Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cooking School: Batter Bread and English Muffins

This post is not actually about english muffins. It is about how to create a simple, tasty stand-in for an english muffin. I will admit that nothing could replace a tasty, fresh english muffin, but most of us eat the kind sold in the market. They make great toast, but are hardly exceptional. Unfortunately, though undoubtedly worth doing, they are time consuming: raise the dough, shape the dough, repeat and bake on a griddle.
To bypass this tedium and still produce the great flavor, open texture and extreme toast-ability of an english muffin, I turned to a batter bread. A batter bread is one that is simply mixed and transferred directly to a baking tin. There is no hand kneading, no shaping and only the briefest rise time. This is the perfect type of yeast bread for those who are beginning to dabble with home baked loaves or more experienced bakers who are short on time. This particular recipe, as I discovered, is perfect for those of use who like toast.
The recipe comes from King Arthur Flour this week. It is incredibly easy. Mix, divide and bake. The final product is moist and slightly yeasty. The crust is crisp and the crumb is coarse and a bit irregular. It makes fantastic toast. Use lots of butter and jam.

English Muffin Batter Bread
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour
6 cups ap flour
2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk (I used low-fat), about 110F
1 1/2 cups water, about 110F
a few tbsp cornmeal

Grease two 8x4 inch loaf pans. Dust sides and bottom with cornmeal.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Add milk and water and stir until smooth. Gradually add remaining flour, continuing to stir until dough is smooth. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook and work the batter for about 4-5 minutes, until smooth and uniform.
Divide batter evenly into prepared pans and use your fingers to even the tops. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400F.
Bake loaves for 25 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves.