But no longer! I came across homemade English Muffins for the first time while browsing tastespotting and then searched until I found what I thought was a quality recipe. The one I used is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice; a very worthy recipe indeed.
As much as I'd like to say they turned out perfectly and they were the best English Muffins I've ever tasted, I can't lie to you. They were good and they had nooks and crannies and they looked store bought, but really they weren't out of this world amazing. And to tell you the truth, while we're being honest and all, they were a bit of a pain-in-the-ass to make- especially for a recipe that only yields 6 muffins.
As usual, some of these imperfections could be my fault: I think I may have taken them out of the oven a bit too early because although they wasn't any raw dough on the inside, they were rather dough-y and dense. My substitution of 1 cup whole wheat flour for part of the bread flour may also be at fault. But I do have some complaints of my own: I think this recipe could have yielded at least 8 English Muffins because mine were too thick, they were also very moist and didn't toast up as wonderfully as the store bought one's do. But I'll leave you with the recipe to try at your own accord; as for me, I think I'll stick to Thomas's.
From the Bread Baker's Apprentice via macheesmo
10 ounces (2.25 Cups) unbleached bread flour [I subbed in 1 cup whole wheat flour]
1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 Teaspoons salt
1 1/4 Teaspoons instant yeast
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 to 1 Cup milk (or buttermilk) [I used whole b/c it's what I had from another recipe but definitely did NOT need the extra fat as they were too moist/ thick, I'd go for 2% next time]
Cornmeal for dusting
Spray oil for cooking
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix that all together and then stir in the butter. Honestly, I just used my hands to mix in the butter, but you could use a mixer if you wanted to get all scientific. Then add in your milk until the dough forms a ball. Start with 3/4 a cup of milk and then drizzle in more until all the flour is in a ball.
After a minute or two of that, knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test (this never happened for me), probably about 10 minutes. Set this dough in a clean bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes.
Once the dough has fermented, use whatever method you have to cut it into six pieces. Then take each piece and shape it into a boule. This means shaping it into a ball by folding the edges under and making a taunt surface on top. Should only take a few seconds to form each one.Get a baking pan and line it with parchment paper (if you have some). Spray the parchment paper with non-stick spray and then dust it liberally with corn meal. Place each muffin on the sheet and lightly spray each one with another layer of oil and dust with more corn meal. Cover these with a towel and let them rise again for about 75-90 minutes.
The first thing to do when cooking these guys is to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. We will finish the muffins in the oven. Then get out your largest pan or griddle and spray or wipe it with oil. Turn your stovetop on medium-high heat and get your pan hot. Spray some oil (or wipe some oil) in the pan. You want to make sure these don’t stick, but you don’t need pools of oil for that. When the pan is hot, put each muffin down. The dough will spread out and start to puff up. Don’t crowd the muffins too much. You don’t want them touching.
These guys will brown quickly, but they won’t burn for some time. Cook them on the first side for 5 to 8 minutes. When they are a medium brown, give them a flip.
Cook them for 5 to 8 minutes on the other side and then transfer them immediately to a sheet pan in the pre-heated oven. The griddle cooks the outside and gives the muffins their distinctive crunch and flatness, but the insides of the muffins are still pretty raw. Cook them in the oven for 8-10 minutes to solve that problem. (I think I took them out too soon so be patient!)
Then let them cool for at least 30 minutes.