Food & Drink

No-knead English muffins are hard to beat

No-Knead English Muffins. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.
No-Knead English Muffins. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.

Can you stir together ingredients in a bowl? Can you make pancakes? Then I’m confident you can make English muffins.

Given the increasingly urgent emphasis on social distancing and the challenges of finding certain grocery store staples due to the coronavirus, now might be as good a time as any if your must-haves involve a certain brand known for its enticing nooks and crannies.

With a handful of ingredients and a limited amount of active work, you can have a dozen tender, tall and flavorful English muffins to enjoy now or later. They were never really part of my morning routine. But in my recent drive for better breakfasts, English muffins became an ideal bread for frittata or fried egg sandwiches. Now I can hardly imagine going a week without this recipe.

Three attempts into testing recipes for the small yeasted rounds, I was feeling as deflated as a failed dough. Nothing came close to the right texture. What I basically ended up with were griddled rolls. Tasty, just not right. Then came Stella Parks, she of “BraveTart” and Serious Eats fame, and about as a reliable recipe source as any. Hers were fantastic. Similar to Thomas’s brand, but a thousand times tastier. Gently pulling apart the warm muffins with my fingers revealed a veritable lunar surface of nooks and crannies, perfect for catching butter and jam once toasted.

Parks’s recipe is all the more appealing for being a no-knead dough, which is mixed by hand for about 5 minutes and then later dropped onto a baking sheet. The wet dough would be impossible to knead anyway. The high moisture and slow rise - on the counter for a few hours and then overnight in the refrigerator once shaped - pave the way for deep flavor and the desired texture. The dough is one-third whole-wheat flour, contributing a slightly hearty, nutty flavor and tender crumb.

After a spell in the fridge, the muffins are cooked on a cast-iron griddle or skillet for about 16 minutes total. Don’t rush the process or crank the heat. Keeping the burner on medium-low for a longer amount of time ensures proper rise and a completely cooked middle. Too many of my other recipes scorched on the outside before the interior set.

To close out my English muffin push, I ended up making three batches to capture the muffins in various stages for the photographs you see. Sometimes, when I’m testing a recipe, I get tired of eating the results. This one? Not so much - and everyone at the office who filled a bag to take home agreed. Now it’s your turn.

NO-KNEAD ENGLISH MUFFINS

Active: 1 hour | Total: 17 hours, plus more time in the fridge as desired

Makes 12 muffins

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These no-knead English muffins are chock-full of the nooks and crannies so many of us adore in the breakfast staple. A fairly wet dough and a long overnight rise contribute to the signature texture as well. Whole-wheat flour and a little honey make for a tender, flavorful interior.

This recipe requires nothing in the way of special equipment. It is simply stirred together in a bowl, dropped onto a baking sheet and griddled on cast-iron. There’s no need for rings to cook the dough, as it holds it shape well.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to rise at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours. The shaped muffins then rise for 12 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Store the cooked muffins in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature, a month in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.

2 cups (285 grams) bread flour

1 cup (142 grams) whole-wheat flour

2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal (may substitute half as much table salt by volume)

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (not rapid-rise)

1 1/2 cups (355 milliliters) cold milk (any percentage)

1/4 cup (100 grams) honey

1 large egg white, cold

1 cup (142 grams) fine cornmeal, for dusting

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, bacon fat or oil, plus more as needed

In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, kosher salt and yeast until well combined. Add the milk, honey and egg white, stirring with a flexible spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be fairly wet but elastic, and will start to come together into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate (or transfer to a lidded container) and set aside at room temperature (70 degrees) for 4 to 5 hours, until the dough is spongy, light and has more than doubled in size. (The timing is flexible depending on your schedule.)

Generously cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with an even layer of cornmeal (you may use about half to three-quarters of it). With a large spoon, dollop out a dozen 2 2/3-ounce (75 grams) portions of dough; it’s perfectly fine to do this by eye. If you’d like, pinch the irregular blobs with slightly dampened fingers to tidy their shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 48 hours.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. (If you have an electric griddle, preheat it to 325 degrees.) When it’s sizzling-hot (check by sprinkling a few small drops of water), add half the butter and melt. Griddle the muffins until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating each muffin 180 degrees halfway through so the outer edges are moved to the center for even browning. Flip with a square-end spatula and griddle until the other side is golden brown as well. Depending on the size of your skillet or griddle, you may have to cook the muffins in batches, adding 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet each time. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time. Toast before serving.

Nutrition | Calories: 220; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 270 mg; Carbohydrates: 44 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 7 g.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Stella Parks at Serious Eats

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