I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a professional baker, having picked up the art when I was but a tween and taking to the oven like I was born to do it. So you’d think I would have at least thought about making English muffins once or twice, wouldn’t you? And yet it never occurred to me until relatively recently, while I was watching an old Thomas’ English Muffins commercial in which beloved 19th-century baker Mr. Thomas impresses everyone with his skill. I wanted to be just like Mr. Thomas. Now you can be, too.
English muffins are a yeast-risen bread, but they’re not baked; instead, they’re cooked low and slow on the stove. In Mr. Thomas’ bakery, he probably had a large griddle set over an open flame, which made it easy to space, cook, and flip the muffins. I, his obvious spiritual descendant, had a 10-inch cast iron skillet over an electric stove. This knowledge helped me forgive myself when I messed up my first batch, which came out misshapen and burnt.
Ruined though they were, the muffins were still edible, and they tasted good enough to make me want to try again. If you, too, mess up on your first try, remind yourself that the initial go-round is but a training exercise, your first wobbly step toward English muffin mastery.
My second batch wasn’t perfect, either, but because I had learned which mistakes not to make, they were miles better than their partially blackened predecessors. Here are some tips that I hope make your learning curve a bit easier than mine was.
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Tips for making great English muffins
- If you don’t have a large griddle, you’ll have to cook your English muffins in batches, meaning that while your family is enjoying their fresh, fluffy muffins, you’ll still be standing over a hot stove, growing more jealous by the second. You will be tempted to turn up the heat to make things go faster. DO NOT TURN UP THE HEAT! The outsides will burn before the dough can properly rise and fully set. From start to finish, you’ll be standing over the stove for no less than 30 minutes. Accept that fact before diving into the project.
- If the idea of your family eating all your precious English muffins while you’re stuck in the kitchen drives you mad, slide the first batch into a 200-degree oven to keep warm, and don’t tell anyone they’re in there while you work on batch number two.
- You will not be able to fit more than six English muffins in a standard cast iron skillet, so don’t crowd the pan. Even then, your muffins will start sticking to each other as they rise, but this can be fixed with patience, faith, and an offset spatula. Holding it vertically, gently slide the spatula between each muffin and pull the sides inwards, shaping them up into lovely, puffy English muffins.
- Watching something “bake” on the stove can be a hellish emotional journey; you’ll be anxious about the bottoms burning, worried if they aren’t rising properly, worried that you’ll flip them at the wrong time. There’s no easy answer to any of these things; just follow the recipe, have faith, and learn from any mistakes you make along the way. Burnt bits can be scraped off with a fork. Raw insides can be fixed in the toaster. Ugly muffins can be hidden under ludicrous amounts of jam. You’ve got this!
Gently Honeyed English Muffins
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2½ cups bread flour
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 envelope (2¼ tsp.) active dry or instant yeast
- 2¼ cups milk
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ stick butter, melted
Stir the whole wheat flour, bread flour, and kosher salt together in a bowl and make a well in the center.
Melt the butter in the microwave in either a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Add the honey and 1 cup of the milk, then microwave for 30 seconds, stir well, and pour into the well. Pour the remaining milk into the well, then stir the yeast into the liquid. (If using active dry yeast, let sit for 5 minutes; if using instant, you can move right along to the next instruction!)
Using a heavy wooden spoon, stir the batter until it comes together, then beat vigorously for about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and place it in a cold oven with the light on for 1 hour until puffy. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the dough for 8-12 hours.
Pour the cornmeal onto a wide plate and sprinkle a few tablespoons of cornmeal onto a sheet pan. Put a few tablespoons of cooking oil into a small bowl near your work station. Begin preheating a large dry cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.
Rub a little oil on your hands, and lightly oil the inside of a large scoop, or a 1/3-cup-sized measuring cup. Scoop a portion of the very sticky dough onto the cornmeal plate, coat both sides, then gently shape with your hands and move to the sheet tray. (It’s perfectly fine if they start to lose their shape while resting; you can fluff them up before they go in the pan.)
Once you’ve made six English Muffins, arrange them evenly around the cast iron skillet. Let them cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, though you can shape up the sides with a thin offset spatula if they begin to spread into each other.
After 5 minutes, gently shake the skillet, then turn the heat up to just past medium and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the bottoms begin to brown. Use your offset spatula to flip the English muffins over; if the muffins won’t flip over easily, it means they’re not ready! Leave them alone for another minute, then try again.
Cook the second side of the English muffins for another 3-5 minutes until brown, then move them to a wire cooking rack and leave them alone for at least 5 minutes to set up. Wipe any excess cornmeal from the skillet, return to the stove, turn the heat back down to low, and repeat the cooking process with the remaining batter.
Split the English muffins in half by holding two forks together back to back, sliding them into the side of the muffins, and gently prying them apart.