Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whole Wheat English Muffins

I am an old lady at 29. I got up this morning to sharp pains and a little swelling on the left side of my rib cage. Since I've been having abdominal issues as it is, I decided to go to the doctor. The verdict? A pulled muscle. After a day of almost complete inactivity, I woke up with a pulled muscle and freaked out. When he told me what it was, the old athlete-Kristin shook her head at the new old-lady-Kristin and called her a wuss. I still have no idea how or when this could have happened (while working at my computer? while I took a bubble bath? at book club?). I'm a bit ashamed of myself, both for my weakness (for hurting myself doing nothing) and my wussiness. Since I'm not allowed to stress-eat anymore, I figured some stress-cooking was in order to vent my frustrations.

I made a batch of these English muffins last month and wanted to blog about them, but I wasn't totally happy with the result. Today I tried a whole wheat version with several tweaks and liked them much better. The first time I felt the muffins were a bit doughy, so I divided the dough into more pieces and made them into thinner patties. The problem was mostly solved - they're still a little tacky when you split them, but after toasting they're just right. The original recipe also needed more salt (Jeff and I actually salted our muffins to compensate the first time around - and I'm not a big salt person).

I'm finding that I really enjoy breads that are cooked on the stove. Putting a loaf in the oven and hoping it comes out right by the end is very different from watching the magic happen in a pan. The sides of each dough-patty begin to bubble and the bottom is browned and crispy when it's flipped. As soon as you flip them, they look like real English muffins. I love that sense of accomplishment when I make something new - the feeling that I actually made something that looks the way it should (especially with yeast - I have some confidence issues in that department).

Next time maybe I'll try making bagels!

Whole Wheat English Muffins
Adapted from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It

1 packet active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
10 oz whole wheat flour
10 oz bread flour 
1 tbsp sugar (I used the sugar and yeast I got from the gift box I got back in November)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
3/4 c milk
1 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 c water

In a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the yeast, flours, sugar and salt. Combine the vinegar and milk and slowly pour into the food processor as it runs. Drop in the butter, then slowly pour the water in. Let the machine knead the dough for 5 minutes or so, until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead a few times until it forms a smooth ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (I use the proofing function of my oven) for about 1 hour, until doubled.

When the dough has risen, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Transfer the dough back to the lightly floured counter. Poke a hole in the middle of the dough ball with one finger and stretch until you have a long loop, about 2" thick. Return it to the counter and, using a dough scraper or knife, cut into sixteen even pieces. Roll each one into a small ball and place under a damp kitchen towel.

When the pan is hot, form 3-4 dough balls into 1/2" thick patties (the thinner the better, I think, to ensure they cook through).

Place the patties in the pan and cook 3 minutes per side until golden brown and no longer squishy in the middle.

Remove to a cooling rack and repeat with other batches. Let the muffins rest about 15 minutes to achieve the proper texture. Serve hot, or split with a fork and freeze until needed. Frozen muffins just need a few minutes in the toaster to be perfect!

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