R is the hardest person in the world to buy gifts for. He, like most men, simply buys what he wants, when he wants it – and he wants for very little. Not to mention, all he really likes/wants is bike stuff, and he owns a bike shop. So yeah, that’s out. While I love celebrating his birthday, I loath having to come up with gift ideas.
This year I sort of felt like a cop-out. I got him some simple, small things. But the main gift was homemade English Muffins. I know what you are thinking, so effing lame. Lucky for me though, he was (or at least was really good at pretending to be) over the moon. He begs me to make these more regularly and because I am lazy and mean, I rarely ever do. They aren’t hard to make, but holy hell, they take FOREVER. A lot of it is just waiting for them to rise, then you have to divide the dough, and wait for it to rise some more. Then you pan fry them before they bake for another 25 minutes. Again, not hard, but they take a while, not to mention I use half of my kitchen utensils making them as well, so most of that “waiting” time is really spent cleaning up. See what I did there? I just justified why this is the best gift ever 😉
With all that said, I will fully admit, they are SO worth the time to make. They are so good – WAY better than store bought, and they freeze fantastically as well. They also make great “on the go” breakfasts/snacks. Just saying, if you DO take the time to make them, everyone you share them with will adore you and you will have breakfast for next 2 weeks!
Four Grain English Muffins
makes 12 muffins (barely adapted from Sarah Copeland’s, Feast)
- 3 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 1/4 cups bread flower
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons millet
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1 cup warm water
- One 1/4oz package active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the griddle (melted)
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together the wheat flour, the bread flour, cornmeal, oats, millet, and flax seed in a large bowl.
Put the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Be sure the water is between 105 degrees and 110 degrees. If it’s too hot the yeast will die ; too cold and the yeast won’t activate. Watch for the yeast to puff and expand, 2-5 minutes
Meanwhile, warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just about to simmer (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl). Add the honey and stir until dissolved.
Add the yeast mixture, melted butter, 3 cups of the flour mixture, sunflower seeds, and salt to the milk and honey mixture.
Mix with the dough hook attachment on your mixer on medium – low speed until the dough is mostly smooth and slightly wet, 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms, increasing the speed to medium – high until the dough forms a ball with some drag slapping the sides of the bowl and pulling away as it turns, about 5 minutes. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come together immediately. If you need to, pull the dough away from the sides with a flexible spatula and stick it to the mass on the dough hook.
Lightly oil another large bowl with the olive oil and transfer the dough to this bowl, flipping it to coat in olive oil. Cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. let the dough rise in a warm, draft free spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Have a sheet of wax paper nearby and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Punch down the dough and transfer to the floured surface. Dived the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Lay the dough balls on the wax paper, leaving space in-between the balls so that they have room to expand without touching. Flatten each ball with your hand, just slightly, and sprinkle the tops liberally with cornmeal. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm, draft free spot for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a non stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. To test, splash a drop of water on the skillet, it should sizzle. Brush the skillet with lightly with butter. Gently brush off excess cornmeal and place about half of the dough balls on the skillet. Working in batches until the bottoms are golden brown, 2 – 3 minutes. Flip and cook the until second sides are golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat until all the muffins are browned on both sides. Bake the muffins until the edges are firm, 22-25 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 5 minutes.