Nook and Cranny English Muffins
May 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
From what I have heard, the sign of a really good English muffin is the prevalence of nooks and crannies. For that reason, English muffins are especially good when they’re toasty and warm because the butter and jam ooze and soak into the tiny crevasses.
When I started thinking about tackling this English muffin recipe, I felt flurries of distress. When I tried to place exactly why I was feeling that way, I ultimately came to blame exactly what makes English muffins so good: the nooks and crannies. What if I couldn’t make the muffins with nooks and crannies? What if I sliced the muffins open and they just looked like regular buns? How was I going to write about an English muffin recipe without nooks and crannies?! Then, I took a step back and realized this was a muffin I was thinking about. No one should care that much about a muffin. Eventually I concluded that the source of my distress must stem from childhood (like all well-developed neurosis) where my youthful obsession with nooks and crannies began.
When I was younger, I used to be considered a semi-professional hide-and-go-seeker. I was most likely seen displaying my talents in my grandma’s basement. I don’t have any siblings, so at family get-togethers I would force all my cousins to play with me, so I could pretend I had a large family. I was kind of bossy. I am bossy. Everyone had secret hiding places: in the laundry shoot, in the linen closet (take out the sheets, move to the back, put the sheets back in front and shut the door), in the bar cupboard or under the couch. Nooks and crannies were a VERY big deal when my cousins and I would play hide-and-go-seek. The ongoing hide-and-go-seek game that we would play was very competitive and most of the champions had coveted nooks and crannies that would ultimately win them the game. These secret spaces would never be divulged. If someone ultimately couldn’t be found we would yell, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” And that person would quietly creep out of their hiding place, very careful not to make any sound that would give away their secret space. If you didn’t have a good repertoire of nooks and crannies, the game was over for you before it even began.
Although the pressure wasn’t as high when I was trying to create nooks and crannies for this recipe, I still felt like I should be able to produce a muffin that would make my fellow nook and cranny connoisseurs proud. I wanted to make an English muffin that had at least some nook and cranny credibility.
In the end, I discovered I had worried for nothing (like always). Even though the nooks and crannies perhaps weren’t as deep and prevalent as seen in advertisements for store-bought English muffins, they were buttery, thick and puffy with delightful toasty, salted, browned tops. Next time I make these muffins, I will work on getting deeper nooks and crannies, but for now, I would take these English muffins over store-bought ones any day.
The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Nook and Cranny English Muffins
-2 ¼ cups flour
-1 teaspoon instant yeast
-1 cup warm water
-1 tablespoon honey
-2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1 ¼ teaspoons salt
-semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting parchment
Mixture 1: In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon yeast, warm water and honey, and whisk until combined.
Mixture 2: In a separate bowl, combine 1 ¼ cups of flour, remaining ½ teaspoon yeast and dry milk.
Sprinkle mixture 2 on top of mixture 1. Do not combine. Leave in a warm place until doubled (about 2 hours). Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Transfer to an electric mixture with a dough hook attachment and mix until both mixtures are thoroughly combined. Add the butter and salt and continue to mix until dough is elastic and smooth but slightly sticky.
Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
With lightly oiled hands, knead dough for about 2 minutes. Form dough into a flat rectangle, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until chilled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then lightly dust with semolina flour or cornmeal.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until it is about ¾ of an inch thick. Use 3 inch biscuit cutters (or a mason jar top edge) and cut out 8 muffins. Put the cut out muffins on the parchment-lined baking sheets and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Sprinkle muffin rounds with course salt and melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Fry muffins in the butter until they are golden brown on both the top and bottom (about 4 minutes for each side). Muffins will rise slightly from frying on the pan.
Return muffins to baking sheet. Bake muffins for 10-13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Muffins should be wrapped in plastic wrap to store.