Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Semi Homemade English Muffins

This is a "vintage post" culled from my Flickr account, posted there in 2007 after my experiment with a vintage recipe for hacking "English Muffins." I want to gather some of those older Flickr posts here, so bear with me.

I found a cookbook recently, in a thrift shop, for .25 cents. Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook, published in 1960 (the year of my birth). I saw an easy recipe for English muffins that would make Sandra Lee proud (in fact, as much as I despise her, she should make this on her show). It did take three batches to complete the experiment, however, due to products available today, which probably differ wildly from those available in 1960.

The recipe called for opening a tube of refrigerated biscuits, and, flattening each one in cornmeal and frying in shortening until well browned on both sides. That was the recipe and I saw it had some potential, because if Paula Deen can make donuts out of them, I'll bet Amy Vanderbilt could make a passable English Muffin.


I had a can of flaky style biscuits needing to go. I used those and followed the recipe exactly, dipping each one in corn meal, and pressing it flat in a skillet in which I had melted some Earth Balance Shortening. The biscuits sizzled up nicely and developed a wonderful crust, however, these types of biscuits are really high in fat to get that flake factor, and they were brown and crusty on the outside, but, doughy, raw, and wet on the inside. A definite failure.


Coat a few more in cornmeal, sizzle in the hot skillet until very well browned on the outside, and then, finish in a hot toaster oven for 5 minutes, to finish the inside. This batch was significantly better, however, this flaky "fake fat" kind of biscuit is really not the right kind, and, doesn't lend any kind of an English Muffin feel. A five minute bake-off did, however, greatly improve how this biscuit looks, feels, and tastes with that crusty exterior.


I got a small tube of regular, cheap, non flaky buttermilk biscuits, the small cheap-o kind. I lightly ran them under the tap so that they would be moist and I could get them to adhere more cornmeal. I dredged in cornmeal, and, this time, fried them in a very hot non-stick skillet with NO shortening, and finished them in a hot toaster oven for 3-5 minutes. Perfect exterior, perfect interior. Split apart nicely. Deep, nice crunch to the exterior. Perfect for a bit of ham in the morning. However, not nearly as dark brown as those without the fat in the pan. They just didn't get that hard crust that was necessary.


I barely smeared a stick of Earth Balance shortening on thE pan, just to barely give a sheen, and finished the batch this way, and, there I had it. They are tiny, crusty, and can be split and then frozen for small breakfast sandwiches, or ham and mustard biscuits. The texture is very, very close to an English Muffin, although the flavor isn't. It's far better than a store bought chilled tube of biscuit dough, but not as good as say, a toasted Thomas' English Muffin.

Still, you can definately spruce up store bought biscuit dough this way.

Interesting side note: The darker I fried them (almost until they smelled burnt), the better they were and more close to the dense texture of an English Muffin). The cornmeal is burning -- not the dough, and it helps make that thick crust that is so appealing, and had no charred taste. Just a deep rustic taste that was very pleasing. These will hold up very well in Bento Boxes, and will make great appetizer sandwiches (a bit of ham, or turkey, or a mini BLT even).

I split them and froze them, so I can make a sandwich on a frozen mini muffin which will easily be thawed by lunch time.

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