Monday, 2 April 2012

English Muffins

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Nine:  Page 283.

I've never made English muffins before so I wasn't too sure what to expect. The list of ingredients looked fairly straightforward. However, I was surprised that the muffins would be cooked in a frying pan rather than in an oven. Mary says that these old-fashioned muffins are best pulled apart and eaten warm with lashings of butter. This made my tummy rumble and my mouth water. I just needed a bowl of tomato soup to accompany the muffins and I'd be in heaven!

I intended to make a start on the muffins an hour before lunch, but things never go to plan when you have a toddler to entertain! Of course, playing games with my little boy was a welcome distraction. However, it meant that I didn't get into the kitchen until he was having his nap. I was starving by the time I took my largest mixing bowl from the cupboard and grabbed the bread flour and yeast from the shelves. It was clear that things were not going to go my way when I discovered that I'd weighed the flour out in millilitres instead of grams. I felt pretty sure that they'd work out the same, but I thought I should double check the amount; as it turned out all was well. After adding the yeast, a little sugar and salt, I could move on to warming the milk.

I placed the large quantity of milk into the microwave to heat. Each time I checked, it felt stone cold until suddenly it was red hot!! This meant I had to stand the jug in cold water until the milk felt tepid. If too hot it would no doubt kill off the yeast, which would not be good! As I stirred the milk into the flour the resulting mixture appeared to be very liquid but, after sticking my hands in and bringing it together, it turned into a perfectly smooth and elastic dough. It required minimal flour on the worktop to prevent it sticking. I gave it a quick knead and then it was time to roll it out. With each roll of my rolling pin the dough sprang neatly back, but I got there in the end!

Although I have plenty of fluted round cutters in various diameters, I could not find a plain edged one. I desperately hunted through each messy kitchen drawer and stood on a wobbly chair to make sure that there weren't any lurking on top of the kitchen shelves. Neil climbed up to have a look too, but all he found were cobwebs and dusty out of date sweeteners! I ended up turning over the fluted cutter and using the plain side. It didn't cut all the way through the dough but it at least gave me an outline to cut with a knife. I wonder if the fluted indentations embedded into the palm of my hand will fade with time?!

Once the muffins had all been cut to size, I placed them onto a well floured baking tray and then sprinkled them with a small amount of semolina. As I sealed up the packet I managed to smear a sticky black substance all over my jumper. The packet had been sitting on top of a leaking tin of treacle, nice! I lightly covered over the tray of muffins, and then went on the lookout for somewhere warm. Thankfully, the sun had come out and was casting rays of warmth across the armchair in the living room. That would do nicely. I just had to wait an hour for them to rise. My tummy was grumbling loudly and I was dying to eat something. I resisted, as I wanted to wait and enjoy the muffins with a big bowl of soup. The wait had better be worth it!!

After an hour of hungrily pacing the floor it was time to cook the muffins. They had spent their time wisely and had puffed up in the heat of the sun. I quickly wiped some oil over the base of the frying pan and turned on the hob. I was a little concerned about cooking the muffins in a frying pan rather than in the oven. I thought that an oven would be more reliable. I hadn't accounted for how long it would take to cook each batch of muffins. I could fit in four at a time and they needed to cook for seven minutes EACH side, my tummy was by now complaining very loudly indeed.

It was a little disconcerting not hearing any sort of sizzle or crackle coming from the pan; I hoped that the muffins were cooking! After a few minutes they puffed up a little but, apart from browning on the top and bottom, they remained anaemically pale elsewhere!

As the second batch cooked I couldn't resist pulling apart a muffin cooling on the wire rack. I spread on a very generous amount of butter and, within seconds, it had melted and dripped onto the plate. I tucked into one half and Neil scoffed the other. Oh my goodness it went down well! My half was gone in two large bites!! It was utterly delicious. However, we restrained ourselves from eating any more until I had cooked all the batches. I heated the soup and busied myself splitting muffins and spreading on too much butter.

I honestly don't think food has ever been eaten quicker! In less than ten minutes Neil and I had wolfed down three muffins and a huge bowl of soup each, oink oink!! I am now a lover of English Muffins. As the muffins were still warm, they did seem perhaps a little doughy. However, I liked that. I found them rather comforting! Soup really was the perfect accompaniment.

If only I hadn't been so hungry and eaten the muffins all so quickly. I had shot my bolt and had to sit still for some time afterwards. It was worth it though!!
Might not look pretty but they taste delicious!! :-)

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