Cast Iron

English Muffins

June 11, 2013
14 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

I used to make family meal dessert when I was a cook at wd~50. Over time, just making one dessert wasn't enough to satisfy my love of baking, so I started branching out and making morning or late-night baked goods on top of my family meal desserts. First up was English muffins (one of Wylie's favorites). I would make a batch nearly every day and we'd dissect the room for improvement in each batch from technique to overall flavor, etc. This recipe is tried and true, and easily one of my favorites. I spent every day for months getting it just right.

Since then, we've used the recipe in our kitchen at milk bar to make bite size English muffins for a bread course at Ko (served with bay leaf-infused whipped lardo schmeared on), as a loaf bread, as a cracker, or for family meal featuring eggs benedict or burgers! —Christina Tosi

Watch This Recipe
English Muffins
  • Makes 2 dozen full size english muffins
Ingredients
  • 2 1/3 tablespoons active dry yeast (a little less than the contents of two 1/4 oz packets)
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • Cornmeal as needed (or yellow grits, in a pinch)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook and whisk together to dissolve the yeast.
  2. Nuke the buttermilk in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or warm it over low heat in a small pan on the stovetop just until it loses the refrigerator chill; you’re not really heating the buttermilk, but ensuring that chilly milk won’t retard the dough’s rise. Stir the no-longer-cold buttermilk into the yeast and water.
  3. Add the flour, sugar, and kosher salt to the bowl, turn the mixer on to low/medium-low speed, and process just until it comes together as a shaggy, droopy dough 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still running, add the butter to the dough a tablespoon at a time. (Make sure it’s at room temperature—you’ll overwork the dough trying to incorporate cold butter into it.) The dough will look as if it is separating, and from this point on it will hang out at the bottom of the bowl, reaching up the dough hook like an appendage of the sandman but never fully coalescing into a ball again. Knead it for 7 to 8 minutes, by which time it should be tacky but no longer sticky and hold its shape.
  5. Lightly spray a large mixing bowl with oil. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough from the mixer bowl into the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rest, relax, and rise (though it doesn’t rise so much as it expands in the bowl) for 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour to chill, to make it easier to handle.
  7. While the dough’s resting, line a couple of rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and cover them each with a ¼-inch-deep layer of cornmeal, into which you will nestle your muffins. (That’s way more cornmeal than will stick to the muffins, but whatever’s left over will be fine to use in another recipe.)
  8. Scatter your work surface with a very, very fine dusting of flour, and very lightly flour your hands. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it a few times to deflate it. Shape it into a fat, smoothish log. For traditional-size English muffins, pinch off pieces about the size of a handball (which should weigh about 60 grams). With lightly floured palms, roll the pieces of dough into neat balls, applying as little pressure as possible. The dough should be pillowy and tender and delicate and have the tiniest bit of spring to it. As you shape them, transfer the balls of dough, one by one, to the baking sheet: Nestle each ball of dough into the cornmeal, then pat it down gently so some of the cornmeal adheres to the bottom of the future muffin, grab the ball very gently by its sides (the parts you don’t want cornmeal on), and flip it over, gently patting the cornmealed top so the bottom picks up some of the cornmeal. Leave about an inch between the muffins, giving them enough space to stretch and rise as they may need. You can proceed with the recipe directly, or you can wrap the baking sheets of proofing dough in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, after which time the muffins will be easier to handle. You can also take a longer break: wrapped and refrigerated, the muffins will keep (and improve) for up to 3 days.
  9. Turn the oven on to 250°F. Warm a cast-iron skillet or griddle over the lowest heat setting possible for 5 or so minutes. You should be able to comfortably hold your hand very close to the pan and just feel some radiant heat—nothing that would make you want to pull your hand back. Scatter the pan with a thin, even layer of cornmeal and warm for a minute more.
  10. Grab the proofed muffins one by one by their uncornmealed sides, dust off any excess cornmeal clinging to their tops and bottoms (you want a thin even coating, not a thick jacket), and transfer them to the pan, working in batches. This is the all-important nook-and-crannies-forming stage of English muffin cookery: you want the muffins to rise and griddle-bake slowly. You almost can’t take enough time with this stage. (And if any point before the final couple of minutes of cooking you smell cornmeal toasting or browning, instead of just warming, turn the heat down.) After about 4 minutes, their tops will begin to puff and dome: that’s your cue to flip them. Use a small offset spatula to flip them if you have one (and buy one to do so the next time if you don’t—your fingers will leave prints). After 4 or 5 minutes on the second side, the bottoms of the muffins should still feel airy and light. Once they’re at that point (you may have to gently cook and gently flip them one more time before they get to the handleably delicate stage), you can nudge up the heat slightly, and turning them every 2 to 3 minutes, toast their tops and bottoms. (Here the smell of toasting cornmeal is okay.)
  11. When the muffins are toasted—tops and bottoms mottled with brown, but mainly golden—transfer them to a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes—transfer them to a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes to finish baking. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet until they reach room temperature.
  12. Use the tines of a fork to puncture an equator of tiny holes around the middle of each muffin, and then pry them apart into two halves. The muffins are ready to be seared (with a light spread of butter) and spread with pickled strawberry jam!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cassie Swan
    Cassie Swan
  • chowter
    chowter
  • Valerie Gutchen Arnade
    Valerie Gutchen Arnade
  • Ellenw
    Ellenw
  • Smaug
    Smaug
I'm a homey cook meets a formally trained pastry chef. I love to smile, I love to work hard, I love to eat! I opened Milk Bar nearly 5 years ago and have never looked back...

