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English Muffins

Now here's a neglected delicacy – real old-fashioned muffins. They're very welcoming served for tea on a chilly day.


This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes.


Measure the milk and 2 fl oz (55 ml) water in a small saucepan and heat until just 'hand hot', ie, so that you can hold your little finger in without it burning. Now pour it into a jug, add the sugar and dried yeast, mix it with a fork and leave it for about 10 minutes to get a real frothy head.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, making a well in the centre, then pour in the frothy yeast mixture and mix it to a soft dough – it should leave the bowl cleanly but if it seems a bit sticky add a spot more flour.

On the other hand if it seems a little dry add just a spot more water. Now transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead it for about 10 minutes by which time it should be very smooth and elastic. The dough can go back into the bowl now. Just slip the bowl inside a large polythene bag (a transparent pedal bin liner is ideal), and leave it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This will take about 45 minutes or longer, depending on the temperature.

When the dough has risen, lightly flour the work surface, then tip the dough out and roll it out to about ½ inch (1 cm) thick. Then, using a 3 inch (7.5 cm) plain cutter, cut out 12 rounds, re-rolling the dough a couple of times again if it starts to get puffy. Mix the scraps and re-roll as well to use it all up. Now place the muffins on an ungreased, lightly floured baking sheet, sprinkling them with a little more flour, then leave them to puff up again for about 25-35 minutes in a warm place.

When they are ready to be cooked, grease a thick-based frying pan or griddle with just a trace of lard, then heat the pan over a medium heat, add some muffins and cook them for about 7 minutes on each side, turning the heat down to low as soon as they go in. You'll need to do this in 3 or 4 batches but they can be made well in advance. If you want to serve them in the traditional way, all you do is break them just a little around their waists without opening them, then toast them lightly on both sides.

The correct way to eat them is just to pull them apart without cutting and insert a lot of butter. You can store them in an airtight tin for about two days before toasting if you have any left over.


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