I’m never buying English muffins from the grocery store, again. After making this recipe four times in two weeks, tweaking it here and there along the way, why would I? The store-bought versions don’t hold a nook or a cranny to these crisp-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside homemade ones. They’ve even enabled me to convince my husband, Mr. “I don’t eat breakfast,” to take a freshly-toasted-and-buttered muffin along with him to work each morning.
Folks, that’s nothing short of a miracle. Hmmm…. “Miracle Muffins” has a nice ring to it, yes?
The inspiration for these sweet-swirled bundles originally struck courtesy of The Model Bakery Cookbook. Model Bakery is a charming–and very popular–little spot located in St. Helena, California. I first discovered it when I was a finalist in Sutter Home’s Build a Better Burger cook-off, around 2009. Sutter Home’s executive chef, who carefully sourced all of our ingredients (including my cactus paddles–not the easiest thing to find in Napa Valley!), provided me with the most beautifully golden brown and buttery brioche hamburger buns for my Blue Corn Desert Oasis Burgers with Cactus Corn Salsa and Pepita Guacamole.
I came in second……so I made a beeline for the bakery and a consolation croissant.
Model Bakery is known for their English muffins, especially after they were featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. So, naturally, their English muffins are the very first recipe listed in their cookbook.
These large, “free-form” muffins begin with a biga, or a starter, which adds complexity to a bread’s flavor as well as a light open texture with holes, as seen in this photo:
As I mentioned, I created this recipe four times over the past few weeks. The first time, I followed the cookbook’s ingredients and method to a T. The second time, I kept the English muffins plain, but I played around with some of the ingredients. The third and fourth times, I turned the muffins into a cinnamon-raisin flavor, incorporating a cinnamon-roll-like swirl on my final try.
Other changes that I made include using whole milk in place of the water, which seemed to create a more interesting texture. I also slightly bumped up the yeast in the biga, and I used regular unsalted butter for cooking in place of clarified butter.
The resulting English muffins have influences of both a sweet bakery cinnamon roll and buttery pain aux raisin. Fresh from the toaster, they fill your kitchen with the most enticing aroma. You’ll be making your second, third and fourth batches very soon, too!
Crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside, these buttery-sweet cinnamon raisin English muffins will make you never want to use the store bought version again! Cooking them on a cast iron surface yields the best results, but a heavy large skillet will also do the trick.
- 1/2 cup (75 g) bread flour
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) instant yeast
- 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) water
- 3/4 tsp (3.75 mL) instant yeast
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- 1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) kosher salt
- 3-1/2 cups (510 g) all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup (250 mL) dark plump raisins
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) yellow cornmeal
- 6-8 tbsp (90-120 mL) softened butter
- The day before you want to cook the English muffins, mix the flour, water and yeast in a small bowl until you have a sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator of at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours (the dough will only rise a little bit during this time.)
- Mix together the milk and water in a microwave-safe container, and heat in the microwave until warm, but not hot.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the biga, milk, water, yeast, olive oil and salt on medium-low speed until the mixture starts to look creamy, 1-2 minutes.
- Gradually, mix in 3 cups of the flour until you have a soft and sticky dough.
- Mix in the raisins and turn off the mixer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour to make a soft dough. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is very smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand before shaping the dough into a smooth ball.
- Coat the inside of a medium to large bowl with oil, and then place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until it has doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the cinnamon-swirl.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out into a rectangle, roughly 14X10 inches in size, long side facing you. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the dough's surface.
- Gently roll up the dough, cinnamon-roll style, and then pinch the seam together to seal. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 equal slices.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal over two baking sheets. Take one of the slices and press it into a 4-inch round. Place the round on a baking sheet, turning to coat both sides with cornmeal. Repeat with the remaining rounds, until you have six rounds on each baking sheet, spaced apart. Loosely cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and allow the rounds to rise in a warm place for one hour or until they have increased in volume by half.
- Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) or on a griddle over medium heat. Working in batched, add the rounds of dough to the skillet. Cook for about 6 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed so that the surfaces brown but don't burn. Transfer the finished English muffins to paper towels to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining rounds, wiping out the skillet between each batch.
- Split the muffins in half and toast until lightly browned. Leftovers keep well for a few days in zip-top bags, or you can freeze them, sealed, for a few weeks.