Imagine a bread that takes 5 minutes to throw together, rises for under an hour, and bakes for 25 minutes. Now imagine that this bread has a wonderful yeasty chew, a hint of sweetness, a moist interior, and is in fact delicious. Finally, imagine that it has a crisp cornmeal coating and little nooks and crannies inside, just waiting to be filled with butter and jam.
Maybe you’re thinking that some sort of food gods passed this recipe for English Muffin Bread down to me in an elaborate and secretive ceremony, but nope; it comes from none other than my Mom!
My mom has been making this bread for years, and I was just delighted when the recipe found its way into my bridal shower family cookbook. It is every bit as good as it sounds, and comes together as easily as I claim it does! Read on.
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 package instant or rapid rise yeast
1.5 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
*Note, this recipe can be perfectly doubled to make 2 loaves, which I highly recommend. If you are going to do the work, why not make 2? You can cool one, wrap it up well, and store it in the freezer. This recipe is actually originally for 2 loaves, but I only had 1 packet of yeast at home, and there was a pajama pants/knee-high wool socks situation going on that would not allow me to head to the store to get more…
The starting lineup
Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle all over the bottom and sides with cornmeal, shaking out any excess.
Place 1.5 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. (That was easy!)
Pour the milk and water into a saucepan and heat until hot. Do not let it boil. Do not even let it simmer. If it gets too hot, it will damage the yeast and keep it from rising; pretty much the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. Pour this into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
At this point, the batter will look something like cake batter. In fact, just the fact that it looks like batter is not good, we need it to look like dough. That’s where the rest of the flour comes in. You may not need the entirety of the 1 1/4 cups of flour left, but you might. I add it in 1/2 cup increments. So, it starts out looking like this, which is definitely not what you want:
After adding a 1/2 cup of flour, it looked like this:
Looks more like cookie dough now. Which is close, but not there yet. It needs to be a stiff dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. So then I added almost all the rest of the flour and produced this!
Yes! It looks like bread dough, which is good, because that’s what it is. I actually ended up using my hands to work in the remaining flour, it can get a little tricky with the wooden spoon. You want to form a cohesive dough, but you do NOT want to overwork it. Now, simply cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. It should come close to doubling in size.
Isn’t food science awesome?
Step 4: Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. After the 45 minutes, gently coax the dough into the prepared loaf pan. VERY gently. I used a rubber spatula sprayed with cooking spray so that I wouldn’t have to wrestle with it.
See, by letting the dough rise, we’ve created wonderful pockets of air within it. If you handle it roughly or smash it into the loaf pan, you will deflate those pockets of air, meaning the bread will end up tough, and without those English muffin-style crannies! Now where’s the fun in that?
Bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack, checking on the bread halfway through; if it looks like it is baking unevenly, you can rotate however it needs to be rotated. Take it out when the top is brown and when you press on the loaf it feels sturdy and set! Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.
Notice I said slightly? You won’t be able to resist the smell, or the look, of this loaf. In fact, for no artistic reason at all, I cut a slice, buttered it, and took a big bite, completely forgetting that I had to create a photo op first.
This bread is great as a breakfast on its own, toasted with butter and your favorite fruit spread. But I love it with creamy soft-boiled eggs, and it’s even great to dunk into soup! You’ll think twice before buying the muffins again. :)