These are the best muffins I have ever tasted!
Over the weekend I re-visited two recipes of Dan Lepard’s which I have made before on several occasions. They were being baked by the Twitter Short And Tweet group which is really gaining momentum now.
I must admit I approached the muffins with a little hesitation as when we had made them before they had always disappointed a little, tasty but very heavy and doughy, more like a crumpet inside than anything else. But, ever the optimist I thought I’d have another go. I’m really glad I did.
One of the many good things that has come out of Dan Lepard collating and re-visiting all the many wonderful recipes that have graced the Weekend magazine in the Guardian for the new book Short & Sweet is that there have been revisions where necessary. Some of these may simply be a question of correcting and putting back what an overzealous editor took out of course. Nothing stands still in this world, and cooking techniques and recipes are no exception to that. On a blog you have the privilege of being able to nip back and make amendments and corrections at the click of a button, authors of real books don’t have that facility and have to wait for a new print run of their book to be set up before they can make any changes.
In this instance the ingredients are almost unchanged but the cooking method is quite different from how it first appeared as the muffins are cooked first on the stove top and then baked for a further ten minutes in the oven. The result transforms these little lovelies giving them a wonderfully delicate light crumb and that special muffin crust that you only get from baking them off in this way, soft and yet crispy with a little hint of toasted flour and with a bit of bite. Absolutely wonderful!
The dough was really fast to mix, and I plopped it in the fridge overnight, intending to be up with the blackbird and have it warmed, shaped and ready to eat for breakfast.
When I eventually arrived at the kitchen it was a bit later than that and the dough had to come out and warm up. Here it is having had a chilly fold and looking very firm and fetching.
I cut the rolled dough very simply into six chunks and placed them on a floured tea towel to prove.
The dough was still a bit cold when I cut it, which in fact makes it easier to handle, less sticky for a start and easy to move around. We measured (don’t laugh) the height of the dough as I find it sometimes very hard to judge by eye when a thin piece of dough has risen by half. I like the way that cut dough has that interesting edge texture which you don’t get when you shape breads with your hands. I was too mean though to stamp out circles and have bits of dough that I would have to either chuck out or reshape and hope they rose nicely once more so I opted for straight line cuts.
I think these would be a great bread to include on a bread baking course, as they are fun and easy but also a bit unusual and special.
The hardest part of baking them is the temperature and timing if you haven’t made bread on your hob before – too hot and they will scorch – you do need to keep an eye on them and ideally use a lid to trap some steam, I used a wok lid here which worked fairly well. I used a timer so as to keep close to the times suggested in the recipe and recommend you do that if you try these out. The timings were spot on for me.
After the first part of the bake you can see they have puffed up and are partly baked as here.
Here is the crumb after they have been for the second part of the bake in the oven – they come into their own when they are split and toasted.
What else is there to say? I froze four pieces as soon as they had cooled. They defrost perfectly. I am going to make a double batch next time and keep them in the freezer. I really, really like them!
I was chatting to Misk and Lynds on Twitter, and to Andrew at the Loaf yesterday about children and bread and crusts (and older people too, in fact anyone who has difficulties chewing their way through the huge and often challenging crusts we get on our photogenic artisan sourdoughs) and it strikes me that these are a really good compromise, they definitely have a crust but it is a really easy crust to bite through. I wonder if it is a bread that would appeal to children? Brian wasn’t sure as he said they wouldn’t like the tang of the vinegar but as we used our own vinegar (yes another use for it!) I am of course biased.
If you bake for other people who have special requirements – like Lynds who bakes for her mother and Evidence Matters for her neighbours – you probably take these things automatically into consideration, but I wonder sometimes if the artisan bread bakers, strong of jaw and fit to boot, are missing a trick here?
I got a lovely email from Jeannette last night who has just got back into baking again. She made these beauties and this is what she said,
I started the dough last evening and completed them this afternoon. I didn’t hold out much hope for a successful end as the dough didn’t seem to rise much during the first or second rise. However, I carried on as instructed and was suitably impressed with the way they rose when put on the griddle for the initial baking. After the second bake in the oven they looked really good and after cutting open the smallest one to try it we are happy with how they taste too!
Like you, I will be making these again, they are so quick to put together, easy peasy!
I am going to try this recipe, Joanne, as I was lucky enough to get Dan’s book as a gift from my friend , Annie, for Christmas. Annie is the friend I made on the web, she lives in the far north of Scotland and she gave me my ‘starter’ for sourdough bread to start me on that journey so I have a lot to thank her for. Your muffins look good, and I think your idea of shaping them into rectangles is great, the bits left over from cutting rounds never rise as well as the first rollings, not for me anyway!
