Tuesday, April 21, 2020

No-Knead, No-Fail English Muffins #recipe

LESLIE:  There’s a whole lot a bakin’ going on out there. And boy, do I understand that. It’s satisfying—you take flour and sugar and a few other ingredients and do stuff and pop it in the oven and you get magic! So even though I’m deliberately not engaging in the competitive baking you’ve no doubt been seeing on Facebook nnd Twitter and maybe even in your own household, you’ll probably see more baking recipes from me in the next few weeks than usual.

I’ll admit that I never imagined making my own English Muffins. I love them—who doesn’t?—but they come from the grocery store! Or the slightly more sophisticated version come from the Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market.

So when I spotted this recipe in the Washington Post, I was intrigued. And I love that the food writers there are as serious about their work as the political reporters and science journalists. The writer described in detail her efforts to find the right recipe, fine-tune it, and get it ready to replicate at home. They’ve got the holes, the slightly sour taste, and the traditional texture. No kneading required, but they do take some planning ahead—they need to rise 4-5 hours, then rise again 12-48 hours in a cool place overnight. (My fridge was too full, so I used my laundry room. Your household geography may vary.) You will need either a griddle—yay, finally a use for the one in the middle of our stove!—or a cast-iron pan. And no rings required—scoop the batter out like a pancake and it holds its shape nicely.

My first batch came out a little dark on the first side, but didn’t taste the slightest bit scorched. I’ve added cooking times—the original recipe didn’t include them—based on my stove, which is propane and tends to be a little hot. The goal is to get them cooked enough outside that they are thoroughly cooked inside. You can make a few before breakfast or brunch and cook up the rest later; they store beautifully.

You will want to toast these lightly; for comparison, we used the 2 setting on our toaster and we would use 4 or 5 (of 8) for a conventional English muffin.

Why Diamond Crystal kosher salt, you may ask? I can’t find the source right now, but I read a detailed analysis conducted by, IIRC, America’s Test Kitchen, noting that the two leading brands of kosher salt, Diamond Crystal and Morton’s, have different sizes and shapes which lead to very different chemical reactions and taste. Most professional cooks and bakers use Diamond Crystal. 

English Muffins

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (not rapid-rise)
1 1/2 cups cold milk (any percentage)
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg white, cold
1 cup fine cornmeal, for dusting
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed

In a large bowl or a lidded container like a stock pot, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, kosher salt, and yeast until well combined. Add the milk, honey and egg white, stirring with a flexible spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be quite wet but elastic, and will start to come together into a ball. Cover the bowl with the lid, plastic wrap, or a plate, and set aside at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours, until the dough is spongy, light and has more than doubled in size. (The timing is flexible depending on your schedule.)

Generously cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with an even layer of cornmeal. (You may not use all the recipe calls for, but try to use at least half.) With a large spoon, scoop out a dozen 2 portions of dough, roughly 3 ounces; it's perfectly fine to do this by eye. If you'd like, dampen your fingers and pinch the dough into a more regular shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover, and refrigerate (or whatever) for 12 to 48 hours.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. (If you have an electric griddle, preheat it to 325 degrees.) When it's sizzling-hot (check by sprinkling a few small drops of water), add half the butter and melt. Griddle the muffins until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating each muffin 180 degrees halfway through so the outer edges are moved to the center for even browning. Flip with a square-end spatula and griddle until the other side is golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. Depending on the size of your skillet or griddle, you may have to cook the muffins in batches, adding 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet each time.

Place muffins on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time. Toast before serving.

Store the cooked muffins in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature, a month in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.

Yield: 12 muffins

During these unsettled times, we all need cause to celebrate, right? And the perfect homemade English Muffin is one reason. Independent booksellers are another! Order a book from an indie -- online or locally -- then pop over to my Facebook page and tell me about it. When the chaos ends and bookstores reopen, I'll choose a winner of a book of mine or a bookstore gift card. 

From the cover of THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES, Spice Shop Mystery #5 (Seventh St. Books), coming July 21, 2020: 

Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. 

But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface ... 

Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow. 

Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own. 

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories.  Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Thank you for the english muffin recipe, they look terrific! I'm guessing they won't be nearly as good with gf flour, but I might give it a try anyway. (=

    1. Marci, I wish I knew, but I have no experience with g-f baking. If you try it, let me know how it works!

  2. I use the tines of a fork on the muffins, poking my way around the center of the outside edge.
    This does sound easy and do-able.
    A great quarantine challenge!

    1. So I just tried the fork trick on the one I toasted for lunch with my new fun chickpea spread -- a sort of deconstructed hummus -- and it worked quite well. Thanks for the tip!

  3. I love English muffins and this looks like such a fun project. Am going to have to give it a try when I am restocked with yeast. And the forking method to split the muffin before eating is a very normal British method. Appreciate the recipe.

    1. Oh, gosh, a yeast shortage in your area, too? A testament to all those new and hopeful bakers! Gotta love 'em!