As long as I make the muffins, my husband, Rob, often cooks us a breakfast of scrambled eggs and goat cheese (with a sprinkle of cinnamon) served on English muffins. These little "griddle breads" were invented by Victorian-era English servants as a way to use leftover bits bread dough. They make scrumptious toast, but they're expensive to buy and their packaging is just plain ridiculous. We don’t even give white bread hotdog buns double layers of cardboard and plastic armor.
To make my own, I found several variations on classic English muffin recipes and started cooking. A half-dozen or more batches later, I hit the right combination by using the dough from one recipe and the shaping technique from another. Whether you use a knife or fork to split the muffins before toasting them is up to you.
Whole Wheat English Muffins
I like to use my KitchenAid to make dough whenever possible, but this dough can just as easily be kneaded by hand. When hand-kneading, be sure to flour your surface and hands generously. The dough has been kneaded enough when the surface becomes taught, smooth and elastic. Yields 12 English muffins.
1 cup milk, warmed until just barely bubbling
2 tbsp honey (granulated sugar works, too)
1 package or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit — just barely warm to the touch)
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
About 5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour (Substitute as much all-purpose flour as you’d like for a lighter muffin.)
1 tsp salt
1. Combine warmed milk and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until dissolved. In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Add yeast mixture, butter or oil, and three cups of flour to the milk. Attach the dough hook and beat at a low speed until mostly smooth. Add flour by the half-cup until a soft dough forms. The dough has the right amount of flour when it pulls into a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. Be patient, though — it take a moment for new flour to incorporate into the dough.
3. Move the dough to a greased mixing bowl (finesse works better than strength when removing the dough hook), cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
4. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and a long sheet of waxed paper with cornmeal. Punch down the dough and move to the floured surface. Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the waxed paper, leaving 3 inches between the muffins. Slightly flatten each round and sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a greased griddle over medium heat. Gently brush excess cornmeal off muffins and place on the griddle, cooking until a deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until the edges feel firm.
6. Cool on wire racks and toast before serving.
Above: A dusting of corn meal and a turn on the griddle give English muffins their signature crunch.
Right: A bed of corn meal keeps the muffins from sticking during the second rising.
Sarah Beth Jones and Rob Jones sold their business in the city to learn how to live mindfully in Floyd, Virginia. Photos by Rob Jones