Do try it Jeannette, it is simply lovely and everyone else who has made them seemed to get on well. I used a small proportion of very strong flour in with these, because I had run out of the white that I was using but it didn’t detract from the tenderness of the crumb, about 10 per cent I think, but it might have made the dough slightly firmer/easier to handle. I went all around the shops to find a 12 cm cutter and couldn’t find one, so I went for rectangles and those funny shaped corner pieces you get with a curve which I haven’t shown here. But it’s all for us and not for sale so I reckon you make what works for you :)
Hi Joanna, I’m Jeannette’s friend and made the muffins yesterday too. I converted the recipe to sourdough and they are very good. In fact they look very like Jeannette’s. I used a 11cm round cutter as it was the biggest I have, and they are FAR too big. I made a double batch and only got 8 rounds and lots of irregular ‘corners’. I weighed one round and it checked in at a whopping 117 grams. Next time I will make triangles – like scones.
Watch out if you make his teacakes they are huge too :) I’m very interested to hear you made a sourdough version, did you have to change the timings for the proves? I wonder if it changes the texture too? I think triangles would look really great. Thanks for dropping in Annie :)
I didn’t make these for the challenge, but will certainly give them a go, now that I’ve seen how scrumptiously yours turned out!
Thanks! Love to know if your children like them Ninopane ! :)
I love apple cider vinegar and I’ve heard it’s very good for you. Love your images and the vinegar looks so lovely in that bottle.
Thanks Hotly! I have heard about its mystical powers too, though I fall short of drinking it each morning, it is a nice mild vinegar with lots of fruit flavours :)
I’m trying to resist the urge to ferment my own vinegar but I’m weak-willed when it comes to such and I may well succumb, later this year.
Your muffins are, indeed, a thing of loveliness. I over-cooked a couple of mine on the griddle so shall have to chalk that up to learning about hot-spots on it.
You’re absolutely correct about cooking bread for my elderly neighbours. I can’t ever give them wholegrains, sourdough or anything with a crust. In general, the issues are lack of teeth, ill-fitting dentures or general infirmity that makes it difficult to expend that much time and energy chewing the bread. Some of them can only eat food with a low residue so favour white bread rather than anything with a higher fibre content, fermentable carbohydrates, or wholegrains. (The reasons range from personal preference to age-related gut issues that make it difficult to digest food for some or ‘ostomies.)
I think older children might well enjoy the soft crust on these muffins. I like the idea of these being suitable for a baking class that incorporates an over-night break (@loafonline does that with his sourdough class).
I am sorry they were so late getting to you. Thanks for your kind words too!
Do you have room for another brew in your kitchen? I imagine you are overflowing with food experiments :)
B is already getting in training for an old age living on cake alone. He thinks a slice of cake is a perfect substitute for a meal.
On using it for a class, yes it could be the overnight sort of course, Laura Hart used to do one of those on a weekend, culminating in eating your own croissants on Sunday morning.
Oh, these look wonderful! And I love the flavor of vinegar. I’ll have to try them and see what my kiddos think. :)
If you don’t have the book, then a small bit of detective work and googling Dan Lepard and the recipe will find you the original version on the Guardian website. Just remember to add a ten minute bake at 180 C to the directions. It would be great if your kids liked them Abby!!
These do look good. I love muffins (English) with an egg. American muffins are like cousins to cupcakes- sweet and fruity with no icing.
Crust is my favorite part of the bread, but my husband is not of lover of hard crusts or chewy texture. So maybe he will like these ,too!
I know you follow Nic’s ‘Nip it in the Bud’ blog. She’ll be quiet for a bit on that – baby boy arrived today…finally… :-)
Yes, I do! How wonderful Robin, thanks for letting me know. I’ve got her address and I will send them a card :)
Hello, could I have the recipe? These look so good and will probably go down well with my boys (who indeed do have problems sometimes with Crust ….!). Anne
I’ve sent you the links and an email Anne. I don’t know what children like but I think I would have liked these when I was little, especially with a bit of bacon wrapped inside.
My goodness, those look fabulous. P would like these, I’m sure. Another one to add to my to-bake-list. :)
Do you think you would like them Misk? I have to be brave and share them when I would far rather keep them for myself.
We love English muffins, and I assumed these are similar. If that’s correct then we’ll like them lots! :)
Yes these are, according to what DL writes, American style English muffins. (Not called English muffins in England of course, this plain yeasted bread type are typically just called muffins. The other sorts are prefixed by their main ingedient name i.e. bran muffin, chocolate muffin, cheese and alien muffin etc., in the same way that Danish Pastries are called “Wienerbrød” in Denmark).
I have v fond memories of eating these from the Guardian recipe…and I managed to ruin a new le creuzet frying pan when I cooked them by letting it get too hot…the muffins survived the ordeal and were still delicious…I shall try again now that there is the second bake in the oven…hopefully will avoid another pan in the bin !
