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Why do my English muffins...suck?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I have been working with an English muffin recipe for a couple months now, trying about once a week. They turn out ok, but it's not what I am looking for. What I am after is the kind with a chewy texture and rather large holes. I don't get that at all. What I get is basically a white bread-like inside, or french-bread like, but it ain't chewy. I even noticed at this website The Fresh Loaf the recipe they posted there with photos looks like mine - not the English muffin I grew up on, in America. Any ideas anyone? 

 

Here's that photo from The Fresh Loaf http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/englishmuffins

 

Here's the recipe I use. 

 

1 1/2 t. dry yeast

1 t. honey

1 c. warm water

1 T. melted butter

1 c. all purp flour

1 t. salt

cornmeal

 

Everybody does things differently.

 

First, I mix the yeast and honey with the water and melted butter. I let it set up a bit, get foamy, not too long. 

 

Second, I sift together the flour and salt. 

 

Third, I mix the two and stir until uniform, then sit in a greased bowl til it doubles. 

 

Fourth, I pinch off off pieces and cook them in a pan. They come out lookin' just fine. But inside, they are not English muffins. 

 

On my next try I shall divide the dough into the muffin balls and then let them rise for a much longer time. I could see this adding some bubbles...but what of the texture?

 

I shall never give up! Any advise?

 

thanks, 

Sal

post #2 of 11

The recipe that came with my English Muffin rings might be more what you're looking for. Doesn't begin to resemble yours:

 

Combine in a mixing bowl:

 

1 cup water

1/2 cup scalded milk

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

 

Dissolve 1 package active dry yeast in 2 tablespoons of warm water for 3-5 minutes.

 

Combine the two mixtures.

 

Sift before measuring--4 cups all purpose flour.

 

Beat 2 cups of flour gradually into the above mixture. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 85F) for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it collapses back into the bowl.

 

Beat in 2 tablespoons of softened butter.

 

Beat or knead in the remaining flour.

 

Grease the inside of the muffin rings and fill half full with the batter. Let them stand in a lightly greased cookie sheet until the dough has doubled in bulk (It should now fill the muffin ring).

 

Place the cooke sheet with the muffins in an oven preheated to 425F. Cook until muffins are a golden brown color.

 

Cool slightly on a cake rack and remove the muffin rings.

 

The above recipe makes 8 muffins. If you have only 4 muffin rings, chill or freeze half the dough before it rises and bake in two batches.

 

I always found this recipe interesting because English Muffins are usually made on a griddle, on top of the range.

 

Something to consider: Most recipes I've seen for English Muffins use milk or buttermilk in addition to water, something your recipe lacks. For instance, Peter Reinhart's recipe is very similar to yours, but with the addition of milk. My favorite recipe for English Muffin Bread also includes both milk and water. And, of course, the recipe that came with the rings does as well. So you might experiment to see if that's the difference.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Have you tried that recipe? If so, how was it? I suppose I can try it and see. I don't wanna bake them in the oven though. 

 

Milk is mostly water, so it shouldnt' make that big of a difference. Today I tried it with milk though! Well, I actually didn't have any milk, so I took that powdered creamer stuff for coffee and added it to water. This generally works as a subsitute for milk. Made corn bread using this once - delicious! But in the case of these muffins, pretty much no difference. A soft bread texture, not chewy, no big holes. 

 

I generally have problem with all my breads that they are a bit gummy. It's not a question of the recipe. I've had this problem for years, and experienced it in two (very) different countries. It has to be my technique. 

post #4 of 11

Sorry, Sal. Reckon I wasn't clear. I have not actually tried the recipe, mostly for the same reason as you: I don't want to bake them in the oven.

 

For the record real milk can often have an effect on dough, usually producing bread with a more tender crumb.  Oils have the same effect (and it's likely the butterfat in the milk that's doing it); but oils have other effects, such as retarding rise.

 

I notice that you add the butter to the blooming yeast. Can I ask why you do that? Oils can actually retard yeast growth, and are most often added after the other liquids are combined with the flour.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 11

More likely than not your problems stem from handling.  Tight, as opposed to open, textures are usually the result of overkneading, underkneading or poor formation. 

 

Mix the dough thoroughly and let it sit for 10 minutes or so before kneading.  Knead only until it's shiny and elastic.

 

Try is a second rise before formation.  Use a "French fold" technique between rises instead of an old-fashioned punch down.  It not only develops glutens (chewy texture) but it won't crush the life out of the bubbles formed during the rises.  Handle the dough gently when you put it into the rings. 

 

Based on your description your muffins (or crumpets or whatever) are somewhat undercooked. 

 

BDL

post #6 of 11

instead of cutting them in half, split them with a fork.

