muffin of the month, september 2016: whole-wheat english muffins

previous monthly muffins:

8/16, gluten-free blueberry buttermilk muffins || 6/16, blackberry almond muffins || 2/16, vegan ginger muffins || 12/15, gluten-free sweet potato muffins

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It’s been gray the whole past week, and rainy most nights…and I’ve been loving it all so much. Over the summer, I never wanted to stay inside, or it was too muggy for me to just sit around, even with the air conditioning running full blast. Now, though, I wake up at 7:00, brew myself a gargantuan pot of coffee (yes a whole pot just for me), and lounge around enjoying the nascent coziness of early autumn. The gray mornings are best for productivity, and I tell you I need a lot that (#gradschoollyfe.)

I’m drowning in developmental psychology and immigration policy…but it’s kind of nice. I like the quiet mornings, which turn into low-key days, when I can both relax and get things done.

Plus, I’m a nerd for learning. I love it, and like high-key love it. My book case is practically falling apart because I can’t help myself with getting new books, even if I barely have time or energy to read them. My professors probably don’t expect me to read everything they assign, much less twice with highlights and margin notes, but I do. I’m already vaguely familiar with most of the concepts we’re learning, whether I realize it or not, but something about seeing it all in print is empowering.

 

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I say this as midterm season approaches and I watch my last breath pop like a bubble in a bathtub.

With work and school, I have less time for cooking than I had expected, and slightly less time for baking (plus money. why does making food cost money.) so I try to enjoy the few moments I do get in the kitchen.

Following the success of my English muffins (my stomach gave them two Oscars, and my mouth nominated them for six Emmys. they can’t believe it. they’re so grateful), I decided to start building up a repertoire of English muffin recipes.

I started with whole wheat: gray like an early autumn morning, hearty like October produce, and flavorful in all the best ways. At first, I just made a substitution: half whole wheat flour for half all-purpose. The dough is surprisingly easy to work with. Unfortunately, I realized that not only were the muffins dense, but the dough was a little firm (easy to work with as in not sticky, but stiff as in stubborn.) Trial after trial, each involving either a different ratio of whole wheat flour to all-purpose (it’s recommended that you always cut whole wheat with refined), or a smaller amount of flour, and I finally arrived here: fluffy, some might even say “plush,” whole-wheat English muffins with nooks and crannies big enough for you to fall into. If you’re butter, that is.

 

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Every time I think of nooks and crannies, I want to say “crooks and nannies.” Words are funny, y’all.

The dough will be just a little bit sticky, but not so much that you can’t pick it up as one mass and handle it directly with your hands. I let the dough proof in a greased bowl the first time, then transfer it to a floured pastry board, and the flour helps the individual dough rounds come together without sticking everywhere, without adding so much extra flour that they dry out. With less flour, the dough rises a lot more during proofing and baking, the holes are larger, and the flavor shines through more.

 

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whole-wheat english muffins (with vegan options)

based on white english muffins from muffin of the month, july 2016

makes one dozen (56 g/2 oz each, unbaked)

 

with starter

200 g/7 oz sourdough starter

150 g/5.3 oz milk, buttermilk, or water

28 g/1 oz softened butter or oil (canola, etc.)

20 g/0.7 oz molasses or brown sugar

180 g/6.3 oz whole wheat flour

100 g/3.5 oz all-purpose flour

hefty pinch of salt

 

with baker’s yeast instead of starter

7 g/0.25 oz (1 packet) active dry yeast

250 g/8.8 oz milk, buttermilk, or water

28 g/1 oz softened butter or oil (canola, etc.)

20 g/0.7 oz molasses or brown sugar

180 g/6.3 oz whole wheat flour

200 g/7 oz all-purpose flour

hefty pinch of salt

 

for prepping, frying, and baking

vegetable oil, ~1 Tbsp

cornstarch, ~1/4 c

butter (substitute canola oil for vegan), ~1 Tbsp

 

make the dough

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Using a spoon or rubber spatula, quickly mix together ingredients just until the dough starts to form and there isn’t a lot of loose flour or water/liquid.

Using the dough hook of an electric or stand mixer, beat the dough for ~5 minutes, until smooth, cohesive, and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It should stick a little bit when you touch it, but not come apart too much. Add more flour if it’s too loose, wet, or sticky.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, turn over once, cover, and let proof at least 1 hour, or until doubled. If you want to divide the dough more precisely when shaping the muffins, put the empty, greased bowl onto a scale, zero/tare it out, and add the dough so you know exactly how much you have. I end up with ~670 g/24 oz.

 

Note: Sourdough starter ferments more slowly and rises less than active dry baker’s yeast (but is more beneficial and nutritious), so I make the dough a day in advance and refrigerate overnight. When making yeasted dough, proofing times vary a lot, so rely on the size of the dough to know when it’s ready. You can even use a large measuring cup, so you can see how the capacity changes as the dough rises.

 

shape, fry, and bake

Flour a clean surface or marble pastry board and turn proofed dough out of its container.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (use a scale for more accuracy: 56 g/2 oz per muffin.) You can make any number of muffins and divide the dough however you want: 6 giant muffins, 18 small muffins, 10 medium-large, etc.

Flatten each piece lightly, fold the edges and corners into the center, form a ball, and roll into a sphere.

Dust a baking sheet with cornstarch and line muffins up, leaving 3-4 inches between each. Lightly flatten again with the palm of your hand.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise another 30 minutes in a warm spot.

While dough is rising again, preheat oven to 350 F/175 C.

When ready to fry and bake, heat a skillet. Butter/oil lightly once the skillet is hot, and let the butter/oil heat. You want to sear the muffins, not deep-fry (though if you want deep-fried English muffins, knock yourself out!)

In batches, fry the muffins until bronzed, 3 – 5 minutes, on each side. Once all muffins are fried, finish them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until puffy.

Let cool, split with a fork, toast in halves, and enjoy!

 

I think I’m falling in love with English muffins,

Nick P.

Categories: alternative diet, Breads, muffins, Vegan