I read your comment to Brian and he suggested putting a piece of soft bread in the pan and see how quickly it browns and use that as a guide, no idea if it will work, maybe worth a go. I ruined a pan doing Hugh F W’s flatbreads which instruct you to heat an empty non stick pan up to a high heat. (I do know better now;) )
I’ve given up trying to work out what kids will eat. The Monkeys are forever keeping me on my toes. Yes to to the tartiest natural yogurt, really strong seeded sourdoughs, and brown rice. No to plain risottos and potatoes….Surely there is no pattern in that??
Back to the muffins, yes please! I’ve only tried making these the once, I think way back in the beginning of my bready journey. They were tasty, but also heavy little hockey pucks. I think a revisit might be in order :-)
i love that the Monkeys eat all those great things, they are food adventurers!
When I was working in England my local railway station had a cafe just at the entrance and in the mornings they cooked ‘bacon butties’ for all the taxi drivers and other workmen. I can still conjure up the smell, mixed with smell of crisp air and autumn leaves; I can imagine that these perfectly shaped muffins would add just the right scent into that mix. What an interesting comment from ‘evidence matters’, it opens up a whole new thought path on nutrition that’s not often written about (at least I haven’t noticed it).
I think the smell of sweetly grilling bacon would call me back from the Underworld ;)
Bacon just isn’t the same in other countries…. (biased here)
Nutrition for ageing and our changing needs is very interesting isn’t it? EM is very good on these subjects :)
These do look alarmingly good, and not too much of a hassle to make at all. I am actually seriously considering buying this book.. c
I am just beginning to worry that I sound like an advertorial for this book, maybe time to write some other posts. The mixing is a straightforward dump in bowl and mix process. The cooking off is a bit more involved and you do have to watch they don’t burn on the griddle. :)
I have Dan’s book and must have a go at these – what a good idea to make then rectangular. I might make them custom made to fit in the toaster! I’m glad to hear they freeze well – living on my own I need to be able to stash things away.
That’s exactly what I thought Ann, the quantity in the book makes six. Just enough to try out and put a few away for another day. If you roll the dough out when it is still quite cool, it is all a lot easier. Zeb likes them too ;)
I made these again today and ignored many of the rules of the recipe and they were still delicious and the kids hoovered them up…..surely the mark of a good recipe that it is robust enough for a bit of adaptation. I just did not have time to cook in the pan…so I put in the oven at 230 degrees for 10 minutes and then turned down to 180 for another 20…light as a feather and really delicious….
I have a batch here on their final rise just now. I might just do the same, it would speed it up and probably be less floury everywhere -really good to know that, thanks Lynne xx :)
I am interested to know what you think of the “all bake” version because of course I had nothing current to compare mine too… I had to go out and was confident to leave hubbie to turn down oven and remove muffins….did not seem fair to even ask him to pan fry first…. please be honest and say if you don’t think they match up !
Hi Lynne I’ve made them this evening and I did a few in the oven and tweeted you some pictures. I used a different flour mix but the key differences are that the pan to oven method gives you a muffin with:
the sides are slightly paler and the bases more charred, dark spotty looking. I think the pan – oven ones are a little softer and fluffier and the crust is a bit thinner.
Having said that the oven ones are perfectly delicious also with a darker all round crust when you cut them. And I think and I am being honest, that whatever works to fit the time you have is good – I’m sure Dan would say the same :) PS I moved your comment over here as you had left it on the Roast Garlic levain post, hope that’s ok !)
Really pleased it worked..I was thinking this morning that maybe we just “got lucky” with ours and that maybe it would not work again…I should have also said that mine were quite small…made 12 about 8 cm in diameter because I cut them out with a rosti ring.
As you say, anything that is good that fits the timetable has to be right…..I do like the overnight resting of the dough as it gives so much flexibility in when you actually bake them.
I remember buying English wholewheat muffins from M&S and making eggs benedict with them for Saturday tea many years ago…so I shall be trying wholwheat as well…in fact I am interested in whether Buckwheat would work too.
This is going to be one of “those” recipes that gets made time and again
I’ve never had M&S muffins. I wonder if they mix the flours 50/50 w/w and white? That would be what I would do I think. There is a lovely muffin recipe in the HandMade Loaf which uses toasted whole buckwheat which is absolutely delicious. Give it a go, make the recipe yours :)
Thank you Joanna for adding my pictures to your blog. We had some toasted for breakfast this morning and they are good, well worth making in my opinion.
Not at all, thank you for letting me put them on here :)
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How does Dan’s new version of the muffins differ from the old one in the Guardian? (which I assume is the one you didn’t care for.)
I said it more or less in the post ‘the ingredients are almost unchanged but the cooking method is quite different from how it first appeared as the muffins are cooked first on the stove top and then baked for a further ten minutes in the oven. ‘