Back in the late 80’s when we moved from Southern California to the Central Coast, we settled in a very small beach town, and just down the hill from us was a little market (Deluxe Foods) that had its own bakery. We had vacationed in this little town the year before and fell in love with the ocean, the forest and this little market that made the most amazing English muffin bread. Now, I’m not saying we uprooted our kids from their schools and dragged them north for half a state just so I could be near this market and their English Muffin Bread, but by now you know me well enough to know that could possibly maybe have been true.
I’d never had English muffin bread before, but I soon found out that its major claim to fame was in the toasting. If you’ve never had it before, you’re in for a treat. The trick is to slice it just a little on the thick side and when you toast it, the outsides get toasty and crisp and the inside stays dense and chewy and tastes like an English muffin, only better. No nooks and crannies, but you won’t miss them.
I can’t believe I’m already at the third paragraph and I haven’t told you the best part yet. Here it is… this is the easiest peasiest bread you’ll ever make. Yes, it has yeast in it, but there’s no kneading, just stirring. No kidding. From start to finish is less than 2 hours, which makes you already very close to a warm loaf all for yourself.
Our little Central Coast town is no longer so little or quaint, but Deluxe Foods is still there, and I do miss it. Not sure they still make their English Muffin bread, but I’ve got my own to make me happy now. Here’s the recipe…
English Muffin Bread
Recipe courtesy King Arthur Flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast (not active dry yeast)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
cornmeal to sprinkle in pan
1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don't have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.
3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.
5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.
7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn't be more than, say, 1/4" over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn't very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
8) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.