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!
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