English Muffins

The nomenclature of this item is anomalous, as it was developed in the United States; the term English applied to them is a highly successful marketing ploy. They are a discshaped baked product, usually around 3 to 4 in. diameter and about three-quarters in. high. A good general description is: "Good eating muffins are relatively tough, chewy, and honeycombed with medium to large size holes (1/81/4 in. diameter). Flavor is bland and somewhat sour. Side walls are straight and light colored. The edge between the sides and the flat, dark brown top crust is gently rounded, not sharp." They are baked in a covered griddle cup on a highly automated line. The main features of importance are that the dough must be soft so it flows to fill the cup, and the formulation must lead to the formation of the large internal holes.

A typical English muffin dough contains 83 to 87% water (flour basis equals 100%), 2% sugar, 1.5% salt, 5 to 8% yeast, and 0.5 to 0.7% calcium propionate. Vital wheat gluten at 1 to 2% is sometimes added to increase the chewi-ness of the finished muffin. At this absorption level the dough is very soft, and it must be cold (20°C, 68°F) when taken from the mixer so that it does not stick when it is divided, rounded, and deposited from the intermediate proofer into the griddle cups. Dusting material, usually a blend of corn flour and cornmeal, is used rather liberally (3—4% of the dough weight) to facilitate the various transfers.

Fermentation of the dough piece after it is divided and rounded is rather short, usually about 30 min. Three factors—short time, cold dough, and high calcium propionate levels—all tend to retard fermentation, so a rather high yeast level is required. Leavening in the griddle cups is due to C02, ethanol, and steam; in addition, some bakers add 0.5% baking powder to get an early kick in the cups so that the mold is quickly filled by the dough. The finished English muffin has a rather high moisture content (about 45%) and is prone to mold formation. Calcium propionate is used at the elevated level mentioned to help overcome this problem, and it is also added to the dusting flour. Another method is to spray the muffin with a potassium sorbate solution as it leaves the oven. If this is done, the propionate may be omitted from the dough, which in turn allows a decrease of about 1% in the amount of yeast.

In some instances the internal grain porosity is still less than desired, and the addition of protease enhances the openness of the crumb. This additive also increases pan flow, so absorption might be reduced by 1 to 2%, which might or might not be desirable. Sometimes a tangy, acidic taste is wanted (sourdough muffins), and a dry sour base or vinegar (acetic acid) is added to the dough, The increased acidity (lower pH) of the finished product enhances the antimold action of calcium propionate. Another popular variety contains raisins, added in amounts equal to 25 to 50% of the flour weight.

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