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Thursday, April 12, 2007 07:34 am

DIY English muffins

Live a little, and bake your own rolls

Untitled Document I will go out on a limb and assume that those who bother to read this here column understand and acknowledge the following statement: In the world of doughs and batters, homemade is a route less traveled but infinitely more satisfying.
I apologize if I’m preaching to the choir, but I bet some of you have experienced the culinary awakening that comes from baking your own rolls, rolling out pizza dough or cutting biscuits. And yet I know there are plenty of skeptics out there who roll their eyes at the idea of spending their precious Saturday afternoons waiting for dough to rise. For a moment, I ask you to consider do-it-yourself dough just once, not only to say you did it (like hang gliding or karaoke) but also to have the most amazing chemistry lesson in the privacy of your own kitchen.
I had my own private baker’s high a few weeks ago, when I set out to make my very own English muffins. It was a new journey for me, admittedly one filled with skepticism and low expectations. Usually I suggest pizza for first-time dough heads, but now I’m changing my mind. English muffins are a great entryway to the world of dough, requiring relatively few straightforward steps and no previous experience.
Better still, DIY English muffin dough promises an exhilarating “I did it!” moment that you’ll undoubtedly remember the next time you pass those six-pack bags in the bread aisle.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
English Muffins
2 teaspoons active dry yeast 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees) 1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees) 2 1/3 cups bread flour 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, place yeast, sugar, and half of the water. With a fork, whisk until the yeast is dissolved and cover bowl with a towel for at least five minutes. Mixture should start to foam. Add remaining the water and milk and cover the bowl for another five minutes. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Add in yeast mixture. With a rubber spatula (or with a dough hook in the bowl of a standing mixer), gently the mix ingredients until they’re just combined. Pour onto a lightly floured work surface and knead (press, fold, and turn) for as long as eight minutes. The dough will be very soft.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic and a tea towel. Allow the dough to double in size, at least 90 minutes or, alternatively, overnight in the fridge. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate it. Roll the dough into a rope at least 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into eight or nine pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and roll it in cornmeal or rice flour. Place balls on a baking sheet and top with a second baking sheet for a second rise, about 20 minutes. When ready to cook, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with an oil spray. Beware of burning the cornmeal; you may have to swipe the pan clean with a towel after each muffin. Allow the muffin to cook on first side for about 10 minutes; you’ll notice puffing and see the first side getting golden. With tongs, turn the muffin onto the other side and cook for about the same amount of time. Place cooked muffins in a tea towel to keep them warm. Open muffins with a fork or serrated knife and eat as is or toasted. Freeze muffins in an airtight zip-style bag for later use.
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