 

but my english muffins also come out like that. ... it helps if you cook them on a flat top to get the color on both sides, then you bake them for a little while to make sure that the middle is cooked.

post #7 of 11

I wrote a reply to this but it apparently didn;t get posted.  Not sure what i did wrong.

 

I posted (maybe in another forum, not sure) a recipe i had developed for something very close to thomas english muffins, with big holes, and "nooks and crannies". 

 

I based my reasoning on the fact that doughs like the "no knead bread" and good recipes for ciabatta all have big holes, the kind of texture i wanted. 

 

I can look for the recipe, but it;s not so much the recipe as the technique.  Wet dough and no kneading as bdl said.  If you search on internet for

"burn the british" grendlesmoder

you'll probably find it. 

 

(Lest any British take offense, "burn the british" is the phrase short-order cooks would use for toasted english muffins. There is a whole vocabulary for short-order cooks - or at least there used to be - those wonderful people with the most amazing memory, waiters yelling from the counter for sandwiches and breakfasts, and them remembering and making in very short order a whole lot of things, and rarely making a mistake.  I don;t remember the other terms except "sunny side up", for fried eggs, not turned over).  

 

For that matter, if you're British, these are "muffins" - the flat things sort of like crumpets.  However i've never had one in the UK that is anywhere near as good as the Thomas ones in the states.  Whether, like so many things, they were brought to the states a very long time ago and remained the same there while in England they went out of fashion and then were resuscitated in a slightly different form, or they always were like that and the american ones were modified, i don;t know  (Like the american broad A pronunciation like in "half" and "path" and then later mutated in england to an AH sound, but remained in the old form in the colonies)


Edited by siduri - 9/6/10 at 2:37am
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

 

 

Quote:
 
I notice that you add the butter to the blooming yeast. Can I ask why you do that?

 

Actually I have only done that a couple times, but I did stop. The butter is salted, so definitely don't wanna do that. 

 

Update:

 

I read somewhere that the longer you let the yeast ferment, with honey in my case, the chewier the bread will be later on. I also decided to increase the first rise, as well as the second rise. And I had better results. Chewier, for sure.

 

Anyone know Schlotsky's Deli? I used to get a sourdough bread sandwich there and it had a texture very much like an English muffin - I wonder if that's part of the Thomas's English Muffins secret? I read somewhere that the recipe leaked from the company--ha ha, maybe it's on wikileaks! I would love to get my hands on it.

post #9 of 11

the longer you let the yeast ferment, with honey in my case,

 

Depends on when you mean "longer."

 

If you're using active dry yeast and blooming it, the length of time will have no effect, to speak of, on the finished product. All you're doing is activating the yeast and letting it start to grow. The honey (or any sugar), at this stage, is only food for the yeast. You can, btw, avoid this step entirely by using instant (i.e., SAF, Bread Machine, Fast Rise) yeast. Instant yeast has other benefits as well, which is why most serious bread bakers use it exclusively.

 

Delayed fermentation of the dough, on the other hand, will have a distinct effect on the final product, affecting both taste (primarily) and texture in beneficial ways. Delayed (or retarded) fermentation is usually done in the fridge. But if you want a sour effect, start with a "sponge" and let it sit at room temperature for from overnight to up to three days. Eric Kastel has an example of this technique in his English muffin recipe in Artisan Breads At Home. Of go whole hog and use a sourdough starter as your leavening agent.

 

Interestingly, both Kastel and Reinhart (The Bread Baker's Apprentice) start their English muffins on the griddle, but finish them in the oven.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 11

Sal, did you read the comments under the original Fresh Loaf posting?

 

Several of them down there's one about how if you want nooks and crannies the dough has to be wetter; more batter like. And there are two links to recipes that, supposedly, produce the kind of muffin you're looking for.

 

You might check them out.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

KY, 

 

I see what you're saying, but I did notice a distinct difference this time having let the yeast and honey spend more time together. I am using active dry. It could have been something else, though, something I'm not aware of. I will try this sponge method and see if I can get what I want. 

 

I have to say, they were pretty close to what I wanted this time. Thing is I live in Asia and would have to go to costco (not close to me) to get the Thomas brand ones I ate when I was younger, and use them as a model for what I want. Forensic baking, you know, interpolate backwards to the recipe. Nah, not gonna do that. I remember. Chewy, holes in them, and just so delicious when toasted and topped with some apple butter. My oh my oh my...

 

I did read those comments on the freshloaf, but I'll check 'em out again. 

 

One thing I have learned in studying baking as a hobby is that it takes a lot of skill to do it really well. I would give my left arm to apprentice with someone. 

 

Sal.

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