Perhaps you’re wondering, but why would you want to make English muffins from scratch? They’re such a convenience item: a bag costs all but a couple of bucks. I, for one, always keep some in the fridge: on a weekday, you’ll often find me fixing myself a toasted whole wheat English muffin ham and egg sandwich for lunch. It’s quick, nutritious, and super satisfying when you use the right flavors and condiments. A few months back, I opened the fridge drawer to find out that I was out of my usual quick lunch building block. I started to wonder: what if I made English muffins from scratch? Surely, homemade would be tastier, wouldn’t it? What if I made a big batch once in a while and kept them frozen, ready to be toasted to their freshly baked goodness?
A short research taught me that making whole wheat English muffins from scratch is actually quite easy. Of course, like all bread-making endeavors, it requires patience as you wait for the starter to develop and the dough to rise, but it’s a fairly hands-off process that allows for some flexibility timing-wise, so you won’t stress out if something comes up and you can’t make or cook the muffins when you planned to (the dough can sleep for another night in the fridge, no problem!). Also, actually making and shaping the English muffins is super simple, especially if you have a stand mixer at home—in short, you do not need to be a master baker to enjoy the habit-changing goodness of a freshly baked whole wheat English muffin at home.
Here are important tips to get you started:
- This recipe uses a starter, which is a mix of flour, water, and yeast that develops into a bubbly mixture. The starter provides more volume and lightness to the English muffins. You can use it after only an hour or let it develop for up to 48 hours in the fridge, but in my experience, making the starter 6 hours before starting the English muffin dough allows for the best combination of volume and flavor. I usually mix it together first thing in the morning and make the dough for the English muffins in the afternoon.
- The English muffin dough needs to rise for at least 2 hours in a warm spot (such as a turned-off oven), but you can also mix it together and let it slow rise in the fridge for up to 48 hours. This is very handy: you can make the dough a couple days in advance and then impress your guests by serving freshly baked English muffins for brunch without breaking a sweat!
- Many recipes recommend the use of English muffin rings, which are circular molds that help shape the muffins into perfect rounds. This recipe makes a dough that holds its shape really well, so the use of English muffin rings is absolutely not required.
- These whole wheat English muffins are fully cooked on the stove top. Using a lightly greased large skillet (cast iron, nonstick, or aluminum all work) over low heat allows the English muffins to cook through and get their iconic dark brown color on both sides.
- As you’ll know if you’ve had the store-bought variety, whole wheat English muffins have a more uniform, less airy texture. This texture is light and delicious all the same, but it’s worth mentioning so you don’t expect the nooks and crannies insides of a classic English muffin made with white flour.
Now, if you’re ready to improve the flavor of your breakfasts and brunches, let’s get baking!
Makes 12 whole wheat English muffins.
Instantly upgrade your breakfasts and brunches by making whole wheat English muffins from scratch: it's easier than you think!
To make the starter: At least an hour (or up to 24 hours) before cooking the English muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl. Mix until the mixture comes together as a sticky but smooth dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for up to 6 hours at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand mixer or whisking by hand), combine the starter, milk, yogurt, yeast, olive oil, and salt, and mix on low speed until the mixture is creamy and slightly frothy, about 1 minute.
- Stand mixer kneading instructions: Add the whole wheat flour and 1 cup [250 ml] of the unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl with the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until a craggy, sticky dough forms, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
Mix in just enough of the remaining flour to create a soft dough that cleans off the sides of the bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. (If the dough gathers up the hook, stop the mixer to pull it down and resume kneading.) In the end, the dough should feel tacky and elastic, but it should not stick to your hands.
- Hand kneading instructions: Add the whole wheat flour and 1 cup [250 ml] of the unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl with the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon or a stiff spatula to combine and create a craggy, sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead in just enough flour to create a smooth and elastic dough. The kneading process should take 5 to 8 minutes. In the end, the dough should feel tacky and elastic, but it should not stick to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball.
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for up to 2 hours, or refrigerate and let rise slowly overnight or for up to 3 days. The longer the dough starter rests, the better and more complex the flavor of the muffins will be.
To shape: Scatter about ¼ cup [60 ml] cornmeal over a baking sheet. Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife or a pastry scraper to divide it into 12 equal pieces.
Shape a portion of dough into a ball, place a baking sheet, sprinkle with cornmeal, then use the palm of your hand to press it into a 4-in [10-cm] flat round.
Repeat to shape all the portions of dough, setting them about 1 in [2.5-cm] apart. Loosely cover the sheet with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until the rounds have risen some more, about 1 hour for room temperature dough, or up to 2 hours for refrigerated dough.
Before final rise:
After final rise:
To cook the English muffins: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Lightly coat with cooking spray or butter, then transfer a few of the muffins to the skillet without overcrowding. If using English muffin rings, transfer the muffins to the skillet with the ring on. Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are dark golden brown, about 6 minutes. Lower the heat if they seem to brown too quickly.
Flip the muffins and cook for up to 6 minutes on the other side (add more cooking spray or butter if needed). The second side should also be dark golden brown, and the muffins are done when they’re puffy and the sides are dry to the touch but still feel elastic. Again, lower the heat if the muffins seem to brown too quickly as a long cooking time is necessary for the insides of the muffins to cook through. If you prefer thinner, less puffy English muffins, you can gently press the tops of the muffins with a spatula while they cook on the second side. This will prevent them from rising too much.
Transfer the cooked English muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. It will be very tempting to dig in right away, but this final cooling and resting period is essential for the muffins to fully set using the residual heat.
Repeat the cooking process for the remaining muffins, wiping the skillet with a paper towel and then lightly greasing with cooking spray or butter again between each batch.
Split the English muffins with a serrated knife or a fork. Lightly toast, and serve hot with butter, jam, or whatever spread suits your fancy. Or make a memorable sandwich!
The English muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze the English muffins for up to a month.