English muffins are small, puck-shaped breads that are cooked on a griddle and popularly eaten for breakfast or brunch. They are typically cut in half horizontally, toasted and buttered, and may also be eaten with various sweet or savoury breakfast items such as fruit jelly or honey, eggs, sausage, bacon, spinach or cheese.
One of the key features of the English muffin is its irregular, honeycomb-like crumb, made up of numerous tiny air pockets that form throughout the dough during proving and cooking. Often referred to as ‘nooks and crannies’, this porous texture means that all those tasty toppings - think butter, egg yolks, melted cheese or hollandaise sauce - can really get inside an English muffin and infuse it with all their delicious flavours.
English muffins are popular in various English-speaking countries, including Great Britain, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. They are referred to as English muffins to differentiate them from sweet, cupcake-like American muffins, and also because they seem to have first been made in England.
There is a popular myth that the English muffin was first made in New York in the late nineteenth century by English immigrant Samuel Bath Thomas, who based them on a recipe for crumpets and began selling them to unsuspecting Americans as an English delicacy. It’s a great story, but sadly, it isn’t quite true, as recipes for muffins can be found in British cookbooks as far back as 1758. Thomas was a real person, however, and as founder of Thomas’ English Muffins, is likely to have played a part in popularising this breakfast favourite in the States.
Total time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Active dry yeast,
1 cup, warm
¼ cup, melted, plus extra for greasing
All purpose flour,
Add the milk to a small saucepan and heat on medium-low until it begins to boil.
Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is fully dissolved. Put aside and wait for it to cool slightly.
Add the warm water and yeast to a small bowl so the yeast dissolves in the water. Let it stand for around 10 minutes, until the mixture has a creamy consistency.
Mix the milk, yeast mixture, margarine and half of the flour together in a large bowl, beating with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Add the salt and enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Knead the dough for a few minutes, then grease the inside of a separate bowl and place the dough inside.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to prove for around 30 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, knock it back by pressing down gently with your knuckles, then roll it out to approximately ½ inch thick.
Lay a sheet of waxed paper out on a clean, flat surface, and dust with cornmeal.
Cut the dough into rounds using a cookie cutter or the edge of a glass tumbler, and arrange them all on top of the waxed paper.
Dust the tops of each round of dough with a little more cornmeal, then cover and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.
Use a little more margarine to grease a griddle, then turn up the heat to medium.
Cook each muffin for around 10 minutes on each side, and allow to cool slightly before serving.
How to toast English muffins
One of the best ways to enjoy English muffins is lightly toasted and oozing with melted butter. If you’re short on time, you can just slice them in half and put them in the toaster, but for the perfect, golden brown, buttery muffin, we prefer this simple oven toasting technique.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
The soft insides of the muffin toast up best of all, so make sure you cut the muffin in half before you start toasting.
Spread butter on both halves of the muffin, both on the cut and uncut sides.
Place the muffins cut side down on a baking sheet and cook until they turn a light golden brown colour.
Flip them over and cook for a few more minutes, until the cut side also begins to brown.
Add any toppings, like cheese or vegetables, and cook for a little longer.
Remove carefully from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Serve warm, and enjoy.
Make your English muffins the best they can be with these simple tips and tricks.
If you like a denser, chewier muffin, try replacing the all-purpose flour with a higher-gluten bread flour.
Give your muffins extra flavour by letting the dough prove for longer. Two 30 minute provings works perfectly well, but if you have the time, try proving for 4 or even 8 hours to really allow those flavours to develop.
For best results, leave the dough to prove somewhere warm, but not hot, and keep it out of direct sunlight as this can harm the yeast.
Use a heavy-bottomed cast iron griddle or skillet for cooking your muffins, as this will help to maintain an even temperature.
Rotate the pan while cooking, or shake it slightly to move the muffins around. This will help to ensure they cook more evenly.
Brush any loose cornmeal out of the pan before cooking the next muffin. If you leave it in it may start to burn and create an unpleasant flavour.
If your muffins turn out slightly under-baked, you can fix them by cooking them in the oven at 350°F for around 3 minutes.
To get the full effect of those nooks and crannies, avoid cutting an English muffin in half with a knife. Instead, poke a fork around the edges until it pulls apart easily.