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Ever since I saw Michael Chiarello on the Food Network boasting about the deliciousness of Model Bakery’s homemade english muffin, I knew I had to get my hands on one. I had heard of Model Bakery (in St. Helena in the Napa Valley), but hadn’t yet found the time to visit. I think the reason is because they are located in the northern part of the valley and I was always easily sidetracked by Bouchon Bakery, Dean & Deluca, and the many wineries along the way. A couple of years ago though, they opened a second store in the town of Napa in the new Oxbow Public Market. It was here, in their new southern location, that I finally got my hands on one of their muffins. It was everything Michael Chiarello said it would be: fluffy, buttery, airy, and light. The only problem? I live 200 miles from Napa. The only way I can enjoy a fresh, hot english muffin whenever I have a craving is if I make it myself.

When I started looking at recipes, I quickly learned that “nooks and crannies” are a staple of english muffins. I am still not exactly sure why this became the signature characteristic of an english muffin, but I would like to think they are important because they collect more butter, jam, or hollandaise! After scouring the web and finding so many different recipes and techniques, I finally settled on Michael Rhulman’s. I like that his recipe is simple, and all the ingredients are ones that I always have on hand in my kitchen. Right before cooking the dough, you fold in baking powder which creates tiny air bubbles. This gives the muffin that perfect ratio of nooks and crannies while the texture is still nice and soft and the flavor is mild with a nice hint of yeast.

The coolest thing I think about cooking english muffins is that no oven is required. They are cooked on a hot skillet or a griddle like a pancake. Surprisingly, as much as my husband and I love breakfast (and pancakes), we just bought our first electric griddle. We have always cooked everything on the stove top, but decided to give in to the Cuisinart Griddler this winter. The Griddler is awesome. With reversible plates (flat & “grill”), it can be used as a panini press, grill, contact grill, or opened up and used as a full size griddle. I set the temperature to 325F, and I had hot english muffins in 20 minutes. As good as the muffins are on their own, I pried them in half using a fork (better than using a knife because it creates more nooks), toasted them, and then slathered them with my kumquat tangelo marmalade. They were so good. Just as good as if I were eating one in the Napa Valley (well almost, except for that whole lack of scenery and winery thing).

Stay tuned for my next post, when I use the homemade english muffins as part of a Spring “green” breakfast sandwich.

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English Muffins
Recipe from Michael Ruhlman
Makes 10-12

2 oz (4 TBSP) Butter
1 TBSP Sugar
16 oz (2 cups) Milk
1 package (1 1/2 tsp) Active Dry Yeast
1 Egg – large, beaten
16 oz (4 cups) All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder dissolved in 1 tsp warm water
1/4 cup Cornmeal – for dusting

*Optional – use clarified butter for cooking the english muffins
*Spread with Kumquat Tangelo Marmalade (yummy!)

  1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk and egg & heat to 110-120F. Add the yeast & let it dissolve.  
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Slowly stream in the milk mixture. Gently fold the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for an hour or so. The dough will rise and double.                   
  3. Heat a griddle to 325F. If using a pan on the stove, the heat should be set to medium. Sprinkle the surface with cornmeal. Stir the dissolved baking powder into the dough. The batter will be thick and sticky. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the dough onto the griddle. If the dough sizzles, the skillet is too hot, and needs to be turned down. If you have ring molds, spray them with a little oil and scoop the dough into the ring mold. You can remove the mold after 5 minutes or so. Cook the muffin for 8 minutes on one side, and then flip and cook 8 minutes more on the other side. If they still seem a little doughy, you can finish them in the oven (350F for 5 minutes). If you want the english muffins to be even more crisp and caramelized on the outside, use clarified butter on the griddle while cooking.          
  4. Let the muffins cool for at least 10 minutes. Rather than using a knife to cut them in half, use a fork to pry them open. This helps with the “nooks and crannies.” Eat them as is, or toast them and spread on butter, jam, or peanut butter.