Thursday, 6 November 2014

Technical Thursday: English Muffins

Technical Thursday is back! Woop woop!

Life feels very strange without the weekly dose of the Great British Bake Off. In order to cope with this I'm going to carry on with a GBBO-themed bake each week by working my way through more Technical Challenges. I loved doing them each week during Series 5, and given the fact that I'd never made the majority of the bakes before I found it really helpful to try them out and expand my baking knowledge in the process.

After very little deliberation I figured, why stop now? I spent an hour or so the other day working out a plan of attack, and have decided to go back to Series 4 - famous for the tense episode where Deborah stole Howard's custard - and start doing the Technical Challenges from Week 1 through to the Final. I'm not going to lie: I'm very excited for the next few weeks.

Unlike with the challenges I undertook during Series 5, I have all the recipes ahead of time and will be picking and choosing which ones to do. I'm going to do my very best to attempt them all, but if the recipes call for a specific, obscure piece of kitchen equipment then I'm afraid I'm going to have to give them a miss. Unless it's something I know I'll use again, I just can't keep justifying buying specialist equipment for a single bake.

That's why I've skipped the first challenge of the series. The bakers had two and a half hours to make Mary Berry's Angel Food Cake (the recipe for which can be found here). Although I'd love to give it a go, I don't have a 25cm angel food cake pan and I have no intention of buying one specially. Instead, I jumped straight to Bread Week in episode 2 and Paul Hollywood's English Muffins. The recipe can be found here on the BBC Food website and below with my notes and pictures.


300g strong white bread flour, plus extra for flouring
6g fast-action yeast
6g salt
15g caster sugar
15g softened butter, cut into small pieces
1 medium free-range egg (about 22g), lightly beaten
170ml milk (should make a soft dough – you can add up to about 30ml extra if needed)
Oil, for greasing
15g semolina or polenta, plus extra for dusting


Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on one side of the flour and the salt into the other side of the flour, and add the sugar and butter to the middle.

Pour in the egg and milk, then mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough.

Turn the mixture out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until soft, smooth and stretchy. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, place the dough in the oiled bowl, and cover.

Leave to prove for about one hour, or until doubled in size.

Dust the work surface with a mixture of the semolina/polenta and flour. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and roll out to about 2.5cm thick. Lightly dust two baking trays with half of the semolina or polenta. Using a 9cm straight-sided cutter, cut out eight muffins. I rolled the dough to a thickness of about 1.5cm which I was terrified was too thin. However, I only managed to make 7 muffins out of the first rolling, and the eighth from all the spare cuttings. As a result the last one was a bit of a mammoth, but at least I had the right number!

I definitely need to research bread as I'm not sure if it was something to do with the kneading or proving that caused me to not have enough dough at this stage. If anyone has any ideas then do let me know: I'm completely clueless!

The recipe says to place 4 muffins, evenly spaced apart on each of the dusted baking trays, but I managed 6 with plenty of room. Dust the remaining semolina or polenta over the top of the muffins. Leave to prove for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the hot plate or a heavy-based frying pan on the hob to a very low heat. Griddle the muffins for approximately 5-6 minutes, then flip over and griddle for another 5-6 minutes on the other side.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Not as bad as I feared!

I had to quickly google pictures of English Muffins half way through as I had no idea what colour they should be, but I think I got them about right! The main problem I found with the heavy-based frying pan was that it was incredibly hard to keep it at a low heat. Once it heated up it became really hot (even on the lowest setting) and I felt it was cooking the muffins too quickly. A couple of them turned golden brown within less than 2 minutes which was worrying as the insides obviously weren't cooked through. To combat this I ended up moving the pan around the hob, swapping onto cold rings to keep the heat as low as possible. This worked for 7 of the muffins, but the dodgy enormous eighth one (top right corner in the picture above) was a bit of a disaster. It was the correct colour on the outside but completely raw inside and beyond all hope.


Oops, Paul Hollywood would definitely not be impressed!

So there you have it - the first instalment of the continuation of Technical Thursday. English Muffins weren't too bad, were they?! Let me know what you think of these in the comments below!


Thank you to everyone to commented and tweeted entries for my giveaway of the GBBO's latest book, Big Book of Baking!

I put all of the entries into a mixing bowl this afternoon, and picked a name out at random. The book will be making its way to Keeley next week: congratulations!

I'll hopefully be doing another competition closer to Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled...

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