English muffins are a great bread for even a novice bread maker because they're soooooo easy. They require less time rising and proofing (they only take a few hours instead of the twelve plus hours of many other breads) and they're not baked in a super hot oven. They are actually cooked on a griddle (or in a pan if you don't have one) and then briefly finished in the over (just to make sure that the center is cooked through). These are even fun to cook with kids because they can do a lot of the work safely.
Though a stand mixer makes bread baking WAY easier, you can do it all by hand
I started out with "original" flavor (aka white flour) and they were pretty good but then I graduated to...cinnamon raisin! And that was the start of it all. These were a whole new level of good and never again would a store bought English muffin suffice. Once I had started flavoring my muffins a slough of English muffin opportunities opened up before me. Things like dried cranberries, nuts, cheese (!), herbs and even chocolate were possible flavors and I realized that I had a lot of work to do.
Though this batch was cranberry orange, the possibilities are endless...
My first dive into English muffin flavors was cranberry, orange and cinnamon. I figured if raisins and cinnamon go together well and raisins are same same but different that cranberries and cranberries go well with orange then, well, you do the math...(hint = good). I also like to pretend these are "healthy" for me by adding some white whole wheat flour (this is becoming really easy to find and it's less heavy or has less of the wheat husk, so it works well for bread).
You want to cook these while they're on the rise to make sure that you get those traditional holes
Once these are baked off and cooled - they are perfect for eating on the run, or even savoring with a hard boiled egg and some melted cheese (yes, I'm hungry as I write this). And the best thing is - you want another flavor? Only a few quick steps to get there...cheese and rosemary, here I come!
cranberry orange english muffinsadapted from Peter Reinhart's recipe
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (all-purpose will do in a pinch)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat (preferably white whole wheat) flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or 2 tsp active dry yeast, dissolved in warm water)
1 Tbsp shortening (butter, Crisco, margarine)
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 to 1 cup warm (but not hot) milk or buttermilk
- Mix together flours, salt,cinnamon and sugar. Then add yeast and blend well (you need to add yeast last, in a second stirring, because the salt will kill the yeast).
- Add in the dried cranberries and orange zest, mix in thoroughly.
- add 3/4 cup of milk and mix until the dough forms a ball, adding the last 1/4 cup if there's remaining loose dough.
- knead the dough, either in a stand mixer or by hand (on a floured surface) until the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. The dough should be able to pass the windowpane test (if you pull the dough gently apart, you should be able to get it thin and elastic enough to see light through it).
- transfer the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Let rise for 60 to 90 minutes until doubled in size.
- On a floured surface, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape into rounds (typical english muffin shape).
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (I like to use silicone baking sheets) and sprinkle corn meal generously on it. Place the dough rounds three inches apart and let proof for another 60 to 90 minutes or until they double in size again (both outward and upward).
- Heat a griddle to 350 degrees (or you can use a skillet) and also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- lightly grease the griddle pan. Once heated, placed the dough rounds on the griddle and cook for about 5 minutes on each side (until a medium golden color). Immediately place the muffins into the oven to make sure the centers get cooked (about 8-10 minutes).
- Cook the muffins for at least 20 minutes before enjoying.