On Gracious Hosting

I think that I might have gotten a little carried away.

No small feat for me.

It started with a simple bread product.

It usually does.

This time the culprit was English Muffins. It was simply a case of wanting to see if I could—I won’t keep you in suspense—The answer is sort of, and the equivocation is mostly the result of my inability to take the extra minute to measure things properly, which is, well, sort of problematic when it comes to baking. Now you know.

Where was I?

Right, the challenge of English Muffins.

Add to this an end of summer trip to the Union Square farmers market where there were stalls and stalls of fresh, ripe tomatoes.

Naturally, I did what any reasonable person would do: At my most recent brunch I set up a BLT bar. With a toaster set up in my living room.

My sister, to her credit, thought that I was a little misguided in this one. She tried to reason with me—I might damage the finish on my occasional tables. To digress for a minute, I do, indeed, have occasional tables. Lucite ones. This sounds tacky. Of course, I love them all the more for it.

She pointed out there might be crumbs. I nodded. Then, I did it anyway. And, insisted that my brunch guests all learn how to split an English Muffin properly. When one revealed he had never heard of the fork split, I made him take another to practice. Someone else started to use the peach butter next to the basked of English Muffins. I thought about stopping him to point out that I had all of the accouterments to make a BLT. I did stop myself—forced to admit that the peach butter, which I made from farmer’s market peaches, was also a valid option.

I’m a really, really gracious host. And, definitely a relaxed one.

In my defense, I had a very specific vision of what this component of the brunch should—hot and toasty bread, filled with all sorts of nooks, topped with late August farm fresh tomatoes and bacon. I find with the right ingredients, my guests will forgive just about anything. It helps that these English Muffins are particularly toothsome.

Of course, by this logic, if I’m able to tackle croissants with the same success, I should be able to yell at my guests when they sit down to eat. I’m sure you’re hoping to be invited to that meal.

English Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Michael Ruhlman

2 TBS butter
1 TBS sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
cornmeal for dusting

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the milk, stir it and remove it from the heat. Stir in the yeast and the egg. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the milk/butter mixture and stir until it has been incorporated well into the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 1/2 hours, or refrigerate overnight, removing from the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking.

When you are ready to cook the English Muffins, heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium heat. At the same time, heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the dissolved baking powder into the batter. Dust the griddle or skillet with corn meal. Scoop-pour about 1/4-cup portions onto the griddle. Cook for about seven minutes. Flip them and continue cooking till done, 7 to 10 more minutes. If you are worried about the inside being undercooked, or simply want to keep the muffins warm while the second batch cooks, place the muffins into the oven at a very low heat.

When you are ready to eat the English Muffins, split them with a fork and toast them.

Serve with—ahem—bacon, lettuce and tomato. Or, peach butter, or regular butter, or whatever your heart desires. I won’t judge.

Fork split and serve.

Makes 8-10 English Muffins

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Filed under Bread, Brunch

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