English muffin renaissance

  • By
    Jenni Muir - Food writer

Enough of measly supermarket muffins, says Jenni. The search is on for a fluffy muffin worthy of the Eggs Benedict treatment.

Muffins with scrambled eggLast time we had a pack of English muffins from the supermarket, I thought I was going mad. They were so thin a whole one could fit in the skinny slot of the toaster. I automatically set about trying to cut them with a knife - crumbs going everywhere, so there was even less to the muffins by the time that was done!

Then I had a flashback - to childhood or teen years, I'm not sure. But I remembered poking a substantially thicker sort of muffin (still from the supermarket) round the waist with a fork and pulling it apart with the fingers. Wasn't that largely the point of a muffin? Or was that just my imagination? No: we've gotten so used to this traditional British bread being steadily debased that we seem to have forgotten what it is.

Fortunately a couple of artisan bakeries have decided to take on these vertically challenged, pseudo-muffins and Muffin with salmon and scrambled eggremind us what proper English muffins are all about. In trendy coffee shops, bakeries and farmers' markets around London you can see the Flour Station's creamy-waisted handmade versions - virtual skyscrapers compared to the supermarket stuff. They use a milk-enriched dough and cook the muffins on a griddle, turning them over halfway through cooking so they are evenly baked on both sides - just as you would do if making them from scratch at home - but the bakers use tall pastry rings to help these beauties reach their regal height.

In Rutland, the thriving Hambleton Bakery makes its wonderful English muffins with stoneground organic flour and natural fermentation rather than bakers' yeast to get the lovely bubbly texture you see when they are split. They also produce slightly sweet manchet buns, fruit loaf and a range of breads so good that fashionable Hart's hotel in Nottingham has axed its French croissants and Danish pastries at breakfast time in favour of Hambleton's British recipes.

Eggs BenedictNo doubt the supermarkets will soon start selling proper English muffins too, labelling them 'luxury' products with prices to match, as though what they've been selling in recent years is perfectly okay.

Mum's just told me she's so sick of thin, weedy muffins that for Eggs Benedict she's been using Turkish pide bread instead - that may change when she sees the English muffins on sale at our farmers' market this weekend! Neither of us has tried making our own - have you? And what's your favourite way to serve them?

 

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