There is really no better vehicle for melted butter than the craggy dips and toasted peaks of an English muffin. I think we can all agree on this. Have you ever tried making them yourself? They're surprisingly straightforward! And since the dough is best when made ahead and refrigerated overnight, they've become one of my favorite treats to make over long, lazy weekends.
Here's a step-by-step recipe for making a batch of English muffins for you and anyone lucky enough to be invited to your table.
A Slow Rise Makes Better English Muffins
I've done a lot of experimenting with my beloved English muffins over the years, and I've found that the best flavor and most craggy interior texture comes from a long, slow rise. First, I make what's called a "starter," which is really just a mini batter of flour, water, and yeast. Let this bubble for anywhere from an hour to 12 hours, and then mix up the dough. If you have some active sourdough starter, use that instead of yeast for a nice, sour tang to the muffins.
Second, I recommend mixing up the dough and letting it slowly rise in the fridge overnight. In fact, you can make the dough and keep it in the fridge for up to four days — the flavor just gets better and takes on a bit of lovely sourness, even if no sourdough was actually used.
You can also make these English muffins straight through if you like — let the starter get bubbly, then mix it with the dough. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, and then you're good to go. Muffins made all in one go like this will have a very mild flavor and a softer texture.
Do You Need English Muffin Rings?
If perfectly round English muffins are your aim, then muffin rings will help. But this dough is sturdy enough that you don't really need them — the hand-shaped rounds hold their shape quite well during baking.
(Muffin rings really come in handy if you're making crumpets, which are made with a looser, more batter-like dough.)
"Bake" Muffins on the Stovetop
English muffins are stovetop affairs — no need to turn on the oven! Cook them in a large skillet (cast iron, stainless steel, or nonstick are all fine) with just a bit of butter to keep them from sticking.
They get their distinctive puck-like appearance because you cook them part of the way on one side, then flip them over and cook them on the other side. The only tricky part here is getting the pan temperature right — you want it hot enough that the muffins get toasty and brown, but not so hot that the outside browns before the middle is cooked through. About six minutes per side is ideal — adjust your heat as needed.
Eat While Hot — or Not!
Fresh English muffins just off the griddle are a real treat, but the leftovers keep quite well for up to a week, and they are fantastic toasted and spread with butter. Some people I've met even prefer English muffins that are a few days old and have had a chance to dry out a bit.
Happily, this recipe makes enough that you can try them both ways and decide for yourself.
I have made these English muffins many times since I first posted about them five years ago. I tend to think of them as a "special occasion" treat, but then I'm always a little surprised at how relatively simple they are to make. Note to self: Make English muffins way more often.
This recipe has all the little tweaks I've made over the years, including my discovery that more time and a slower rise really improve the flavor and texture of the muffins. This recipe also makes a firmer dough than some other English muffin recipes, but I find that it makes the dough much easier to work with, especially if you don't have molds. (And, yes, I still need to work on my crumpets!)
I hope you enjoy these English muffins as much as I do!
- Emma, March 2015
Knead the dough: With a dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand against the counter. If the dough is very sticky like bubble gum, add extra flour as needed, but err on the side of caution. The dough is ready when it forms into a smooth ball and springs back when poked; it will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but shouldn't stick to your bowl or your hands.
How To Make English Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
What You Need
For the dough starter:
3/4 cup (3 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour or bread flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast (or 2 tablespoons active sourdough starter)
For the English muffin dough:
1 cup milk, whole or 2%
1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/4 cups (13 1/2 to 14 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour or bread flour
Cornmeal for dusting
Butter for the skillet
Measuring cups and spoons
Stand mixer (optional)
English muffin rings (optional)
Large skillet (cast iron, stainless steel, or nonstick)
Make the dough starter: Mix the flour, water, and yeast for the starter in a small mixing bowl. Beat until the batter is smooth and glossy, about 100 strokes.
Let the starter sit 1 to 12 hours: Cover the starter and place it out of the way for at least 1 or up to 12 hours. The starter will become increasingly bubbly the longer it sits and will double in bulk. The longer you can let the starter ferment, the better the flavor and structure of your finished English muffins.
Whisk together the water, yeast, and starter: In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk and yeast for the dough. Scrape the starter into the bowl and use a whisk to break it up and dissolve it into the milk. It should become quite frothy.
Mix the dough together: Add the sugar, butter, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 cups of the flour and stir with a stiff spatula until you form a shaggy, floury dough.
Knead the dough: With a dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand against the counter. If the dough is very sticky like bubble gum, add extra flour as needed, but err on the side of caution. The dough is ready when it forms into a smooth ball and springs back when poked; it will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but shouldn't stick to the bowl or your hands.
Let the dough rise overnight in the fridge: Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly filmed with oil. Cover and place in the fridge overnight or for up to 3 days.
→ Quicker English Muffins: You can also let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and then make the muffins immediately. These muffins will have a milder flavor.
Divide and shape the muffins: Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece gently against the counter to shape into smooth, round balls.
Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet to rise: Scatter cornmeal generously over a baking sheet and arrange the balls on top, spaced a little apart. If you have muffin rings, place them around the balls at this point. Sprinkle the tops of the balls with more cornmeal.
Let the muffins rise until puffy: For dough that was refrigerated, this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours; for room temperature dough, this will take about 1 hour. Depending on the size of your muffin rings, the muffins may not totally fill the rings — that's okay.
Warm a skillet: When ready to cook the muffins, warm a large skillet over medium heat. Melt a small pat of butter — enough to just coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking.
Cook the muffins 5 to 6 minutes on one side: Working in batches, transfer a few of the muffins to the skillet — allow an inch or so of space between muffins and do not crowd the pan. If using rings, transfer the muffins with their rings to the pan. Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
Flip and cook 5 to 6 minutes on the other side: Flip the muffins and cook the other side until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. If you prefer thinner, less puffy English muffins, you can gently press the tops with the spatula to prevent them from rising too much.
Adjust the heat as needed: If your muffins seem to be browning too quickly on the bottoms (or not quickly enough), adjust the heat as needed. (If you find that your muffins are browning too quickly, throw them in the oven at 350°F to finish baking through.)
Finish cooking all of the muffins: Transfer cooked muffins to a cooling rack. Continue working in batches until all the muffins have been cooked. Add a small pat of butter to the pan between batches to prevent sticking.
Split and serve! Split the English muffins with a fork, spread with butter or jam (or both!), and eat. English muffins will keep for several days in an airtight container on the counter and are fantastic warmed in the toaster oven. Fresh English muffins can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and kept frozen for up to 3 months.
Vegan English Muffins: Replace the milk in the main dough with water, almond milk, or soy milk. Replace the butter with olive oil.
Crumpets: Increase the milk by 3/4 cup — this will make a looser dough, closer to a batter. Instead of shaping muffins by hand, allow the batter to come to room temperature after refrigeration, then drop generous spoonfuls onto a hot skillet, using English muffin rings as molds. Allow to cook until bubbly (like pancakes), then flip and cook the other side.