~ English Muffin Bread: For the Divine Love of Toast~
If you like English muffins, this easy-to-make bread, which tastes just like (well, almost like) those light, airy, nook and cranny-cratered little English crumpet-cakes, is for you. It requires no kneading, all you do is mix it up in a bowl, let it rise twice (once in the bowl and once in the loaf pan), then bake it. But, like the English muffin, to fully-appreciate what it is, it's gotta be toasted -- taste it untoasted, then, taste it toasted, the difference is like a cold shower vs. a hot shower!
This is the easiest, from-scratch yeast bread you will ever make:
This is one of the easiest yeast bread recipes you will ever make -- no kneading, just stirring, no kidding. Keep it that way, meaning: beware of recipes that talk you into any special ingredients or extra machinations. They are not better, just more work. The original recipe, pictured here, was widely published in magazines and newspapers in the mid-1970's. I was a latecomer to the English muffin bread craze and, didn't try their recipe until I started experimenting with recipes using their RapidRise yeast in the latter-1980's. By then, they'd adjusted the original recipe, I assume to accommodate their recent invention, RapidRise yeast, which they introduced in 1984:
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 envelopes Fleishman's RapidRise yeast
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
The Fleishmann's RapidRise recipe was and still is wonderful. I never gave any thought to changing it or trying anyone elses version until:
April of 2012 when my new issue of Cooks Country magazine arrived. The significant change they made to the recipe was the substitution of bread flour for all-purpose flour. The rest of the ingredients remained the same with minor changes to amounts. It was their explanation of the bread flour that made me decide to try their recipe (which, is now my recipe of choice):
As per Cook's Country magazine: "Why this recipe works: We prefer bread flour for its stronger gluten proteins, which give this loaf a chewy yet light consistency. Bread flour also has the ability to absorb more water than all-purpose flour, an important aspect since this is a fairly wet and sticky batter/dough. The resulting crumb has a solid structure and consistent holes."
^Every word of Cook's Country's statement is the truth!^
4 1/2 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (2 packets)
1 tablespoon sugar (Note: I use 4 teaspoons, which is 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon.)
2 teaspoons salt (Note: I use sea salt and I use 2 1/4 teaspoons.)
1 teaspoon baking soda (Note: This is significantly more than the Fleishman's recipe, it is not a typo, and it works.)
3 cups whole milk, heated to between 120-130 degrees on the stovetop or in the microwave (Note: This is so much better than milk and water, or, worse, versions that use powdered milk.)
cornmeal, for preparing loaf pans (Note: I use 2 teaspoons salted butter and 2 tablespoons white cornmeal -- 1 teaspoon butter and 1 tablespoon cornmeal per pan.)
no-stick cooking spray (Note: This is not mentioned specifically in the Cook's Country recipe.)
~ Step 1. Butter 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans and give them a dusting of cornmeal, shaking out all of the excess. Note: Cook's Country says "grease and dust with cornmeal" meaning, they do not specify butter or an approximate amount of cornmeal. Butter is my preference and 1 tablespoon of cornmeal per pan works perfectly. You can thank me later.
~ Step 3. Stir until a wet sticky ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with no-stick spray. Set side to rise until dough is bubbly and doubled in bulk, 35-45 minutes.
~ Step 4. Uncover the bowl. Spray the rubber spatula with no-stick spray (this will keep the wet dough from sticking to it) and stir/fold the dough down and around to form a ball. Use the side of the spatula to cut/divide dough into two parts.
~ Step 5. Scoop each piece up on the spatula and place in prepared pan. Spray spatula again and use it to push, pat, and press dough into the corners and evenly throughout the pan. Cover pans with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with no-stick spray, then, set aside until dough rises up to the edges of the pans, about 30 minutes:
~ Step 6. Bake loaves on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, 30 minutes, rotating and switching the pans halfway through the baking process. Bread will be golden brown and pulling away from sides of pans. Remove from oven and place pans on cooling rack for 1 minute:
Special Equipment List: 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans; large mixing bowl; large rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container or 2-quart saucepan; instant-read themometer; cooling rack; serrated bread knife
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)