Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Soaked Whole Wheat English Muffins

English Muffins are one of those things I've been wanting to attempt for years now. I've probably got a dozen or so recipes pinned on Pinterest alone. But you know what it took to get me to make these? My oven breaking. Yeah. My oven was broken for 10 days. See, we live in a rental house out here in NC, and instead of having a handy dandy maintenance crew on-site 24/7 like we've had in the past, we get to go through the manager for everything. We've had a few things break in the 3 1/2 months we've been here, but this by far took the longest to be fixed. It's actually kind of a cool God thing, and I for sure want to share that with you another time. But for now, we're talking bread. 

The night before my oven broke, I had chicken broth simmering,
muffin batter, pizza dough, and bread dough all soaking. 
Back to the story... The night before my oven broke, I was channeling my inner Susie Homemaker. I had chicken broth simmering on the stove, whole wheat oatmeal muffin batter soaking on the counter, whole wheat bread soaking on the counter, and whole wheat pizza dough soaking on the counter. My husband had been gone for about a week, and I wanted to have fresh bread for the weekend, as well as muffins for breakfast and pizza for dinner the night he got home. That was all fine and dandy until what sounded like firecrackers went off in my oven, and the bottom element caught on fire about half way through baking my muffins. Shoot. I was able to finish baking the muffins with the residual heat in the oven, and we had grilled pizza for the first time ever, and oh my gosh it was amazing! But my poor, poor bread dough... I had to toss it. Which was super annoying, but whatever. So for 10 days, I've been plotting what kinds of things I would bake when my oven made it's triumphant return. Bread of course, because that's something I really enjoy not buying. Mostly because we can't get Dave's Killer Bread out here, and no other organic bread compares. It's a travesty, please believe me. Anyway, one day I stumbled across this soaked whole wheat English muffin recipe, and I just knew it was meant to happen. 

The process could not be more simple for making these. You mix the flour, water, and acid (I used apple cider vinegar) together and let it sit, covered, overnight. Then in the morning, you mix in yeast, salt and baking powder. Let it sit for 2 hours. Dump it onto a very well-floured baking sheet and form 8-11 english muffins. Then you heat up a pan (I used cast iron) and brown each little bun until it's toasty on both sides. Transfer back to the baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes. That's it. The most time consuming part is waiting for the next steps. But beyond that, it'll take you MAYBE 15-20 minutes of hands on time total.

These are hands down the best English muffins I've ever had, that includes the non-whole wheat counterparts. SO SO SO SO SO good. I used a fork to cut mine open so they have that signature craggy texture, and I'm gonna freeze them and just pop them into the toaster as needed. Today, as soon as they came out of the oven I made a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. It was Applegate Farms bacon, Kerrygold cheese, and an organic egg. I was feeling really fancy for a minute. That is until my toddler son knocked his cup and the floor and told me he needed more, "grapies". He's cute. I shall keep him. Anyway, promise me you'll try these! You won't be sorry. Check out the original post on the Elliot Homestead for more pictures.

You will need: 
 – 3 cups of whole wheat flour (organic, freshly milled is best)
 – 1 3/4 cup of raw milk (I used 1c water, 3/4c whole milk)
 – 2 tablespoons of vinegar or acid medium of choice (I prefer vinegar since it doesn’t impart any taste but lemon juice is great, too)
 – 2 tablespoons rapadura or natural cane sugar

Step One: Combine the flour, milk, vinegar, and rapadura. It will be the consistency of a thick batter. Cover and let sit for 12-24 hours.

Step Two: After the soaking period, add in the following: 
 – 3 teaspoons yeast
 – 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
 – 2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix, recover, and allow the batter to sit for another 2 hours.

Step Three: Generously flour a baking sheet.  Generously, people. These muffins can get sticky.  

Then, generously flour your hands.

Then, punch down the dough and knead it slightly, adding a teensy bit more flour if you need to keep it from being too gooey.

Gently divide the dough into 8-11 ‘muffins’. I find it best to simply work each muffin a bit in my hands with a wee bit of flour to get it to the correct shape. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth or perfectly shaped. It’s not going to matter in the end.

Let them sit for 20 minutes and recover from the massage you just gave them.

Step Four: Heat up a cast iron skillet (or skillet of choice) on medium-low heat. Gently transfer a few muffins at a time to the pan. It can be hard to move them, they’re sort of gooey. But just be gentle, work with your floured fingertips, and you’ll do fine. If it’s super funky by the time it gets into the pan, just reshape it a bit with your fingertips. And be careful to not overcrowd them in the pan. They will puff up and expand as they cook. 

The goal in this step is NOT to cook the muffins completely, but rather to brown the outsides. So give them about two-three minutes per side and then transfer them back onto the floured baking sheet.

Don’t worry about the dough in the middle. We’ll bake that out.

Repeat the browning stage with all the muffins. This should take just ten or fifteen minutes.

Step Five: Bake the muffins in a preheated 325 degree oven until they are cooked thoroughly (about another ten to fifteen minutes is all). You’ll know when they’re ready because your kitchen will begin to smell like heaven.