Recipe adopted from atHome: Artisan Breads by Eric W. Kastel.
Despite the long list of steps that you might have noticed below, this is a fairly straightforward (and easy) recipe where the majority of the time is spent letting the poolish do its thing and letting the dough rise. And let me tell you, the time spent waiting is worth it; store-bought muffins pale in comparison to these bad boys. I ended up with a dozen soft, flavorful, and chewy English muffins that were twice the height of what you might have expected. They're great on their own, served up with a little butter, jam, or honey, as a crust for mini-pizzas, or as a key component in classic breakfast dishes such as Eggs Benedict or your favorite breakfast sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.
One final item to bring up is that I've now switched over to using instant dry yeast (rather than active dry yeast) for any and all yeast breads. This is both due to its ease and due to the fact that instant dry yeast is now the norm in modern baking recipes. Unlike active dry yeast, instant dry yeast does not require proofing with warm water and sugar before you begin a recipe (which is an obvious plus). But with that said, if you only have active dry yeast at home, no worries! Just keep in mind that the two types cannot be substituted 1:1. Rather, use the following proportion:
- 100% Fresh Yeast = 40% Active Dry Yeast = 33% Instant Dry Yeast
3/4 cup water, 55° F
6.8 ounces (~1 1/3 cup) bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, 95° F
1/8 teaspoon malt syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
20.2 ounces (~4 cups) bread flour
1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
The night before you plan to bake the muffins, prepare your poolish [poo-LEESH] by mixing together the water, flour, and yeast by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Remove the poolish from the refrigerator and leave out at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours.
When your poolish is all set, it should have risen considerably and should be filled with air pockets.
For the dough, transfer the poolish to a stand mixer bowl, and add the water and malt syrup. In another bowl, combine the butter and flour using a pastry blender, until fine. Add the yeast to the flour and butter mixture, stir, and add to the stand mixer bowl. Using a dough hook attachment, mix for four minutes on low, making sure to scrape down the sides and flip the dough over halfway through. Using a medium speed, mix for another two minutes, again making sure to scrape down and flip.
Remove the dough from the bowl, lightly spray the bowl with cooking spray, put the dough back into the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm area for 45 to 60 minutes.
The dough should have at least doubled in size by this point. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently fold the dough in half in both directions. This will expel some of the air, and give the dough a more homogeneous texture. Re-cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for another 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475° F. While the oven is heating, gently roll out the dough into a rectangle of about 10" x 11". At this point, you can either use a cookie cutter approach and have rectangular muffins, or else use a cup or round cookie cutter to have the more traditional rounded muffin. Cover muffins with plastic wrap for one last resting for another 15 minutes.
Warm a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and then lightly brown each side of the English muffins, a few at a time.
Transfer the muffins to a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 205° F is met. Let the muffins rest on a cooling rack before cutting into.
*To freeze any extras, let them come to room temperature, transfer to a zip-lock bag, press out any excess air, and freeze.