If anyone called me "crater faced", I'd likely cry, or hurl a brick at them. Actually, I'd cry, while taking aim with a brick in hand, then make an appointment with a dermatologist. For an English muffin though, it would be a compliment, rather than an insult. Those ugly craters are delightful butter traps; careful how you use this term - it's patent pending ;)

Now English muffins, let alone good, crater riddled ones that aren't doughy and undercooked inside, are harder to come by here, than you might imagine, which to me, is reason enough to know how to make them.

The great irony about the English muffin is that most Brits would be scratching their heads in wonderment, if you asked them to point you in the direction of the nearest one. The English insist that it was unheard of in England until it was imported from America. 

It seems that it may actually have its origins in a Welsh yeasted cake called Bara Maen, traditionally baked on hot stones and a certain Samuel Bath Thomas, an Englishman born in Plymouth, England in 1855, may be responsible for the birth of the “English muffin”. 

In 1876, or thereabouts, he set out for America and in 1880, opened a bakery in New York, selling what was probably Bara Maen, or maybe even crumpets, cooked on a hot griddle instead of heated stones, or an oven. 

His product caught on and sold like, well, hot cakes partly because of his marketing savvy and partly because Americans were smitten with the novel yeast cakes which were a stylish alternative to regular toast. Because he was from England, they came to be known as English muffins.

Americans usually have these at breakfast or brunch but the British have their equivalent teacakes, crumpets and pikelets (no, not those adorable miniature pancakes they make in Australia and New Zealand) for afternoon tea.

Crumpets are likely what a Brit might proffer, if asked for English muffins. They are however, different, as English muffins are made from a dough and crusted (top and bottom) with cornmeal while crumpets are made from a thick batter cooked in metal rings placed on the heated griddle or pan, with not a speck of cornmeal anywhere in sight.

Both are traditionally cooked on a griddle, instead of in the oven. I find a heavy roasting pan cooks them better than a flat griddle or pan. Perhaps the sides of the roasting pan retain heat and allow the insides of the muffins to cook more thoroughly than a flat griddle which spirits away the heat more freely.

The ‘proper’ way to eat them, is to split them with a fork, never a knife, before toasting and spreading with butter, jam, or curd. I’ll take butter, thanks, just butter!

3 1/2 hours      Cook 10 minutes        Makes10

300 g (3 cups) bread (strong) flour 
2 level tsp instant yeast       
1 Tbsp fine sugar      
1 level tsp salt       
1 /2 level tsp baking soda      
130 ml  (2/3 teacup) tepid milk      
100 ml  (1/2 teacup) tepid water      
2 Tbsp cool melted butter or light vegetable oil  
50 g (1/2 teacup) fine cornmeal     


Combine the flour, yeast and sugar and thoroughly mix with your hand. Add the salt and baking soda and mix in with your hand.

Pour in the milk and water. Combine to a sticky, shaggy mass then scrape down, cover and set aside for 20 – 30 minutes.

Add melted butter or oil and knead for about 8 minutes on low speed or until you have a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled surface, form into a ball and return to the mixing bowl. Cover with cling film or a cloth and leave to rise for 1 ½ hours or until slightly more than doubled in volume.

Turn out of bowl and knead a few strokes. Form into a ball again and cover with the upturned bowl. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Divide dough into 10 even sized pieces and shape each into a neat ball. Spread out the cornmeal on a baking sheet or large sheet of baking paper. Gently press top and bottom of each ball in the cornmeal than flatten to a circle of about 6 – 7 cm. Cover lightly with a cloth and leave to rise for about ½ hour or until doubled in volume. Don’t over rise or they will go out of shape.

Heat a heavy based griddle or pan. When moderately hot, cook muffins 7 minutes before turning over gently. Cook another 7 minutes then turn over again. Wait another 3 minutes before turning muffins over again for a final 3 minutes cooking. They should have cooked a total of 10 minutes per side. Turning them often ensures that they are flat on top and at the bottom. Heat should be moderate to gentle througout cooking time to ensure muffins cook right through before they burn on the outside.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before serving. To eat, push the tines of a fork deep into and right around the circumference of each muffin and gently ease the halves apart. Toast before spreading cut sides with butter, jam, lemon curd, cream cheese or whatever you fancy, or, make Eggs Benedict.