Friday, December 28, 2012

Carla Emery's English Muffins

The Encyclopedia Of Country Living, by Carla Emery, was at one time my go-to guide for everything.  It is dubbed as an old fashioned recipe book, but is so much more.  In a time before Smartphones, Google and Pinterest, this book was IT for two suburbanites looking for backwoods-country living how-to's and encouragement.

When S. and I decided we were going to move North(!) into the woods of Maine(!!), and live a more simple primitive life, it turned out to be anything but simple.  Without the kindness and help from our friends and neighbors, and the instructions from Carla, I am not sure if we would have lasted as long as we did....just about 5 years.

These English Muffins were a staple in our house at the time.  They're quick and easy to make by hand (no electric appliances are needed) with very little kneading required, and are cooked on a stove top griddle.  If you have never made your own bread before, then this is where you should start.  Although the recipe calls for white flour, you can substitute your preferred choice.  I have made   50/50 white to whole wheat flour, 50/50 white and rye flour, and 100% whole wheat pastry flour in the past and have all come out very well.

Once you have dissolved the yeast, and it has bloomed (usually about 10 mins.), add the sugar, salt, egg, butter and milk; mix well.

Add this to 4 cups of flour, mix well to incorporate all the flour at the bottom of the bowl.  You may have to hand knead the dough for about a minute to combine everything.  

The dough will be sticky, but still hold together.  Lightly oil the inside of the bowl and the top of the dough.  Turn dough upside down so oiled side is facing down, to prevent sticking while rising.  Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, let rise in a warm spot until dough is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  

Punch down and let rest 5 minutes, then turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Divide into 8 or 16 pieces, flatten and shape each section into a disc....or keep it organic....nothing wrong with a square shaped muffin....unless the voices in your head persist that you MAKE THEM ROUND!!!!  *(note how mine are round....the voices).  

Heat a lightly oiled pancake griddle, or nonstick pan, on medium heat.  Scatter a pinch of cornmeal on the griddle and fry the muffins just like you would a pancake.  When the bottom is set and browned enough to your liking, flip them over and cook the other side.  If your heat is set too high the outsides will brown without cooking the middle.  NO BIG DEAL, just slice open and fry the inside to finish them off.   Although you can eat them right away, we always thought they were best the next day; once they have cured and cooled completely, they make the best toasted homemade treat.  Once cooled store in an airtight container.

makes 8 jumbo, or 16 regular sized

1 package dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water *see note below
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 powdered milk *see note below
1 beaten egg
3 TBS butter, melted
4 cups flour
pinch of cornmeal (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water, mix and let bloom, about 10 minutes.  Add the sugar, salt, powdered milk *(if not using powdered milk, substitute 1 cup of lukewarm milk for the remaining water) remaining water, egg and butter, mix well.  Add to the flour in a large mixing bowl, stir then knead in bowl until flour is fully incorporated.  Oil the sides of bowl, turn to coat the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, let rise in warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.  Punch down, let sit for 5 minutes, turn onto lightly floured surface.  Divide into 8 sections, flattening and shaping into discs.  Oil a griddle and scatter a pinch of cornmeal on the surface, cook like pancakes, flipping when one side is done.  

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