Food: US vs UK — Muffin tryouts

by Brenda W. Clough

usuk A few weeks ago, I posted a link to the Ultimate British Muffin. Clearly a bake test was called for. I armed myself with some ‘strong’ flour (if they cannot raise high-gluten wheat in Britain then what have they been using for bread, all the years that grain could not be imported?) and this is the result.


photoWhy did my Ipad not focus properly? As you can see the result looks very much indeed like your Thomas’s English muffin from the packet. The actual muffin is firmer than the commercial variety, with a finer pattern of holes — these are not muffins that you can split with a fork. These are also nothing like the farm-market ‘artisanal’ muffins. They are better! When I do this again I will take care to roll the dough not quite so thin, so that slicing them in half will be easier.

Split, toasted and buttered, they are unutterably yum! Definitely better than the commercial article, with a yeasty genuine flavor. They toast up beautifully. I feel that the active dry yeast they use in the UK may be different from the American product — I don’t get a vigorous rising action, just sprinkling the packet of yeast onto the dry flour. Next time I will help the yeast along by dissolving it beforehand in a little warm water. I feel the dough is a little dry anyway.

The recipe calls for 8, but due to my over-aggressive rolling I got 10. Too many to eat at one sitting, and I cannot invite Lord Peter Wimsey to come and share them. But I am certain I can freeze them in a zip-loc bag for future reference. These are addictive. I may have spoiled myself for Thomas’s, for all time.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Food: US vs UK — Muffin tryouts — 10 Comments

  1. My own muffin recipe is actually from an American book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Bread Every Day. And it doesn’t involve rolling out at all — the “dough” is actually a better, with more water than flour (by weight) and is ladled onto the griddle in crumpet rings.

    They freeze well, but they’re better fresh.

    It’s not that high-gluten wheat can’t be grown at all in the UK, but rather that it does better elsewhere. When shipping costs are expensive we can grow it in the UK and accept lower yields, but when shipping is cheap it makes no sense to do so.

  2. Fast action yeast and active dried yeast are different – fast action aka quick aka easy blend goes straight into the flour, and if you need it for long enough and your dough is wet enough it gets released. Active dried yeast needs to bloom in water first.

  3. If you don’t want to freeze anything, the leftover (and preferably stale, actually) muffins are very useful as base for Eggs Benedict or a vegetarian version with cooked asparagus instead of ham or Canadian bacon (my husband’s idea to use two different leftovers in one dish–I have no idea what to call it). Hollandaise sauce is more readily absorbed by stale muffins.

  4. Made a second batch in which the dry active yeast got a little start in warm milk. They do rise better. The UK product is unavailable here in the US. But this should not be insuperable. I think I should just use more yeast. More experiments continue.

  5. Cake yeast is even better for a vigorous start. Not as easy to find as it used to be -I now get it from a local deli who gets it from one of the bakeries they shop from -they use it for their pizza’s so they have a regular order.
    Used to come in tablespoon sized cakes when the supermarkets stocked it. What I get now is in a 1 pound block.

    • Is that what I as a Britisher would call fresh yeast? We used to dither constantly when I was young, between that and dried yeast (which always needed fifteen minutes in warm liquid with a sweetener to wake up).

      I haven’t seen fresh yeast for an age, and not at all in the US. But there is still an observable difference between instant yeast, which is just mixed in with the flour etc, and active dry yeast, which does need wakening with water.

      • I am going to stick with active dry yeast, because to seek out fresh yeast is more trouble than it is worth. One full envelope of the dry stuff, softened in the milk, works fine. But next time I will add a little more, just to see what will happen. They could be a -little- puffier, right? My husband says that, as with the commercial muffins, they are far better when split with a fork, and to achieve this they do have to be of a reasonable thickness. These are SO much better than anything that I can buy, that I shall never buy a muffin again.

  6. If you have a microbrewery in the neighborhood, inquire for fresh yeast there, since it seems to be a by-product of the brewing process. I found this out when I went to a local farmer’s market that was just down the street from a tiny brewery (and discovered that they made birch beer, which I immediately became addicted to). The place I went to has since closed down, but maybe in your neighborhood, there are still some around.