Like most of us, your everyday experience with English muffins probably goes something like this: Open the package, split the muffin, pop it in the toaster. Easy, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that making English muffins from scratch is also easy—shockingly so—and incredibly fun, too.
The secret to their ease: making the dough ahead. Stirred together by hand, the dough—really more of a stiff, sticky batter at first—comes together quickly and ferments overnight, which develops its flavor and lets the gluten network strengthen without kneading. By morning, the batter will have transformed into an easy-to-handle dough that’s ready to be rolled, cut, and cooked.
Get the recipe: Overnight English Muffins
Cook the muffins on a griddle. This may surprise you, but English muffins are actually cooked on a griddle; they’re only finished in the oven. Make sure the griddle is on medium low—if the muffins cook too fast, they’ll darken quickly and be uncooked and gummy inside. The heat is just right if it takes about 4 minutes per side to get a beautiful, golden brown exterior. A dusting of cornmeal on their outsides helps keep the muffins from overbrowning and adds nice texture.
Fork-split the muffins. This step gives English muffins their characteristic rough, open-crannied interior texture. For best results, do this soon after they come out of the oven.
Eat them warm. This is the other main reason to make English muffins at home—fresh from the oven, toasted or not, they’re tastier than store-bought. Any leftovers will keep for two to four days in an airtight container. They also can be frozen for up to a month, so you’ll have them on hand to eat at a moment’s notice. That’s almost as easy as opening a store-bought package, but so much better!
Do you know the muffin man?
Known simply as muffins in England, these round griddle cakes were at the height of their popularity during Victorian times, when they were an important part of the winter afternoon tea ritual in genteel households. Like a modern-day ice cream truck, street vendors known as muffin men would make their way around upper-class neighborhoods hawking their freshly baked, warm, buttered muffins, all the while ringing a bell to signal their presence. Many well-to-do Londoners considered this a great convenience, especially on rainy days when the muffin man saved them the hassle of going out to the baker’s shop themselves. Not everyone appreciated the sound of their bells, though. In the 1840s, an act of Parliament prohibited the muffin man’s bell (apparently to little effect).