36 Reviews

chilesincarne March 6, 2021
A total shame that in 2021 you still publish recipes as when the USA was an island in the planet - 2001 or 1921....
In baking and in a global world, weight is really useful if you really want to share a recipe
 
Smaug March 6, 2021
And knowing how to bake by volume measurements is very important if you want to be able to use recipes.
 
Cassie S. January 11, 2021
Wondering what the actual measurement for yeast is supposed to be? The amount in two packets is less than the listed measurement in the ingredients. Can you clarify if it’s 2 1/3 tbsp OR two packets and fix the description?
 
chowter January 10, 2021
These were fun to make! And so much tastier than grocery store English muffins!! Thank you for the detailed instructions, I found the remark on the slow griddle baking time especially helpful. Everyone's cast iron pieces and stoves have their idiosyncrasies- I wound up flipping them twice, for a total of about 8 minutes per side. They were well toasted after that. I baked them in the oven for 15 minutes at 250. I reduced the salt to 1 tablespoon and found that to be sufficient for my tastes. Thank you for the recipe, I will be making these again!!
 
Amy April 26, 2020
I'm in the process (step 4) and my dough hasn't become a ball at all. It's crawled up the dough hook a bit, but is sticking to the edges at the bottom. I'm tempted to add more flour, but wonder if that will make them tough. Weight measurements for the flour would be helpful in this recipe.
 
Smaug April 26, 2020
It won't clean the bowl or make a ball the way a bread dough would; It should be somewhere in the middle ground between a dough and a batter- not quite pourable but very wet and sticky- it's kind of weird stuff to work with. These proportions are pretty average; you could use 150g./c. for flour if you're more comfortable with that.
 
Valerie G. April 14, 2020
Instructions for hand mixing would be great, and/or with a food processor, for those of us who don't have stand mixers.
 
Smaug April 14, 2020
No reason you can't mix it by hand with a spoon or silicone scraper. You might want to melt the butter. It will be a little damp for hand kneading; you could try working it with the spoon, or treat it as no-knead by giving it a longer-4+ hours initial rise time. Or look up the Stella Parks recipe ("Old Fashioned English Muffins" best I remember, on seriouseats.com; I don't agree with everything on that recipe, but I can vouch for it as simple and producing good results.
 
