Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Great English Muffin Experiment

Cooking: It all started with a courtesy copy of the paper and a hair-brained idea. 

We subscribe to the Saturday and Sunday Star Tribune.  I love to read the paper.  One of my favorite times of the week is Sunday morning, usually before E is up.  With my Sunday paper and a fresh cup of coffee, I curl up under a hand-knit afghan, tune the radio to 89.3 The Current to listen to one of my favorite DJs (Bill DeVille) and music programs (United States of Americana), and read the paper.  I have no order particular order to reading it.  Sometimes I start with the funnies, the ads or something similarly light.  Other times, I read the headlines and other "real" news first.  It all depends on my mood and what catches my eye.  I don't get the weekday paper anymore because I can't keep up with reading it and found myself recycling it un-read.  If I could get the Thursday along with the Saturday and Sunday, I would.  That is the day the Food section is included, and as you may guess, I love reading the food section.  But they won't let you get Thurs/Sat/Sun by subscription.  Believe me.  I have asked.  However, on select holiday weekends throughout the year, we get a courtesy copy of the Thursday paper.  It just so happened that Martin Luther King Day was one of those weekends and, due to the popularity of Downton Abbey and all things British lately, they did a feature story and recipe on English muffins. I thought, "We like English muffins.  I could totally make those."

There you go.  The long version of the first sentence - the courtesy copy of the paper and the hair-brained idea.

I decided the English muffin recipe was going to be my new recipe for January and that I would photograph along the way to blog about it.  The ingredients are all things a person usually has at home.  The directions are very straightforward and there are pictures with the article of some of the key steps.  One problem - the dough needs to sit for 12 hours or overnight.  This took some remembering on my part.  After more than a couple declarations of "I'm going to make those muffins tomorrow." I finally did it, Sunday February 3rd, the morning after book club potluck at my house (I add this to explain the wine bottle and corkscrew that appear in some of the pictures.  I am many things, but a Sunday morning drinker I am not).  Here is the recipe, courtesy January 17, 2013, Taste section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, (bolding and comments in parentheses are mine) and my story.

Dough, after 12 hrs
English Muffins - makes 6
1 C milk
1 T butter
1 T honey
2 t instant (or rapid rise) yeast, or 1 packet
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
2 T cornmeal
1 T all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until just warm.  Turn off heat and stir in butter and honey until melted.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together yeast, flour and salt.  Stir in milk mixture until combined, then stir vigorously for a minute, about 200 strokes. (This will make your arm feel as if it is about to fall off. The instructions say you can rest after 100.  I may have rested multiple times and kind of lost count of how many strokes.  I may try the dough hook on the stand mixer for this part next time.)  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free place overnight, or for 12 hours. 
In the morning or after 12 hours, mix the cornmeal and remaining flour in a small bowl.

scooping out the portions
Mark the surface of the dough into 6 pieces, like a pie.  This is your guide for proportions. (I apparently didn't do this very well.  See uneven sizes later on...)
Heat a heavy pancake griddle or cast-iron pan over medium heat until drops of water sizzle.  An infrared laser thermometer should read between 350 and 375 degrees.  You'll be turning down the heat to low once the muffins go on the griddle, but you want an initial burst of heat.  An electric skillet takes away much of the guesswork.  Heat it to 350 degrees. (I used my lefse griddle - does that make these Norwegian muffins?)
coating it in cornmeal
Dip a serving spoon in water and scoop out one-sixth of the dough, deflating it as little as possible, and place it in the cornmeal mixture.  Gently flip it over.  Once coated, the dough can be picked up and patted into a rounder shape, if necessary (of course it is necessary). Place it on the griddle and repeat the process until all six muffins are shaped.  Reduce heat to low.

checking the progress
With a spatula, occasionally check under the muffins to see how quickly they're browning.  It should take a full 10 minutes to reach a deep golden color.  If they're browning too fast, reduce the heat.  If they remain pale, boost the heat to medium.  After 10 minutes, gently turn them over to cook the other side. (This part took a bit of fiddling with the temperature of the griddle and a lot of checking on the progress.)
muffins on the lefse griddle
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and move a rack to the center position.
After 10 more minutes, the muffins should be a golden brown on both sides.  Place them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

bake at 350 for 10 mins
Nutrition info per serving: 220 Calories, 41g Carbohydrates, 7 g Protein, 3g Fat, 2g Sat fat, 7mg Cholesterol, 235mg Sodium, 59mg Calcium, 2g Fiber.
Diabetic exchange per serving: 2 bread/starch, 1 other carb, 1/2 fat
(Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 6)

split it with a fork and toast
After they cooled, we used a fork to split them and toasted to our preference of brownness.  A couple were topped with peanut butter and others were eaten for lunch with a couple slices of deli turkey and a slice of provolone (warmed under the broiler for a melty open-faced sandwich).  Both ways were excellent.  I would make these again.  With a little forethought and planning.

Until we eat again,

Me, enjoying an English muffin.  Please ignore the Sunday morning hair and jammies

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