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Sunday, July 3, 2016

The English Muffins, Part II

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

Earlier this past week, I bought a jar of fresh yeast to replace the bag of yeast that had been sitting in my fridge for at least a year and a half. The first thing I tried making with that bag of yeast was English muffins, but they came out dense. Unable to pinpoint exactly where I went wrong, I decided to try making something else with the yeast. I settled on a pita bread recipe from Youtube, but when I tried activating the yeast, it wouldn't activate. I knew then that the yeast was bad and that I needed to get some more if I was gonna try making any bread recipes. Once is an anomaly, but twice is indicative of a systemic failure. Almost by chance, however, I discovered at the store that the kind of yeast I'd been given wasn't the normal dry active yeast used by the chefs in my Youtube tutorials, but bread machine yeast! It also goes bad after six months if it's not used up before an expiration date. I had no way of knowing this information beforehand, and there's no telling how long the family friend who gave me the yeast had it sitting in her pantry.

All ready to cook! Yes, I wrecked one, but it still came out tasting good

So with my fresh new jar of regular dry active yeast, I decided to give the English muffin recipe a second go. It was literally night and day working with really activated yeast. The starter sponge looked, well, like a sponge and when I set the dough on top of the dresser to rise, it REALLY DID RISE! It definitely doubled, and then some. Kneading the divine-smelling dough was much easier too, and it blew my mind how big the dough balls were once they'd finished proofing. They actually touched! I also used a fresh bag of flour that hadn't been hijacked by bugs, so I think that helped too.

I did make two small errors during this little endeavor. The first error came when I cut the dough into smaller pieces to roll: I forgot to put some flour down on a second plate that was needed when I was arranging the dough balls to proof. The dough balls on the second plate wound up not only expanding to be touching each other, but they also stuck to the plate's surface and wound up kinda misshaping the muffin a bit when I put them in my trusty cast iron skillet to fry. The other error I made was when I cut one of the dough balls in half because I hadn't realized how big the balls would be once they had finished rising, and deflated it. Oops! Needless to say, I left the other dough balls alone. They were about 2-3 times the size of the store-bought English muffins.

All done! Yeah, they don't look much like English muffins, but that's ok. I'm still learning this shit

I changed one other thing from the first time I made these English muffins. This time, I fried them in butter instead of olive oil. Even though I'm notoriously bad at this, it sometimes pays to read and follow the instructions in the recipe exactly as they're written.

Finally, the moment of truth came after my fresh batch of English muffins had cooled down enough to be handled. My husband insisted on using a knife to slice open the collapsed English muffin to toast and butter it. It was almost a complete 180 from the first English muffins I made. These were tasty, fluffy, held in the heat well and had a significant number of nooks and crannies! My husband was delighted with the result, even if this second batch was bigger and more misshapen than the store bought English muffins I was accustomed to seeing.

Look at that fluffy, buttery goodness! If my husband had been civilized and used a fork to separate the halves of the English muffin, I think the nooks and crannies would have been more obvious

Needless to say, this recipe is a keeper. Now that I have a better idea of how big everything is gonna get, I can either cut smaller pieces of dough or I can make a big batch of proofed dough balls and then freeze them, taking out only what I'd need to make English muffins for a weekend breakfast or something the next time I feel up to making these. I now feel very confident that I can try making other bread recipes.

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