J April 24, 2020
I had just finished reading another F52 recipe & had this same thought. Not EVERYone owns a stand mixer.
 
Ellenw April 7, 2020
Making these for the second time. They are delicious. A question for bakers out there however: 2 packets of yeast is 1.5 Tbsp. Should recipe say 1 1/3 tbsp? I have been guesstimating a little less than two packets.
 
Smaug April 7, 2020
I wouldn't really worry about it, yeast measurements are always something of a guess anyway. Dried yeast always is partially dead- when it is manufactured the live yeast is coated with dead yeast, and more will slowly die off, depending on time, storage conditions etc. The actual action of the yeast is highly dependent on a plethora of environmental conditions, with temperature leading the way- you really just need to recognize when your dough or batter is ready, with any bread or yeasted dough; recipes can't be more than a general guideline.
 
Shine April 2, 2020
Since I’m home following physical distancing during this COVID-19 pandemic, this was a great time to try to the recipe. I followed it exactly, except for mixing by hand because my kitchenaid mixer bowl has a become a collecting bowl and I couldn’t be bothered emptying and cleaning it. Lots of time to babysit the low heat/cast iron pan method. I was going to refrigerate some of the dough for next day but I was on a roll and as I say, I had lots of time and patience. These turned out wonderfully, if a bit misshapen. Maybe next time I’ll pat the dough out gently and use a biscuit cutter for uniformity. Nevertheless, they were tasty and awesome with butter and jam, made my hubby very happy! Oh, and I used reconstituted buttermilk powder and the same measurement of instant yeast
 
Shine April 2, 2020
Since I’m home following physical distancing during this COVID-19 pandemic, this was a great time to try to the recipe. I followed it exactly, except for mixing by hand because my kitchenaid mixer bowl has a become a collecting bowl and I couldn’t be bothered emptying and cleaning it. Lots of time to babysit the low heat/cast iron pan method. I was going to refrigerate some of the dough for next day but I was on a roll and as I say, I had lots of time and patience. These turned out wonderfully, if a bit misshapen. Maybe next time I’ll pat the dough out gently and use a biscuit cutter for uniformity. Nevertheless, they were tasty and awesome with butter and jam, made my hubby very happy!
 
Smaug April 26, 2019
For muffin fans out there, I recently came across a recipe by Stella Parks on Serious Eats that is definitely worth trying- I had some quibbles with the percentage of milk in the liquid, and she does them freeform (they really come out much better in muffin rings),, but much the best recipe I've come across on the internet.
 
ArielJoy June 5, 2018
Thank you so much for explaining the eccentricities of the recipe so thoroughly. Especially your description of the "dough reaching up the dough hook" (#4). I would have been sure I had done something wrong and added waaay to much flour in order to "fix" it.
Question: You suggest using a cast iron skillet or a griddle. I have neither. Is there another type of pan you would suggest?
Thank you.
 
elyze January 12, 2018
this recipe is perfect and amazing :o !
 
Lydia September 24, 2017
Easy to make but too, too salty!!!! I would half the amount of salt.
 
Änneken August 9, 2016
These are heavenly! However, if you don't happen to have three large cast-iron pans at home it will be incredibly time-intensive. After they were done proofing it took me 2.5 hours to finish them - most of which included babysitting them while they were cooking in the pan. As previous commentators have pointed out: Regulating heat of a cast-iron does not happen fast. I lost patience after I had cooked the first batch and increased the heat after I had flipped them for the first time.

Also, I kneaded the dough by hand for as long as the instructions said to do so in the food processor. Worked out fine!
 
Helen S. June 12, 2016
If you go to http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/english-muffins-recipe you will find almost the exact recipe. She just changed a few things, usually increasing them to make it hers. Sure wish people would credit the original source. The instructions are easy and if you search English Muffins there is a wide variety on this site.
 
Smaug April 28, 2020
Do they use buttermilk? Never heard of that in English muffins.
 
