English Muffins - The old fashioned way
Be careful out there, among the English. With these words, a long time ago, I set out to make English muffins from scratch. Why bother, when Thomas'es were just down the street at the market? I worked for the State Dept and was serving overseas, in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, etc, a long way from the supermarket down the street. I had access to basic ingredients, and finally settled on a recipe which would make about 17-19 large English muffins at a go. I didn't have an electric skillet (220v would have caused havoc with most electric appliances brought from home and I had limited transformers. So cooking was done by elevating the quarter-size baking sheets about 2 inches or so above the low flame or electric element on the stove, using small skillets or other heatproof items as supports. The muffins were on a sprinkling of coarse corn meal directly on the baking sheets, where they proofed and then later cooked. As others who have written about English muffins here, I found it best to test and turn the muffins over after about 4-5 minutes, to insure mobility and to prevent burning.
Rather than use a liquid batter, the recipe I finally devised was a straight dough with the addition of mashed potato. Recipe follows:
Dry Ingredients Wet Ingredients
2 C Flour 1 1/2 C milk
2 T sugar 1/4 c water
1 t salt 1 T Butter/oil
1 T yeast
1 C mashed potatoes 1 egg
4 C flour (reserved)
Mix the dry ingredients. (Start with only 2 cups of flour. The mashed potatoes may be real or instant, depending on time and availability).
Warm the wet ingredients (baby bottle temp, warm on the wrist, not hot), and add to the dry ingredients. Beat for two minutes, then add the egg and one cup of the reserved flour. Beat two minutes. Add flour by the cup and continue beating until the dough mass comes together. I had a KA stand mixer part of the time overseas but also did it by hand. The mixer is easier, if you have it, but not absolutely essential. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead for seven minutes. Lightly grease the bowl and put the dough in and cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled, about one hour. Gently punch it down and allow to rise a second time, about 50 min.
Roll out the dough to about 1/2 thick on a floured surface. I used tuna cans (opened at both ends) as circle cutters to cut the muffins. Of course that was back when the cans were tin and could be opened at both ends. They are now a blister-formed aluminum, I think, and only open on one end. Oh well, I am sure you can find suitable alternatives. Save and reroll the scraps. You should get about 18 good sized muffins from the recipe.
Liberally sprinkle corn meal on two cookie sheets and then place the muffins on the cornmeal. Cover and let rise about 45 min.
The trick now is to cook them. You can gently use a spatula to transfer them one at a time to a skillet, but I found it easier to arrange a support for the entire cookie sheet about 2 " above the heating element. With the heat on medium to low, the muffins will begin to cook. After a minute or so, test that the muffins are not sticking. After about 5 minutes, turn one over and check the bottom. Gradually turn all of them over to cook the other side. When all are nicely browned, remove the cookie sheet from the stove (replacing it with the second batch), and let the first batch cool. Split, toast. Makes about 18. They freeze well and will last for months. Thqaw them out and fork split them befopre toasting. Enjoy.
OK, It is a lot of work. But then, we were the only ones in Luanda, Angola or Brasilia, Brazil or various Central Asian cities at the time who had toasted English Muffins for breakfast on the weekends.