I will go out on a limb and assume those who bother to read this here column understand and acknowledge the following statement: In the world of doughs and batters, homemade is a route less traveled but infinitely more satisfying.
I apologize in advance if I'm preaching to the choir, but I bet some of you have experienced the culinary awakening that comes from baking your own rolls, rolling out pizza dough or cutting biscuits.
And yet I know there are plenty of skeptics out there who roll their eyes at the idea of spending their precious Saturday afternoons waiting for dough to rise. For a moment, I ask you to consider DIY dough just once, not only to say you did it (like hang gliding or karaoke), but to have the most amazing chemistry lesson in the privacy of your own kitchen.
I had my own private baker's high a few weeks ago, when I set out to make my very own English muffins. It was a new journey for me, and admittedly one filled with skepticism and low expectations. Usually I suggest pizza for first-time dough heads, but now I'm changing my mind. English muffins are a great entryway to the world of dough, requiring relatively few straightforward steps and no previous experience.
Better still, DIY English muffin dough promises an exhilarating "I did it!" moment that you'll undoubtedly remember the next time you pass those six-pack bags in the bread aisle.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, place yeast, sugar and half the water. With a fork, whisk until yeast is dissolved and cover with a towel for at least 5 minutes. Mixture should start to foam. Add remaining water and milk and cover for another 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Add in yeast mixture. With a rubber spatula (or with a dough hook in the bowl of a standing mixer), gently mix ingredients until just combined. Pour onto lightly floured work surface and knead (press, fold and turn) for up to 8 minutes. Dough will be very soft.
Place dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic and a tea towel. Allow to double in size at least 90 minutes or, alternatively, overnight in the fridge.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Roll into a rope at least 1 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 or 9 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and roll in cornmeal or rice flour. Place on a baking sheet and top with a second baking sheet for a second rise, about 20 minutes.
When ready to cook, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with an oil spray. Beware of burning cornmeal; you may have to swipe pan clean with a towel after each muffin.
Allow to cook on first side for about 10 minutes; you'll notice puffing and the first side getting golden. With tongs, turn onto second side and cook for about the same amount of time. Place cooked muffins in a tea towel to keep warm.
Open with a fork or serrated knife, and eat as is or toasted. Freeze in an airtight zip-style bag for later use.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at email@example.com.
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