2.18.2013

Buckwheat English Muffins and Punky's Dilemma


Wish I was an English muffin
‘Bout to make the most out of a toaster.
I’d ease myself down,
Comin' up brown.
I prefer boysenberry more than any ordinary jam.
I’m a “citizens for boysenberry jam” fan.

-“Punky’s Dilemma,” Simon and Garfunkel

Last winter, I covered one of the walls of my kitchen with chalkboard paint.  The first thing I wrote was "I'm a 'citizens for boysenberry jam' fan."  And though most of the wall serves as a rotating menu board of savories and sweets to make (and eat), the line stays.  As a constant.

But I recently crossed English Muffins off.  English Muffins.  There.  That’s better. 

I like English muffins lightly toasted, the crannies hotly bothered with butter.  No jam necessary.  Treated simply.  Smelling of yeast and toast. 

Which brings me to buckwheat.  Its slight nutty grittiness butters splendidly.  Though you could easily convert the buckwheat into a white or whole wheat translation and achieve grand results, I’m sure.

The recipe itself is not too terribly difficult, though it does require some attention.  If you have a griddle, you’ll be done in under an hour.  If you have a skillet, you’ll be batch-baking muffins in a cast iron from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM.  No matter.   It’s really no different than spending a Saturday with a pot of soup bubbling away on the stovetop.

I should be very, very clear here: the muffins are worth it.  You’ll need to cook them low and slow.  But they’ll rise, get billowy, and then shrug and slump a bit when you flip them.  They’re soft and easily split with a fork, with all the nooks and crannies you’d expect a proper English muffin to have.

And so the recipe stays.  As a new constant.  Ready to make the most out of a toaster.  Citizens, take note.

Buckwheat English Muffins

Ingredients:

3½ cups bread flour, sifted
1 cup buckwheat flour, sifted
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp butter, softened
1½ tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1¾ cups lukewarm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1 egg, lightly beaten
cornmeal, for sprinkling

Instructions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast, butter, salt, and sugar and begin to mix on low speed with a paddle attachment (not dough hook).  Slowly pour in the milk and then the egg; mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  If the dough sticks to the bowl as it is mixing, scrape down the sides occasionally.  (Throwing in a pinch of bread flour while it is mixing may help too.) The dough is done when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours. 

Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a surface dusted with flour.  Cut the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces by dividing it in half and then splitting each half in half and then dividing each of your four pieces of dough into thirds.

Form each piece of dough into a ball, stretching the ends of the dough and gathering them together underneath, so that the tops of each piece are smooth.  Flatten each ball into a 3½ inch diameter round; dust the tops and bottoms with cornmeal.  Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.  (They will puff up a bit.)

Heat a cast iron pan on low heat (or set a griddle to 300 degrees).  Very lightly grease the pan with canola oil for the first round of baking (after this initial greasing I did not re-grease).  Working in batches of 3 or 4, place the muffin rounds on the pan. (This will be done all at once if using a griddle.)  Cook each muffin 15 to 20 minutes and then flip and cook the other side for 15 to 20 minutes more.  If you notice the muffins are browning too quickly, turn down the heat.  The muffins can be checked for doneness by inserting a thermometer into one of their centers; it should read 180 to 200 degrees.  Between batches, sweep off any leftover cornmeal bits so they do not burn.

Let cool and then split by working your way around the muffin with a fork.

Makes 12 English muffins

Notes:
-I questioned the recipe the entire way through.  No dough hook?  No blooming of the yeast?  No use of an oven?  But it yielded great results.

-If your kitchen is incredible dry, you may want to cover the English muffins with plastic wrap, instead of a towel, which can help prevent a skin from forming on the muffins (which may inhibit their rising).  I didn’t have any issues with the towel, but just a word of caution.

-As so often the case with me, they freeze well. (No need to split them prior to freezing.)

5 comments:

  1. A good English muffin slather with butter is definitely something that makes hours of baking worth it!

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  2. Mmmm! Sound and look delicious!
    I'd love to see a photo of your chalkboard wall sometime!

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  3. English muffins are one of those things I've never quite been able to get right at home, but this gives me hope! Do you think I could substitute an equivalent amount of instant yeast for the active-dry, or is there something weirdly magical about non-bloomed active-dry here?

    I too am a fan of anything that I can stash in the freezer and eat at my leisure.

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  4. Bianca: Definitely worth the butter! ;)

    Mimi: There is a pic of my wall in the "about a plum" page on my blog; it's from the summer and you might be able to see my boyfriend got to it and scribbled in some suggestions. :)

    Katie: I absolutely believe you can sub in instant yeast … because that was what the original version called for. I didn't have instant, only active, so I crossed my fingers. (I was actually surprised these came out so well; was definitely a throw-caution-to-the-wind baking day.)

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  5. Hi,

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