Tasha Alexander’s book doesn’t include very many mentions of food. It’s mostly a part of the general scenery, but it does play one important role, which is to highlight the tension between toeing the line of society’s rules and flaunting them. Some of the food is the height of what English society expects while other dishes help Emily subvert those expectations (for instance, she takes port with the gentlemen in a time when that was simply not done).
[Please excuse the lack of a quote for the time being. I lent my Mom this book and forgot to note the quotation down as I normally do. I will edit the post soon!]
I’m not going to lie to you, making bread from scratch is time consuming and an exercise in patience and humility. It’s also delicious and completely worth the effort.
English Muffin recipe adapted from Girl Versus Dough
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour (I used whole wheat flour, which results in a denser, chewier, and sweeter bread)
- 2 tbs sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp or one packet of instant yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 cups milk (I used 1%)
- 3 tbs butter
- semolina or farina (to sprinkle on your griddle/pan)
If you have a standing mixer, I would definitely recommend using it for this recipe, if you don’t, then no worries, you can also make this by hand.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer), put all your dry ingredients as well as the egg but don’t mix.
Heat the milk and butter in a sauce pan over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture is pretty warm bordering on hot. If you have a thermometer (preferably instant read) you want it to register 110-115 F.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix just until dough forms. If you have a standing mixer, use your dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. If you don’t, knead by hand for about ten minutes on a lightly floured surface. In either case, you want to look for a dough that’s smooth and elastic and far less sticky.
Lightly oil a bowl and stick the dough in, turning over to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm to rise for one hour (the microwave works well or on top of your oven).
When dough has roughly doubled in size, it’s ready to bake. Punch down the dough and divide into 16 pieces. Turn your griddle to low heat or if you’re using a regular pan on the stove (or two), turn your stove to low heat.
Sprinkle your surface generously with the semolina or farina. Flatten your balls of dough into rounds and then cook on low heat 7-15 minutes on both sides until browned and cooked. They will puff up a bit. You can put a pan or something (with parchment paper in between) to keep this from happening or you can just flatten them out with your spatula when you turn them over, which is what I did.
If you want to be really technical, you can use an instant read thermometer to see if they’re cooked, which should register 200F. I didn’t do this, I just sort of felt for doneness. If yours are still a bit doughy, you can always cut them in half and stick them in your toaster or toaster oven or you can put them in the oven at 350F for 5-10 minutes.
Let the muffins cool completely before cutting open and eating.
English muffins remind me simultaneously of my Mom (who loves them) and of that wonderful scene in The Importance of Being Earnest where Jack and Algie fight over them. I love mine with butter and jam. What’s your favorite way to eat an English muffin?