James Beard’s English Muffin Bread

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English muffins may be the perfect vehicle for butter and jam known to man. When you toast them, all the little edges that stick out get brown and crispy, while all the little holes soak up all the breakfast condiments you mound on them. When you take a bite, you are simultaneously hit by a perfect crunch and an explosion of butter and jam. I would eat these every single morning, but I’m not willing to shell out (at their cheapest) $.30 a muffin because really, downing three of these is no problem (and paying almost $1 for my bread fix in the morning is).  

I was once intrigued with the idea of making my own, but was discouraged when many recipes required little rings to cook the batter-like dough. In addition to finding no such implements among my kitchen utensils, the idea of cooking the individual muffins in batches on the stove (and having to pay attention to them instead of, say, a Gilmore Girls episode) killed my resolve to try it out. 

I’m happy to report however that english muffins are now in my life (and can be in yours too) through english muffin bread. This recipe is from The Essential James Beard Cookbook, and it has changed my breakfasts for the better. The bread is light, dotted with small, jam-cradling holes in it, and gets so crispy in the toaster that I have trouble not toasting up the whole loaf.  It’s a perfect reincarnation of the muffin that’s cheap, delicious, and easy to make. Though the dough does require two risings, you can spend this time giving your full attention to something valuable like paying bills or watching children or doing homework….or rewatching Gilmore Girls. 

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English Muffin Bread
Slightly adapted from The Essential James Beard Cookbook
Note: the recipe calls for ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk. We are a little milk sensitive at our house, so I subbed in water. I’m sure it’s just as good (if not better) with milk.

½ cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (or one envelope)
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp lukewarm water (or milk)
¼ tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp warm water

Combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Stir and let stand for a five minutes. Add the flour and the salt
with the warm milk/water in alternate proportions while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon (I used my KitchenAid,
because well, it was there).

Holding the bowl tightly, beat the dough very hard until it shows some elasticity and looks almost ready to leave the bowl (it will still be loose and sticky). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1¼ to 1 ½ hours.

Stir down with a wooden spoon, add the dissolved soda and beat vigorously again for 1 minute, being careful to distribute the soda thoroughly.

Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan, or two 8x4x2½ pans and fill with the dough, using a spatula to scrape it from the bowl. Cover and let rise again in a warm place for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until its golden brown on the top and shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the loaf for 5 minutes in the pan, then tunr on to a wire rack to cool completely.

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