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English Muffins

I thought making traditional English muffins would be tricky – but these were so simple and delicious! I was surprised when they rose beautifully, and even more so when they cooked perfectly on top of the stove in a cast iron skillet. Who would have thought a light, fluffy bread could be produced so quickly?

I hate to admit that I was so excited about these that I was literally jumping for joy when they were done. Just make them. Then you’ll understand.

I also made homemade strawberry jam to top these – it was the perfect Sunday morning treat. I recommend the muffins split and toasted, then spread with butter and your favorite jam, or topped with ricotta cheese, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds.

English Muffins

adapted from a combination of sources

1 cup warm water

2 tbs sugar

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

4 1/8 cups flour

4 tbs melted butter

Cornmeal for dusting

Combine the warm water, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl and stir to dissolve. Let sit 10 minutes until foamy. Meanwhile, scald 1/2 cup milk on the stove. Add the milk and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Stir to combine, cover, and allow to proof in a warm place for 90 minutes.

When the sponge has completed proofing, add 2 1/8 cups of flour and 4 tbs melted butter. Stir to combine, then knead for 8 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface until 1/2 inch thick, cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter, or the inside rim of a juice glass. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cornmeal, and transfer the rounds to the sheet, leaving about an inch and a half between them. Sprinkle the tops with cornmeal, cover with a damp paper towel, and let rise in a warm place for an additional 30 minutes or until puffy.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and coat the bottom with butter. Transfer the muffins to the pan, leaving space between them (I could fit 5 at a time). Let cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, them flip and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.

Remove and let cool slightly. Fork split the muffins to ensure the sought after nooks and crannies by inserting 2 forks facing away from each other and gently working your way around the muffin. Enjoy!

Ciabatta Bread

Along with the seeded Italian bread that I made for Easter, I also made a homemade ciabatta for chicken salad sandwiches (my favorite of the two breads!) It was so easy to make, the flavor was great, and it was the perfect crispy-chewy texture. I will definitely be making this bread again soon – I think it would be perfect for many types of sandwiches or paninis, or just on its own with olive oil for dipping.

 

Ciabatta Bread

adapted from various recipes

For the sponge:
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup water
1 cup bread flour
For the bread:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons warm milk
2/3 cup room-temperature water
1 tablespoon light olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To make the sponge (do this the night before):
Combine sponge ingredients and stir for 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky. Place in a covered bowl and let rest at room temperature overnight.

To make the bread:
Stir all bread ingredients, with the exception of the salt, in a large bowl for 4 minutes. I used a regular mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, but you could also use a dough hook in a stand mixer if you like. Add in salt, and knead dough for 8 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at least 1 hour, or until doubled.

Remove dough from bowl (will be very sticky) and divide in half. Form two 9 inch logs and place on floured parchment on baking sheets. Flour the tops of the dough and cover with a damp paper towel. Let rise for two hours or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 425 at least half an hour before baking. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven and then transfer the parchment and dough to it when ready to bake (be sure to uncover the loaves). I don’t have one, so I just used regular baking sheets and placed those in the oven when I was ready to bake – it worked fine. Just place the racks in your oven all the way at the bottom. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Brush off excess flour and enjoy!

 

Seeded Italian Bread

For Easter this year, I decided to do a light spread of finger foods, including traditional Italian sandwiches. The sad-looking loaf of seeded bread that I picked up at the store to use for the sandwiches was terribly uninspiring, so I figured it would be better to make my own. I’m so glad I did! This bread was tender and chewy, with a delicious sesame crunch – perfect for my sandwiches! I love the process of making bread, and I think homemade really cannot be beaten by anything you get in the store.

 

Though the sandwiches themselves were not particularly glamorous looking, they were tasty especially with the hot peppers and pickles that I had alongside as optional toppings.

Italian Bread

from King Arthur Flour

4 cups flour
1/4 cup dried potato flakes
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds

In a large bowl, stir together the dough ingredients. Knead the dough for 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into two pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth 16″ log. Place the logs into the two wells of a lightly greased Italian bread pan, cover, and let the loaves rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

Brush the loaves with the egg wash, then sprinkle heavily with sesame seeds. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, until the loaves are golden brown. For the crispiest crust, turn off the oven, prop the door open, and allow the bread to cool in the oven

Grapefruit Rosemary Teacake

This teacake is moist and just slightly sweet, with a light herbal-citrus taste from the grapefruit zest, rosemary and olive oil. It is delicious served warm for Sunday brunch, especially with the addition of a grapefruit glaze. Plus, it is a treat to make – the ingredients are just so pretty and fresh!

Grapefruit Rosemary Teacake

1 3/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

3 tbs light olive oil

2 tbs honey

2 tbs grapefruit zest (the zest from 1 large grapefruit)

1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

grapefruit juice and confectionery sugar for glaze

 

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale. Combine the wet ingredients and add into eggs and sugar. Combine dry ingredients and stir gently into the wet mixture to incorporate. Fold in zest and rosemary.

Bake in a well-greased (or better yet, parchment-lined – I had some sticking issues) loaf pan at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool slightly before removing from pan. Mix grapefruit juice (about a 1/4 cup) with enough confectionery sugar to make a loose glaze. Remove cake from pan and cover with glaze. Slice and enjoy!

 

 

Harvest Bread

Cranberries, pecans, and walnuts…oh my!

This bread is super easy and so delicious – as soon as I tasted it, I was reminded of a bread made by a local company that uses a sourdough starter – I think the no-knead process lends itself to that yummy, bready taste that can only develop with time.

The recipe for this calls for golden raisins, which sort of freak me out, so that was a no-go. Also, the recipe wants you to choose between pecans or walnuts – why would I want to neglect one or the other? So, no raisins for me, but both walnuts and pecans. I think it was an excellent modification, but you can make that decision for yourself.

The recipe also calls for baking the loaf in a baking crock, which I do not happen to own, so I just made a free-form loaf and put it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. It made a slightly flatter loaf than I might have chosen, so perhaps I’ll try a pan next time – but free form works just fine.

For Thanksgiving, I made the loaves long and slim and sliced them into rounds. Spread with a little cranberry cream cheese, with a homemade apple compote on top they made very festive appetizers. Plan ahead for this bread – though it calls for resting overnight, I found that a full 10 hours was plenty.

No-Knead Harvest Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour
3 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cups cool water
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins (I chose not to use these, and to instead add an extra 1/4 cup of both cranberries and the pecan-walnut mixture)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (use both!)

Mix the flours, salt, yeast, and water in a large bowl. Stir, then use your hands to mix and form a sticky dough. Work the dough just enough to incorporate all the flour, then work in the fruit and nuts.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature overnight, or for at least 8 hours or overnight; it’ll become bubbly and rise quite a bit, so use a large bowl. (Seriously, this dough really grows)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and form it into a log or round loaf to fit your 14″ to 15″ long lidded stoneware baker; 9″ x 12″ oval deep casserole dish with cover; or 9″ to 10″ round lidded baking crock. Place the dough in the lightly greased pan, smooth side up.

Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until it’s become puffy. It should rise noticeably, but it’s not a real high-riser.

Place the lid on the pan, and put the bread in the cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 450°F.

Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for another 5 to 15 minutes, until it’s deep brown in color, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F. Remove the bread from the oven, turn out onto a rack, and cool before slicing.