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Great British Bake Off Inspiration
After a stressful week I finally found myself with a free afternoon, and decided to utilise this glorious batch of emptiness in the best possible way; by baking some English Muffins. I must say, it was definitely inspired by my programme of the moment- the Great British Bake Off. I searched far and wide for muffin recipes, noting their differences and eventually created the ‘Baking for Idiots Monkey Muffin Method’.
You would think that after watching the trials faced by these talented bakers I would be put off by such a culinary challenge, but no… I bounded on into the unknown with the enthusiasm (and unfortunately, also the skill) of an excitable Labrador. Afterall, how hard could it be?!
Small rocks in the baking road
Figuring out ‘activation of dried yeast’ proved a little tricky when the explanation on the pack bore no resemblance to any of the recipes found, however the quantities below seem to work! This was after the initial problem of opening the can at all, which resulted in a minor explosion of dried yeast over work surface and floor. Not encouraging…
Being a musician, I found the baking of these quite beneficial. Effective stress relief in the kneading of the dough, then great practice time during the repeated proving. Quite the multi-tasker!
Once I finally got around to the cooking of the muffins, I felt entirely clueless. What did ‘very low temperature’ mean?! So a little trial and error and a bit of a final (and potentially illegal on the traditional market) bake in the oven to dry the muffins to perfection, and I was left with Monkey Muffins, as shown! In all honesty, we weren’t entirely sure if our pan was indeed ‘heavy-based’, but decided it was pretty heavy, so must have a pretty good sized bottom!
The Madness behind the Monkey
You may be wondering how these so called ‘traditional’ English Muffins of mine came to be Monkey shaped, and that I am afraid was entirely unintentional. Slight oversight… Our ever increasing collection of baking equipment is still in its newly post-student stages and does not include round cutters for the dough, but of course I did find (the essential baking tool used by master bakers everywhere, or should be..) monkey shaped cutters. Hence… A mouth-wateringly moreish mountain of magnificent monkey muffins! So if anyone out there wishes to donate some circular or alternate shaped cutters, they would be gratefully received, and may restore some faith to traditionalists out there as to the survival of the round English Muffin.
Once created, please enjoy toasted with a little butter and potentially jam! These Muffins were delicious, and fabulous with a cup of tea (and probably another episode of the Great British Bake off!).
Makes about 12 muffins
Equipment- Measuring jug, small saucepan, mixing bowl, sieve, baking tray x2, heavy-based frying pan
450g strong white bread flour (plus extra for flouring)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons dried action yeast
1 medium egg (lightly beaten)
little butter for lightly greasing
What to do
1. First pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat gently until warm (you can hold your finger in it without burning it).
2. Pour milk into a jug or bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Give it a quick whisk and leave to ‘activate’ somewhere warm for about 10 mins.
3. Now sieve the flour into a large bowl along with the salt and create a small crater in the centre.
4. Once the yeast mixture has a good frothy head, pour it into the well and mix. Now add the egg and mix everything together to form a nice, soft dough.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured flat surface and knead for at least 10 mins. Release your stress into the dough. Add another dusting of flour to the surface if you are getting ‘stuck’. After this time the dough should be smooth and elastic.
6. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled bowl and cover with Clingfilm. Leave somewhere warm for around 1 hour. We left ours not far from the boiler.
7. The dough should now have roughly doubled in size. Tip out onto your work surface and roll to about 1.5cm thickness. Leave it for 15 mins to prevent the dough shrinking, and then cut your muffins with a straight edged round cutter, or monkey cutter… Whatever you find to hand!
8. Continue to roll out the excess dough until all has been used, although possibly saving a tiny bit as a heat test for the cooking.
9. Sprinkle 2 baking trays with half the semolina and place the cut dough on tray. Finally sprinkle with the other half of the semolina and return the tray to the original proving spot for another 30 mins.
10. Lightly grease your heavy based frying pan, or hot plate with a thin layer of butter, and put on a low heat. Don’t let the butter sizzle. You can use your little excess dough here in experiment to check the muffins will not burn.
They must cook slowly, becoming slightly golden on each side, yet cooked in the middle. I cooked mine for almost 8 mins on each side on a very low heat. I did this in batches of about 3 at a time, and then slightly cheated by putting them in the oven (180 fan) for about 5 mins to aid the drying process. Top and bottom should be lightly crispy, whilst sides feel cooked but springy. Tricky I know, as adjustment to your personal muffin bake time may be required.
11. Cut in half and toast. Yummy!