Another One from the Stock Pot List- New York Griddle Breads

Yes, I have checked another item off my Stock Pot List. I’m talking about English muffins. As this article from The Nibble shows, these breakfast standards actually originated in NYC.  Unlike typical breads and muffins these are cooked on the stove top, either on a griddle or in a skillet. The stove-top cooking does require a little more hands-on time than baguettes but the dough is easy to put together and contains nothing but pantry staples.

Unless you don’t have any yeast in your pantry. Yeasts are single-celled organisms. Bakers’ yeast can digest sugars in your dough and then expel carbon dioxide gas. The CO2 bubbles are what give yeast breads loft and texture. Alton Brown probably explained it best, because his explanation involves sock puppets.  I’ve always used dry yeast. I prefer jars to packets because I can measure out only what I need. Keeping the jar in the refrigerator will keep your yeast viable for at least a year.

Here is the English muffin recipe I used.

First things first- get all the ingredients in one place.

Flour, sugar, egg, butter, milk, and salt. You have those things, right? If you need to pick up some yeast it is usually in the cold section of the grocery store near dairy and eggs.

Flour, sugar, egg, butter, milk, and salt. You have those things, right? If you need to pick up some yeast it is usually in the cold section of the grocery store near dairy and eggs.

An extra step I took because my yeast lives in the refrigerator: I mixed the sugar and yeast into the luke-warm milk to wake the little yeast beasts. Also, truth be told, my jar of yeast is about 18 months old, maybe older. I wanted to be sure I still had active organisms in there before I mixed everything together. After about 10 minutes I got tiny bubbles around the edge of the bowl, a sure sign that the yeast was active.

As you can see, I used a stand mixer to get all the ingredients together, but you can certainly work by hand also.

Here is what the dough looks like when it first comes together. See the lumps? We want to get rid of those.

Here is what the dough looks like when it first comes together. See the lumps? We want to get rid of those.

After about 5 minutes in the mixer the dough is much smoother. Just a little more mixing to get it just right.

After about 5 minutes in the mixer the dough is much smoother. Just a little more mixing to get it right.

After mixing it’s time for a rest so the yeast can burp some volume into the dough. It took two hours for me to get a good rise because my kitchen is cold. If I were taller I would have put let the dough rise on top of the fridge. Why? Heat rises, especially off the coils on the back of a refrigerator. It’s an old home baking trick that just doesn’t work for Hobbits like myself.

This dough is softer than typical bread dough, but it was easy to get the rounds shaped with a little flour on my hands. I divided the dough by hand. If you’re feeling super skillful you can weigh your divisions to get them more precisely equal. Once each 16th was formed into a disk they got a second quick rise on a bed of cornmeal.

As noted in the recipe the rounds got just a little puffy during this second rise. Next time I'll let them go a little longer, unless my kitchen is warm that day.

As noted in the recipe the rounds got just a little puffy during this second rise. Next time I’ll let them go a little longer, unless my kitchen is warm that day.

And finally- the griddle! This is what separates English muffins from dinner rolls. I got my griddle heated evenly, spritzed with cooking spray and sprinkled with more corn meal.

I used a laser thermometer to make sure the temperature was just about even across the surface of the griddle. It was still a little hotter i the spots right over the burners.

I used a laser thermometer to make sure the temperature was just about even across the surface of the griddle. It was still a little hotter in the spots right over the burners.

It took two batches to get all 16 of muffins. They are not as symmetrical as the store bought ones, but that’s how it goes with the home-made version of most things.

Look at that loft!

Look at that loft!

I made a little breakfast for dinner – spinach omelet – so Mr. Food It Yourself and I could do a proper taste test. They were yummy! I think next time I will stretch the rounds a little wider, as the diameter on these muffins was a bit small for a good egg sandwich. However, they were easy to make and worth the time.

Here is one muffin, toasted and perfectly accenting my omelet.

Here is one muffin, toasted and perfectly accenting my omelet.

So, are you ready to get your hands doughy? Give it a try! You’ll impress your friends and have a delicious addition to your DIYet. Let me know how it goes.

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