewy goodness of the delicacies is more than worth the
extra effort involved in making them!
Dissolve 1 package of yeast and 2 tablespoons of honey in 2
cups of warm water. Add 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2
teaspoons of salt, then stir the mixture until a soft
dough is formed. Turn it out on a floured board, and knead
the bagels-to-be—adding up to 3 more cups of flour as
necessary—to form a firm and nonsticky dough. Let it
rise until the mass doubles in size—usually about
1 1/2 hours—then punch it down and knead some more.
Divide the finished dough into 12 to 14 even pieces and
roll them into cylinders of about six inches in length ... which you can then shape into rings. (Moisten the ends
slightly with water to fasten them securely together.)
Now, in a deep pot, boil 3 1/2 quarts of water with 1
teaspoon of salt added. After the shaped rings have been
allowed to rise for about 15 minutes, drop them into the
water and boil them for 3 minutes, turning often.
Once that's accomplished, sprinkle (if you like) poppy
seeds, sesame kernels, or dried, chopped onions over the
bagels and bake them on a well-greased cookie sheet
for 25 minutes—until the breads are a golden
brown—at 425 °F.
Naturally, we like to enjoy both of these hearty breads
spread with cream cheese, so—once the few precious,
store-bought packages of the dairy treat are gone—we
rely on a homemade variety that's very tasty.
A Cream Cheese Spread
I simply make yogurt from dry milk, and hang it (over a
bowl) in a cheesecloth bag for about 12 hours! The result
is tangier than the commercial spread but equally
delicious, especially when served with blueberry and
other jams. (The whey that drips out of the suspended
yogurt is either used in soup or fed to our pack of sled
dogs, who consider it a very special treat!)
We find that eating a variety of breads livens up our menus
... and fresh-baked bagels and English muffins are, by
far, our favorite ways to partake of the "staff of life"!