Sunday, June 3, 2012

English Muffins - Buttered Bliss

Why?  Because breakfast doesn't get any better than this.
The lower element for our oven finally came in this week. To celebrate...I decided to make English muffins. Which don't need the oven to cook. I didn't think of it last week, when I wanted a sandwich but had no bread – I was too focused on tortillas – especially after the wonderful and generous Page G gave us a tortilla press! Now, when I can make actual bread, I decide that English muffins would be better.

I'm logical like that.

There are two basic variations of English muffin recipes. One calls for making a batter, pouring it into rings, then cooking on a griddle or skillet. The other has a stiffer dough that gets rolled out, and the muffins are cut out like biscuits. The second method also usually calls for cooking on a griddle or skillet, although the odd recipe or two says to bake them.

Batter, pre-proofing.  I had to resist adding more flour.
I decided to go with the batter method, mostly because I made them once a couple of years ago and they turned out well. I'm not sure why I haven't made them again since then, but I can guarantee it won't be another two years before the next time. It probably won't be two days, honestly.

I used Alton Brown's recipe with the slight adjustment of using lard instead of shortening. Why lard? After last week's experiments in tortilla making, the feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of lard over shortening so we bought lard instead of shortening on our monthly shopping trip.

Turns out lard makes excellent tortillas – much lighter than oil. It worked out pretty well in the English muffins as well.

"Custom" muffin rings.  AKA wide-mouth canning rings
Like tortillas, English muffins are so easy to make that I don't know why I haven't been making them forever. The total time invested was less than an hour, half of which was waiting for the dough to proof. Once the dough was proofed, I was able to make the rest of breakfast while the muffins cooked.

Hot, fresh, English muffins for breakfast? Yes, please.

I had a little difficulty with covering the muffins as they cooked – mostly not thinking about the broiler pan I used touching the dough and messing it up. This is easily solved, however, by putting the rings closer together and/or putting something slightly taller on the griddle for the pan to rest on.

I went an extra step and toasted the muffins before eating them. I can't imagine eating an un-toasted English muffin – the extra level of crispiness is essential to the experience.

Halfway there
The other change I made was largely an excuse to play with my new digital scale; I decided to weigh the flour instead of measuring it by volume. Supposedly, it's the only way to go, since it will always be accurate, whereas volume measurements can vary based on sifted v. non-sifted, accuracy of leveling, etc. Some people insist measuring by weight is vital to properly executing any recipe.

I'm not entirely convinced – after all, I've successfully made oodles of things without weighing my ingredients – but I will admit I like the idea of accuracy. Also, I want to start putting actual cost comparisons up with the recipes that are more than just a guesstimate. Since most of the ingredients give a weight-based price, it makes sense to weigh out how much I use.

Of course, I didn't weigh all the ingredients for this, the first attempt. In my defense, I made these first thing in the morning and wasn't fully caffeinated yet. Also, some ingredients I don't have price variants for. I will get better, I promise. I'm making a spreadsheet and everything. Organization. I can learn.

Based on the prices I do know (everything except sugar and salt), I can safely say this recipe costs less than one dollar to make. It probably comes in under fifty cents (I can't imagine the cost of the sugar and salt combined are much more than 10 cents, considering how little the other ingredients cost).

I may have had trouble waiting...
Considering the output – eight English muffins – the per-unit cost is somewhere less than $0.13. Costco's best price is $4.33 for 12 muffins, or $0.36 each. While 36 cents doesn't seem like an outrageous price, who doesn't like getting something for 1/3 of the price? There's also – as always – the bonus of ingredient control.

  These turned out wonderfully, with all the nooks and crannies you could hope for, just waiting for butter to melt into them and jam to seal them off.  I may or may not have eaten more than one before I let Randy know breakfast was ready. This probably off-set the health benefit of making my own.  I'll just have to make them more often so the novelty wears off and I can resist temptation better.

  • 1 cup warm milk ($0.19)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon lard ($0.05 max – guessed on weight)
  • 1 envelope (7 grams) dry yeast ($0.04)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted ($0.16)
  • Non-stick vegetable spray
  • Special equipment: electric griddle, 3-inch metal rings (or wide-mouth canning rings)
Total known cost: $0.44. Total estimated cost: $0.60.
In a bowl combine the milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and lard. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. In a separate bowl combine the yeast and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in 1/3 cup of warm water and rest until yeast starts to bubble. Add this to the milk mixture. Add the flour and beat thoroughly with wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
Preheat the griddle to 300 degrees F. This equates to medium or medium-low on your stove top – 4 or 5 on the dial.
Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to mixture and beat thoroughly. Place metal rings onto the griddle and coat lightly with vegetable spray. Equally divide the batter into eight rings. Cook for 6 minutes. Remove the lid and flip rings using tongs. Cover with the lid and cook for another 6 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a cooling rack, remove rings and cool. Split with fork and serve.
Linked to This Week's Cravings via the Daily Dish

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  1. Becky - now that we know Briar has celiac - you should try experimenting with diff, gluten-free flours: sorghum, coconut, rice, graham (garbanzo), fava, tapioca & of course cornmeal. The guar & xanthum gums are a bit pricey, but the flours seem to bring an extra flavor to the recipes that's really nice. (think coconut flour for crepes or cakes).

    1. Randy's sister has to eat gluten free also, so I've been researching GF recipes for when she visits this summer. There are a lot of differences in technique from regular baking that I'll have to practice. Bread is more of a batter than a dough, etc...very strange to me. I'm still reading up on GF ingredients, recipes, etc. I want to make torts, pizza dough, and bread this summer. We'll see how it works out.

      I'm also trying to slowly build up a variety of flours (I just got some rice flour this shopping trip) and finding them in bulk is more challenging than I had hoped. I hate paying the prices for the pre-packaged gluten-free flour mixes or even just the individual flours - it's at least three times as expensive!

      Where do you find guar/xanthum gum? I didn't look at the store this month because I was focused on getting the flours. Can you even get those at a regular grocery store?