Have you ever eaten something pre-packaged that you just can’t really imagine is going to be better if you make it at home? These types of things are rare–as most things are better homemade– however I have found more often than not this is where nostalgia has the biggest effect on your taste buds. Like yes, the hometown pizza you crave is objectively terrible–with a wan crust and overly sweet sauce– but it floods your mind with memories of being in High School or at sleepovers with friends or even just of repeatedly eating it because it was one of very few options you had growing up. In that nostalgic vein– I happen to have a real love affair with Thomas English Muffins. I’ve eaten them since I was a kid, and literally nothing has changed about them. The weird half-box thing slid into a bag is the same, the label is the same, and of course– the taste.
I remember as a kid on my tippy toes rubbing the cornmeal off each side over the sink and poking it with a fork to pull it apart and place in the toaster oven. It was a step up from a Pop Tart, it felt like real cooking (for a kid) and I loved eating them with butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. To this day, one of my favorite breakfasts is a cup of coffee and an English Muffin, either with jam, cinnamon sugar, or a fried egg.
I have had homemade English Muffins on my mental list of things-to-try for years now, but for whatever reason I felt like I was cheating on my Original Nooks & Crannies that came from the trusty orange and white Thomas bag. Why stop a good thing?
The day came when I started flipping through my America’s Test Kitchen Cook it in Cast Iron cookbook and I saw the homemade cast iron English Muffins recipe. Now here in front of me was a trusty recipe to make one of my favorite breakfast items. Nevertheless, I persisted (buying Thomas English Muffins). Months passed.
As many kitchen projects do, I was struck with the desire to try this recipe only recently when I realized I had an itch to make some bread and I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand. No trip to the store, no overnight-ferment for the dough, plus I had some canned blackberry jam from last summer just itching to be spread on a fresh-from-the-toaster English Muffin. I went for it and let me tell you–it did NOT disappoint.
The recipe is shockingly simple. Like I said before I had all the ingredients on hand. As with all homemade breads, it requires more time than anything else. If you have an afternoon to kill, a cast iron pan you aren’t sure what to do with, and some basic ingredients– you’re well on your way to an amazing breakfast.
Cast Iron English Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins | Recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen
1 cup warm whole milk, (110 degrees)
⅓ cup warm water, (110 degrees)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 ½ cups (19 1/4 ounces) bread flour, plus extra as needed
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup (3 3/4 ounces) cornmeal
Whisk milk, water, melted butter, honey, and yeast together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves.
Whisk flour and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Using dough hook with mixer on low-speed, slowly add milk mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (If after 4 minutes dough is still very sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons extra flour; dough should clear sides of bowl but stick to bottom.)
Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with greased plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup cornmeal in rimmed baking sheet. Transfer dough to clean counter and shape into 12-inch log. Divide log into 12 equal pieces and cover with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep other pieces covered), round dough into smooth, taut balls. Arrange dough balls on prepared sheet, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover dough balls with plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size, 45 to 75 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line second rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using greased metal spatula, press dough balls into flat, 3/4-inch-thick rounds (about 3 inches in diameter). Dust tops of muffins with remaining 1/4 cup cornmeal.
Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Place 4 muffins in skillet and cook until deep golden brown on first side, 1 to 3 minutes, occasionally pressing down on muffins with spatula to prevent doming.
Flip muffins, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until well browned on second side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer muffins to parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining muffins in 2 batches, wiping skillet clean before each batch; transfer to sheet.
Bake until muffins are fully set and register 210 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffins to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before splitting with fork and toasting. Serve. (Cooled, unsplit English muffins can be stored in zipper-lock bag for up to 2 days.)