When I first moved to New York, wooed by the promise of building a life together with my chef boyfriend of the time, I took a job as a pastry assistant in a little restaurant in Greenwich Village. It was my first professional cooking post as well as my first time living with a significant other.
At work, in the midst of clanging pots and pans, yelling chefs, and blazing fires, I could be found in a little corner frying up English muffin dough. It was an escape from the chaos. The uneasiness I felt as a fresh-out-of-school pastry chef was hidden in a cloud of flour and the self-doubt lost somewhere in the shimmer hanging above the smoldering cast-iron. I’d bring the left-overs home and on my mornings off, I’d make my boyfriend breakfast sandwiches, before he whisked away to work, booze, and, as I later found out, a lust for other women.
Eventually, I left the restaurant and that cowardly boyfriend left me; but, this English muffin recipe has never failed me. Frying them on a cast-iron skillet creates a wonderfully crispy crust. The inside? Puffed perfection. They are warm, doughy, and full of secret nooks and crannies – like my guy once was.
Ah well, I’ll keep the recipe in my arsenal for the next guy, hoping he is a better man that loves and appreciates the muffins he has and isn’t always in search of a tastier bun. Here’s my recipe:
Get your ingredients out and ready! Here we go!
Place the yeast and warm water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile place butter and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
Add your milk and warm gently, just until the butter is melted. Don’t let it boil!
The milk and butter will bubble slightly on the sides. Stir to make sure the butter, milk and sugar are combined and the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour and salt.
Pour the warm milk mixture over the yeast and stir to combine. (I had to change to a bigger bowl – sorry!)
Add in half the flour.
Mix gently with a spatula. The mixture will be lumpy – that’s good. Trust me.
Add the rest of the flour and fold in gently. Make sure there are no wet or dry pockets. The mixture will look like a “shaggy mess” as my boss used to say. Again, this is good. Be sure not to overwork. Cover the bowl with plastic and place in a warm spot. Let rise 40 minutes to an hour.
Dump the dough out on a floured surface. It will be very sticky so make sure to have more flour on hand in case it starts to stick.
Very gently roll the dough out until it is about half an inch in thickness. It will feel like you are running the roller over a pillow because the dough is very soft. Very little pressure is needed.
Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out your muffins. You see all that scrap in the middle? Bad news is you can’t re-roll the dough. Good news is you can fry up the scraps and they are just as delicious! They used to serve as sustenance during my 12 hour work shifts.
Place the English muffin rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet that has been dusted with flour. Cover with plastic and return to a warm place – let rise another hour. Do the same with the scrap pieces.
When the muffins are ready to fry, place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with a few turns of canola oil and let the oil warm up before adding the muffins. If you want to test to see if the oil is ready – place a little scrap piece in. If you hear a sizzle when the dough hits the oil, you are ready. Place your muffins in three or so at a time depending on the size of your cast-iron. (I think mine was a 10 or 12 inch.)
Let the muffins cook a few minutes on the first side until it is browned and crisp. Flip the muffins and repeat. The muffins will cook 6-8 minutes total. You can tell they are done when they are browned on both sides and they’ve puffed up. Also, look at the sides. If the dough around the middle still looks shiny and raw then give them more time. If they are getting too brown, turn the heat down.
Voila! Place on a wire rack to let cool. You can eat them fresh and warm or you can toast them. To store them, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge. They should last 4-5 days. To reheat, remove from fridge, slice in half and toast like you would a store-bought English muffin.
Remember those scraps? Fry ’em. Eat ’em. Love ’em. My chef and I used to try and figure out what they looked like as if we were gazing at clouds.
Homemade English Muffins
9 1/2 oz warm water
7 grams yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 oz butter
5 cups AP flour
2 tbsp sea salt
1 cup milk
Place the yeast in a large bowl and add the warm water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.
Meanwhile, place the butter, milk, and sugar into a small saucepan. Heat over low flame until the butter is just melted and the sugar is dissolved.
Add the warm milk mixture to the yeast.
Whisk together the flour and the salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the yeast and work in gently with a spatula. Add the rest of the flour and fold in delicately. The batter will be lumpy and look like a shaggy mess – this is good!
Cover with plastic and place in a warm spot. Let the dough rise for 40 minutes to an hour until doubled in size.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Using minimal pressure roll the dough out until it is 1/2 inch in thickness. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter cut as many circles as you can (should be about 9-10.)
(You can’t re-roll the dough but save the scraps and fry them! They are just as delicious.)
Place the dough circles on a sheet tray that has been lined with parchment and dusted with flour. The dough is very wet and sticky, the flour will help a lot.
Cover the dough again and let rise for another 40 minutes or until puffed.
When you are ready to fry, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with a few turns of canola oil.
When the oil is hot, place the muffins in a few at a time, do not crowd the pan. Let cook 3-4 minutes on the first side or until browned. Flip the muffin and brown the other side.
The challenge is making sure the outside doesn’t brown too quickly while leaving the inside raw. To avoid this you can move the muffins around – in and out of hot spots – to make sure they cook correctly. To make sure they are cooked on the inside, touch the side of the muffin with your finger. If it feels raw and doughy, continue cooking.
Once the muffins are finished cooking, transfer to a wire rack to let the excess oil drain.
The muffins are PERFECT right out of the skillet but can also be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
These muffins are perfect for my Ex’s Egg Sandwiches! Check out the recipe!