Monday, August 17, 2009

BBA Challenge #12: English Muffins (aka Toasties)

Although I made these English Muffins quite a while ago, I am only now getting to them. Forgive me, dearest Readers, as I meant to do a short write-up about them before our visitors came, but I just ran out of time. Once they left, however, we were preparing for Paris, and the English Muffins were pushed to the wayside. So much for me keeping up with the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, eh?

I always thought that English Muffins were something that could only be machine made. This of course, coming from someone who makes bread and has even had a go at making fresh tortillas. Don't worry, I've already earmarked it for a post, though I might have to write it in German, to keep my language skills fresh.

However, these English Muffins were so easy that I could not believe there wasn't some trick to them. It all started so innocently...

Here I have, for your aesthetic enjoyment, a mise en place that even Peter Reinhart would be proud of. However, I had to use iodized salt as I had run out of sea salt. Note that the salt is in what has now become my default salt bowl, in the upper right corner. I'm thinking of getting another one in red for the yeast, as the yeast amounts are just as small.

The DLX laughed at this dough. In went the wet ingredients, in went the dry ingredients. After a few minutes, the dough came toghether and formed the nicest smoothest dough I have ever worked with.

I went with the time tested tried and true method of letting the dough rise in a plastic bowl. On the bottom are my finger indentations, as I just loved the texture of the dough.

Here you can see where the dough has adapted to the finger indentations. It almost looks like the man on the moon.

The dough was cut into six equal pieces. I did weigh them and all, and even had a small 10g piece to snack on. Of course raw dough is never great, but, again, I loved the texture, and just had to taste it. The dough was amazing the first moment on the tongue, but then it just sort of became- well, shall I say it, or is it too obvious? It became doughy.

The pieces were formed into mini boules. I actually have some practice with this, as this is my preferred bread-shaping method, so I can truthfully say that I have been doing this for years. Of course, I have been doing little else with my bread for years, but at least I have this one down.

The boules are then allowed to rise on a baking sheet on oiled parchment. It seemed odd, since they would cook in a pan and then in the oven, never returning to the parchment.

This is the most expensive pan I have ever bought. Okay, I've only bought like six in my lifetime because I choose wisely and take very good care of them. I only use wooden utensils on non-stick and try to cook as much as I can with cast iron. This one was bought at Coledampf's CulturCentrum on Uhlandstrasse for an ungodly sum that made me gasp when the saleslady answered my question on the price.

This cast iron pan is about 30cm across and comes from Ronneby Bruk in Sweden. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had a set of three lodge pans as well as an amazing Dutch Oven that my roommate had given me as a gift. There was no way I was going to go through the expense of shipping them over, so when I moved I decided to get one here. Iron must be scarce in Germany, because the only cast iron pans you can get come from either France or Sweden. Plus they are wickedly expensive.

But they are quite amazing. I cannot imagine cooking without one for any extended period of time. I found it the natural choice for the English Muffins.

They were griddle baked in batches of three, seeing as there were six, and I had room enough for three per batch. Despite my worries, they did not burn at five minutes when I flipped them over.

By the by, the cast iron pan has a wooden handle, which I don't mind, since the pan itself would barely fit in my oven. I do have two small ones that we got second-hand in Belgium, which I have used in the oven before, though.

Despite this beautiful photo, I did manage to burn one side of three of the muffins. This happened because we were getting ready for a party and I had miscalculated the time. I had a timer on them, and was good about getting them into the oven, but alas, the timer is about four years old with a defective bell. So you have to listen carefully. Which is terrible if you're running about trying to pull clothes onto yourself.

Nevertheless, they did come out great. They tasted a little like white bread, and were more moist than what I am used to. Here, they are called Toasties, which is infinitely puzzling, but makes just as much sense as having a name called Kicker, which is known in the States as Foosball, and whose name probably comes from the German word for Football: Fussball.

Maybe they are called Toasties because Germans rarely toast their bread, thus giving them an indication of how they are supposed to eat the bread. Untoasted Toasties aren't that delicious, after all.

Here's a picture of the crust. Fork-split, just like in the advertisements. However, a bit devoid of the famous nooks and crannies. Of course, I really didn't mind, as I have always thought that was a bunch of hogwash anyhow.

Untoasted, these were really good. Toasted, however, they were fabulous. Lovely crumb texture, in keeping with the dough. I had one with Nutella, as well as one with Sirop de Liège.

Next up is Foccacia, which is chilling in the fridge, awaiting its big day to-morrow. However, I may try to squeeze in some posts about Paris, as I have the urge to write volumes about it. Soon.

Paris is amazing, but so is the comfort of being able to relax at home.


  1. Beautiful post~ loved these 'toasties' as well! Found you on Twitter...

  2. Lovely job...look at those holes! Congrats...

    And I can't believe you've ate the dough. I may have to try that with the next bread I make.

  3. The english muffins were fun and the baking in the pan was interesting. However, the focaccia rocked our socks. Just loved that bread.

    Nicely done!

  4. Great post as always Daniel. Your muffins look fabulous. Can't wait to read about your focaccia!

  5. Your english muffins look fantastic. YUM. I'm missing them already.

  6. They don't have the crannies but they taste and look great. Looking forward to the focaccia post.:)

  7. I've been wanting to try the recipe myself, so it's great to see your report, and the pictures.

    I wonder what missing crannies you refer too, though: the muffin on the picture seems plenty cranny-y to me, no?