Thursday, 9 May 2013

The staff of life

A batch of muffins cooling down
Bread has to be one of the most satisfying things to make and eat.  In my view, there are not a lot of things that beat freshly baked bread with butter.  And there are just so many types to choose from!  When I first arrived in the UK, I came across some breads that I had never heard of before - one of these was the good old English muffin.  I thought it was a cake but little did I know - had Wikipedia existed then (gosh, I am showing my age) I would have found that "a muffin or English muffin is a small, round, flat (or thin) type of yeast-leavened bread which is commonly served split horizontally, toasted, and buttered.".

So, there you have it - little breads made for toasting. Topped with butter, cheese, poached eggs or even jam they are hard to resist. And if you are partial to a bacon sandwich, look no further - these make the best bacon butties ever!

I had never made these muffins before and was surprised to learn that they are actually baked in a pan on top of the stove.  The dough is a yeast one which needs to rise and the cooking/baking method is really quick and simple.  I took the recipe from the River Cottage Bread Handbook and was very pleased with the result.  The dough yielded 12 muffins rather than the 9 stated in the book but you won't see me complaining :-)  A batch has already gone into the freezer - each muffin cut in half, so that we can just toast them from frozen when we feel like having "fresh" muffins for breakfast.  And in the meantime, I have enjoyed one with cottage cheese and homemade strawberry jam.  These will definitely become a firm favourite in the Happy Larder household!

English muffins (makes 12)

500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp (10g) salt
1 tsp (5g) powdered dried yeast - I added a little more, possibly 1.5tsp
325ml warm water
1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus a bit extra
1 handful semolina/maize flour, for coating - this is essential to get the perfect crust


Mix the flour, salt, yeast and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix, then turn out on to a work surface and knead until smooth and silky (this took around 10 minutes). Shape the dough into a round, coat very sparely with oil and place in a clean bowl covered with a plastic bag. Leave to rise in a warm place until roughly doubled in size.

Tip out the dough on to a work surface and press all over to deflate. Divide into 12 pieces, shape each into a round and flatten to about 1.5cm. Dust with semolina flour – this gives a lovely texture to the crust – and leave to prove on a clean linen tea towel on a wooden board (slip into a plastic bag to help it along) for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Heat a large, heavy frying pan or griddle over medium heat (I found there was no need to grease the pan). Cook the muffins in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan (or have two pans going at once). Lay the muffins in the pan, cook for a minute, then turn gently. Cook slowly for another 10-12 minutes, turning every now and then. You may need to adjust the heat if they seem to be colouring too fast or not fast enough. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half and toasted with your choice of topping.

(Recipe taken from The River Cottage Handbook Bread)


  1. Kirsten - My partner has recently converted me to the fact that whole grains are far better for one's health, and together, we've been trying to eliminate white flour from our diet. Not always easy, but a "fun" challenge. With that in mind, can you recommend a variation which would use whole wheat (or at least some whole wheat) instead of all white flour? Many thank! Vince C (from Muswell Hill)

    1. Hi Vince! Many thanks for your comment! You can replace the white flour in this recipe with wholemeal or you can mix it 50:50. I have found that spelt flour also works really well and makes a good change from wheat flour (spelt is an ancient form of wheat but lower in gluten). I hope you'll enjoy the muffins! Kirsten x

    2. Cheers for the suggestions, K! My own My Happy Larder will no doubt be thrilled. :-))) x