From Dish Paige:
Hello and welcome back to Saucy Little Dish! While we’ve been on summer hiatus, I started culinary school and have been very busy making my way through my International Baking and Pastry program. I figured, since I’ve already learned so many new things, I should share a few of them with everybody here.
I just finished a bread course, and one of the things we learned was that bread loves to ferment at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, in 80 percent humidity. Which, if you live in the Northeast, is exactly the temperature outside (and inside if you don’t have central air like me). I know you’re all thinking, “but it’s 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity in my apartment, why would I also turn on the oven?” Well, that’s the beauty of this formula (I call recipes for baking “formulas” now, it’s a professional thing *wink), the English Muffins are cooked on the stovetop!
Ok, so now it’s time to get super technical on you all. There are ten steps to yeast bread production. If you follow these steps, you will get bread. Great bread. Delicious bread. All formulas follow these ten steps. Follow the steps. Follow them and apply them to future bread endeavors:
Milk – 9.25 fl. oz.
Active dry yeast 0.4 oz.
Pastry or cake flour – 1 lb.
Bread flour – 1 lb.
Baking powder – 0.4 oz.
Granulated sugar – 1.25 oz.
Salt – 0.25 oz.
Unsalted butter, room temperature 1.5 oz.
Water – room temperature 9.25 fl. oz.
Cornmeal – as needed for dusting
This formula uses the “sponge” method, which basically means that we are going to create a mini little starter (kinda like a sourdough) and let that get going a little bit before we mix everything together. Let’s go step by step:
Scale out all of your ingredients. Measuring by weight is the most accurate, so here you go.
Now make the sponge: Heat the milk until just scalded. Stir in the active dry yeast, then mix it with the pastry flour. Cover and let ferment about 15 minutes.
Once your sponge has fermented, mix together the rest of the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, butter and water and add the sponge. You can use your hands or a mixer fitted with a doug hook. Mix for about 3 minutes, then begin kneading for about 7 minutes until the dough is soft and somewhat sticky.
Cover and let your dough sit for 20 minutes wherever it is 80 degrees and humid. The dough should double in size and slowly spring back when poked with your finger.
You can literally punch your dough, or if you want to be nice, fold the outsides of the dough in on itself a few times in order to equalize the temperature. Let the dough rest again, covered, for another 10 minutes.
Here, with other doughs, you would divide it into however many loaves or rolls or whatever you have, keeping the section you’re not working with covered while you work on the rest. With this dough, we’re going to roll out it out to a 1 inch thickness.
Again, with other doughs, you would now take the portioned dough, roll it into a smooth ball and then let it take a nap for about 10 mins, covered. For the English muffins, cover them and let the rolled out dough relax just for a few minutes to relax the gluten strands. Otherwise, you’re going to cut out the shapes and they will shrink on you.
Shape the portioned doughs. For the muffins, cut them into the desired size. You can use biscuit cutters, or something circular that’s close to the size you want and trace it with a paring knife. I used a coffee mug for the small ones, and the top of a Chinese soup take-out container for large, sandwich size ones. Place them on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal and cover.
Let your dough take another nap, covered, until doubled in size.
Bake, or in the case of English muffins, cook on a skillet or in a pan until golden brown, about 3-7 minutes per side. The inside of your bread should be in the temperature range of 190-210 degrees.
You don’t want to put your hot breads in a plastic bag or aluminum foil because they will sweat. Use parchment to wrap them when warm. Once they are cool, use whatever you want! Just remember, bread you make at home will go bad way faster than what you buy at the store, so keep your English muffins in the refrigerator or freeze them for longer storage.