English muffins with lemon butter sauce
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I often like to take the challenge of cooking everyday items that can be easily bought in the supermarket. Call it masochism; call it being a chef.
Usually – not always – the resulting product is far superior. The exceptions are: Tip Top bread, frozen peas, Kewpie mayonnaise. English muffins, though, are one of the success stories.
Bought at the supermarket, English muffins are strangely yellow. Unnaturally so. Of all the crappy things that can be bought in supermarkets, the English muffins are actually okay. But they can be so much better, and they’re as easy to make as a scone.
What makes these muffins better than their supermarket cousins is what makes any bakery item better: their freshness. Once something is cooked it starts to go stale. The textures alter. Cooked at home there is also the chance to eat them warm out of the pan.
Having made this recipe a few times, I will give one word of advice: after rolling and cutting the muffins, give them at least 30 minutes or more to prove. If you take them to the pan too soon, they will be stodgy, dense and awful.
The English muffin is now accepted as the international base of eggs Benedict and Florentine. There is also the eggs Hemingway, where ham or bacon is replaced with smoked salmon. This can also be called an eggs royale, which is a better name than a flavour.
What traditionally ties all of these things together is the hollandaise sauce. In this recipe, though, we’ve replaced hollandaise with a lemon butter – not so much for health reasons, but because it’s easier and the flavours are more pure, cleaner, and more direct.
The other thing that is really nice on an English muffin is a healthy amount of butter and a smear of Vegemite or jam, if that’s your thing. They also make a great base for cheese on toast. Weirdly, they don’t seem to translate to any meal but breakfast. They are the cornflakes of the baked world.
– 600g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
– 12g instant dried yeast
– 30g castor sugar
– 30g butter, diced small, at room temperature
– 2 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
– 340ml milk
– 12g salt
– oil, for greasing
– 30g coarse semolina or polenta, plus extra for dusting
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the flour. Add the sugar, butter, egg and milk, then mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, add the salt and knead for 10 minutes, or until soft, smooth and stretchy.
Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, cover, and leave to prove for about one hour, or until doubled in size.
Dust your work surface with a mixture of the semolina (or polenta) and flour. Tip the dough onto the work surface and roll it out to 2.5 centimetres thick.
Lightly dust two baking trays with a little semolina or polenta.
Using a nine-centimetre round cutter, cut out eight to 10 muffins. Place four muffins, evenly spaced, on each of the baking trays. Dust a little extra semolina or polenta over the muffins.
Leave the muffins to rise, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
Preheat a non-stick pan over a very low heat. Add a little grape-seed oil to the pan and carefully slide four muffins into the pan. Cook for approximately five to six minutes, then flip over and cook for another five to six minutes on the other side. Repeat with the remaining muffins.
To serve, halve the muffins and lightly toast in a toaster. Top with poached eggs and sautéed spinach.
Spoon the lemon sauce (see below) over the eggs and sprinkle with chopped chives.
Lemon butter sauce
– 1 tbsp white wine
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 tbsp water
– 1 tbsp cream
– 100g cold butter, diced
In a small saucepan combine the white wine, lemon juice, and water. Boil the liquid until it is reduced by half. Add the cream and bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn the heat to low. Whisk the cold butter into the sauce one piece at a time until all the butter has been incorporated. Season the sauce with salt. Keep the lemon sauce covered in a warm place until ready to serve.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 12, 2016 as "English rises".
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