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I am not a kitchen gadget kind of person. It seems a bit over the top to have a separate tool to process each type of produce (the cauliflower corer springs to mind as a particularly egregious example), and I don't want little-used seasonal items cluttering up my kitchen. If a recipe calls for a tool or pan I don't have, I try to improvise. My slow cooker liner doubles as an acceptable souffle dish, and I am somehow able to manage coring cauliflower with an ordinary knife.
However, I have a few exceptions. One of them is my English muffin rings. I actually did try to make do without them by substituting tuna fish cans with the tops and bottoms removed. Not only was it exceptionally difficult to remove the bottoms of the cans, it was impossible to remove the completed English muffins from the tuna can rings. After I had to discard the first two English muffins, tuna cans still attached, I ended up cooking the rest of my muffins, one at a time, in my two-inch biscuit cutter. It was tedious, time consuming, and I ended up with English muffins that disappeared into the bowels of my toaster. So I took myself to the nearest kitchen supply store and purchased a set of four English muffin rings for $6.99, plus tax. I haven't regretted it.
Here is the recipe I use for English muffins--since it's improvised from the crumpet recipe from Beard on Bread, it's not authentic in the least. However, it does make really, really delicious muffins.
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1/4 ounce package (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved into 1 tablespoon of hot water
Combine milk and boiling water, and cool until lukewarm. Stir in yeast and sugar and allow to proof.
Meanwhile, combine salt and flour in a large bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture and mix until the ingredients have formed a moist dough. Cover bowl and allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Stir baking soda dissolved in water into the batter. Cover bowl and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, heat griddle over medium heat, until a drop of water placed on the griddle wiggles around and steams. Thoroughly grease muffin rings (this part is key!) Place on griddle, and pour batter into rings so that they are about half full. For reference, my rings are 3 1/2 inches in diameter, and my yield from this recipe is 5 muffins.
Cook muffins for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned on bottom. Remove rings and flip muffins. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides.
Place the muffins on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until muffins are baked all the way through (you may need to slice one open to be sure).
Slice open and serve with butter or jam. These are delicious toasted, if you can keep yourself from eating the whole batch straight from the oven. Mike and I usually don't have much success on that front.