Smaug January 11, 2021
OK, looked it up- I don't see that much resemblance between the recipes- they are, after all, making essentially the same thing. The proportions and cooking instructions are both different; the big difference is that King Arthur uses regular milk, but the flour/liquid ratio is different and KA uses instant yeast. Both cook them without rings, which I consider a mistake.
 
btglenn June 10, 2016
The overly complex instructions makes it seem like this is hard to do. And, 1 1/2 cups of butter is far more than the traditional English Muffin uses, according to Elizabeth David, in her English Bread and Yeast Cookery, a compendium of recipes and their history, along with comments on flour and other ingredients used in many diverse versions of breads and muffins. While Tosi is exceedingly detailed in her instructions, they are all based on use of an electric mixer -- no separate instructions for those of us who depend on our hands for bread bakery. Bernard Clayton's books on bread baking also include recipes for English muffins, using far less butter. He gives instructions for both manual and electric mixer versions.
This may be a delicious version of the muffin, but far more complicated than it needs to be.
 
Smaug April 26, 2019
It's only 5 Tb. (2 1/2 oz.)butter.
 
Smaug August 7, 2015
I may try this, though not crazy about the idea of buttermilk. I make muffins from a batter- type recipe- I've learned over time to get them to come out on a cast iron griddle, but an electric griddle is much easier to control and heats more evenly, and they're frequently available very cheap- I paid $20 for a pretty good one.
 
Devon G. August 9, 2015
I would agree with this! The cast iron pan holds heat for a long time and makes it difficult to go from the super-low heat required of the first step to the higher heat required for toasting.
 
Smaug April 26, 2019
These cooking instructions are kind of weird- I cook them at 350 on the elec. griddle (and try for that on cast iron) without changing the temperature, but I give them some rise time on the griddle (and in their rings- really works much better in rings) before turning on the heat. They will then be fully cooked (about 8 min. per side), but I do like to give them 20 min. or so in a 250 oven to dry them out some- I haven't tried this recipe, but with a batter they will come out pretty wet in the middle.
 
Smaug January 10, 2021
I've since gone to a sourdough recipe, which seems to cook better at 300 on the electric griddle for 10min./side (though I can't swear to the accuracy of the temperature) or a lowish flame under cast iron- the flame may take some adjusting- hard to duplicate that exactly- but the electric griddle never does. I dry them (they're already cooked)by simply leaving them out in warm weather; in winter I use a 200 deg. oven for 20 min. I use 75g. batter/ring; they will generally rise out of the ring and end up about 1 1/4" high; in that case- or if you're making them freeform (not recommended) turning them early can result in a flatter muffin.
 
Polly W. June 17, 2015
Great recipe for strawberry jam season!
 
Bunnee B. May 9, 2015
This was a lot of effort/time and I found the recipe a little imprecise. I baked the muffins for 5-6 minutes, not 3. I think I'll stick with Ruhlman's recipe.
 
RoseRover March 22, 2015
So... in step 10 it says "Grab the proofed muffins..." but there doesn't appear to be any exact proofing time specified. Step 8 mentions "You can proceed with the recipe directly, or you can wrap the baking sheets of proofing dough in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes..." Do I proceed directly to baking on the skillet after forming them, or proof the dough for 30 minutes to an hour (not the optional 'in the fridge' step) before baking? Step 8 also mentions " ...giving them enough space to stretch and rise as they may need" leading me to guess that I should not proceed directly to baking but should let them proof. Am I missing something in the instructions or is something missing from the instructions? Thanks.
 
sweetE January 31, 2015
I had SUCH a hard time with these! The griddle portion, on lowest of low heat in my cast iron skillet took almost 30 minutes, and then I put them in the oven for 10 minutes, and they are still doughy and wet inside when they cool. Don't know what happened, but now I understand why our local bakery, Blue Oven, charges 2.00 a piece for their muffin masterpieces!