My hair stylist used to tell the colorists tasked with giving me platinum highlights, “don’t be fooled. She’s a lawyer on the outside, but she’s got 8 tattoos underneath all that.” I got my first tattoo over a decade ago. I told my mom I needed some office decor and asked her to write our family name in Chinese calligraphy to hang on my wall. The next day, I brought it to the tattoo artist and now I have my mom’s artwork on my left shoulder for the rest of my life. Later, I had my mother’s seal (her signature) stitched into my inner wrist and right hip, a persimmon tree branch along my ribcage. Not all of my tattoos are that thoughtful—I got an anchor on my left forearm just because, and the word “unleashed” on my left ribcage when I got divorced. Two of my tattoos relate to men I once loved. Men I don’t even talk to anymore, though I guess something of them will always remain on my body, like some sort of residue. Two things: People aren’t always what they seem, and the men I’ve loved—good or bad—will always be the men I’ve loved.
I am addicted to the Great British Baking Show. And every time I watch a few episodes, I’m determined to veganize one of the many beautiful recipes the contestants are tasked with perfecting. The past week, I decided to try my hand at the English muffin. I thought it would be perfect to veganize, since it’s nearly impossible to find serviceable vegan English muffins at the grocery store.
I am extremely glad I watched the show before trying to make these. The dough is like nothing I’ve ever worked with before. Like many of you, I am not a bread expert. I make the occasional focaccia, but I’m not one of those persons who can rattle off hydration ratios or keeps something called a “mother” in her fridge. If you ARE like me, make sure to read the quick tips below before trying these. TRUST ME. Oh, and you WILL want to try these. My husband, who fancies himself something of an “expert” in English muffins (in that he ate them his entire life until he went vegan), called these the best English muffins he’s ever eaten and begged me not to share the recipe with you, so.
- The dough will be STICKY. Do not be intimidated by this (ok, you can be intimidated, just not into giving up) and DO not fall into the trap of adding another cup of flour. Just add enough to dust your surface. Add too much more and you will get dense, yucky English muffins.
- When you are kneading the dough, the name of the game is gluten formation. You want to stretch the dough out (watch the video below) and fold it back in. Repeat this movement over and over until you start to get a nice dough ball.
- Use a dough scraper. Otherwise, your dough will continue to stick to the surface, and you will be tempted to add more flour.
- Keep an eye on the temperature of your skillet. If it is too hot, the sides will burn before your insides have cooked sufficiently to finish them off in the oven. I put my heat on low.
- DO use a scale, if you can, to weigh each piece of dough. Otherwise, you will end up with non-uniform muffins and they will not cook evenly in the oven.
- Add the bread flour, sour cream, and salt. Stir everything together with your hands or a wooden spoon until all the flour is wet. It will be a VERY sticky dough.
- Remove the dough and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough extensively, using a dough scraper as necessary to keep it from sticking. Avoid dusting with additional flour.
- After about 15-20 minutes of constant kneading, your dough will begin to form into a messy ball that isn't nearly as sticky as when you started. Place the dough ball into a lightly greased bowl. Cover it with a lid and allow the dough to rise (or "proof") until it has doubled in size (approximately 1 hour).
- Punch the dough to release the gasses. Knead the dough for about a minute to shape it into a ball again. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces–use a scale to be precise.
- Roll each piece into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Press each ball onto a plate of semolina flour. Flip it over and repeat, so that each side (the top and the bottom–NOT the sides) is lightly covered with semolina flour.
- Allow the balls to proof for at least one more hour. They will not have doubled in size, but they will be a bit larger. At this point, preheat the oven to 450° F.
- On a large non-stick or cast iron pan, add a little vegetable oil over low heat. Take each piece of dough and once more, lightly dust the top and bottom with additional semolina flour before placing them on the hot pan, pressing the tops gently. Cook each side for approximately 5 minutes, making sure to keep the heat low enough that they don't burn.
- Place the English muffins in the oven for another 25 minutes, until they are fully cooked inside.