When thinking back to my childhood, I can vividly recall rounding the stairs down to the kitchen on weekend mornings, feverishly clamoring for breakfast. Sometimes, I’d get lucky and reap the benefits associated with my mother’s various homemade breakfast offerings. Other times, I’d be on my own, so I’d opt for a Thomas’ English muffin, with a smattering (actually, heaps) of butter and jam or peanut butter. As my cooking developed, breakfast sandwiches took center stage, but my affinity for English muffins never waned.
What more can be said about the underrated breakfast vessel that is the English muffin? A lot, actually. English muffins are both incredibly versatile and vastly underrated in the breakfast realm. They aren’t too thick or too thin. They also possess the most venerable nooks and crannies, as far as the eye can see. When sliced in half and toasted, the tops crisp to golden-brown perfection (depending on the operator, of course). And in a pinch, I’ve even subbed English muffins for burger buns, further proving their versatility and worth.
Not much has changed, although instead of rounding the stairs or sliding down the banister in the mornings, I now walk a few feet to my apartment kitchen yearning for more of the same. Feeling a bit burnt out on the usual pancake, waffle, french toast trifecta, I crafted the classic English muffin, complete with the renowned nooks and crannies that so effortlessly define them.
The buttermilk contributes mightily to the perfect texture and taste of these muffins and letting the dough rise overnight is also key. Serve them with anything – butter, jam, peanut butter, eggs. They taste the best fresh off the griddle or cast-iron skillet, dusted with cornmeal and warmed to perfection.
As a home cook, it’s the little things that make all the effort in the kitchen worthwhile, like seeing the nooks and crannies take shape. Some things never change.
BA’s Best English Muffins
1 ¼ oz. envelope active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 c. buttermilk, warmed
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 ½ cups unbleached bread flour, divided, plus more (I used regular flour)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Cornmeal (for dusting)
Whisk yeast, sugar, and 1 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add buttermilk, butter, oil, salt, and 3½ cups flour and beat on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and beat until dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but is very wet and sticky, about 5 minutes.
Spray a medium bowl with nonstick spray, transfer dough to greased bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill overnight (the cold rise makes the dough easier to handle, produces better flavor, and creates more nooks and crannies).
Dust 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets generously with cornmeal (you want to cover all the parchment). Spray a clean work surface with nonstick spray, turn out dough, then spray dough. Using a bench scraper, divide dough into 12 equal pieces (they should be about 3 oz. each). Working with 1 piece at a time and using bench scraper, fold dough inward onto itself on 4 sides. Turn dough over with bench scraper so that folds are underneath and transfer to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing evenly on sheets.
Sprinkle each piece with cornmeal. Spray plastic wrap with nonstick spray and loosely cover baking sheets, oiled side down. Let sit at room temperature until dough is nearly doubled in size, 60–70 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or griddle, preferably cast iron, over low. Place another rimmed baking sheet in the center of oven and preheat to 350°. Working in 2–3 batches and keeping remaining dough covered, slide 2 thin metal spatulas from opposite sides underneath dough, also getting underneath cornmeal to avoid sticking or deflating dough, and transfer to skillet (do not overcrowd). Cook until bottoms are dark golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is dark golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Using spatula, transfer muffins to preheated sheet in oven and bake until cooked through and sides are dry to the touch but still spring back, 5–10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Let muffins cool at least 30 minutes before splitting with a fork and serving.
Note: Recipe from BA’s Best English Muffins