The last Thomas’ English Muffin we ate was in the spring of 2000. I might have added a
splash pound of extra butter in those nooks and crannies if I’d known. It was an exercise in extra-special willpower just to ignore them after we began eating gluten-free. And when some gluten-free faux English Muffins showed up in the grocery freezer looking more like door-stops than little round breads with nooks and crannies, we ignored those, too.
When it came time to order Eggs Benedict there is where we missed them most. Try explaining to the server that you will have the Eggs Benedict, please, but could they hold the muffin because you cannot eat gluten. The server, trying to be helpful, will ask if you’d rather have toast, or rye bread, or even a bagel. Um, no, thank you.
And then comes your order – the poached eggs perched – or sliding off – on a single thin slice of ham swimming in Hollandaise sauce looking rather pathetic and naked. I’d wish for a good gluten-free English Muffin every single time that happened.
We have one now. All thanks to a serendipitous moment when the DVR recorded (accidentally) an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown. The episode was all about Eggs Benedict, and he happened to make simple (overnight) English Muffins to provide the basis for the Benedict/sauce. No griddle necessary.
We watched with interest because something about the preparation and science that Alton explained, clicked. We looked at one another thinking the same thing. Perhaps this would work with gluten-free flours and something for a binder?
Our first attempt was like magic. Mixing up the flours, adding the egg white as the binder and following Alton’s direction for the remaining process and ingredients, it had the right look and texture. We had only small Dole pineapple cans to use for muffin-rings so our first batch came out a slight bit tall, but they did rise and baked up exactly as they should.
There was way too much chewiness because of the girth, but the idea was there. We were slightly swooning. This close!
The next night we tried again with another mixture of flour and decided that those were still too thick, but the flavor was superb.
We indulged in English Muffin rings (highly recommended over pineapple cans) and this last batch was unbelievably good. No. More than that – warm from the oven fantastic. We adjusted the flour mixture slightly and now it has great crumb, reasonable nooks and crannies, and the right girth so you feel like you are actually eating a real English Muffin.
Aside from the time it takes for the dough to lounge overnight in the refrigerator, it takes less than ten minutes to create the batter and another 5 minutes in the morning to get them ready for the oven.
Two items that you will use over and over in your kitchen are really what makes this recipe work. Get yourself a scale. This one is great. And under $35. And get yourself some sort of instant read thermometer. We use this one. And while it seems expensive it is so worth the investment with the amount of use it gets. There are great alternatives to both items that are less expensive, too.
(Starring Alton Brown’s Science)
- 12 ounces gluten-free flour: (3 oz. superfine brown rice flour, plus 2 oz. gluten-free oat flour, plus 2 oz. superfine white rice flour plus 1.5 oz. millet flour plus 1 oz. sweet rice flour, plus 1.5 oz. potato starch, plus 1 oz. teff flour.
- 2 ounces dry milk powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- one packet yeast – not rapid rise! (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 large egg white
- generous 8 oz. water, warm
- 1 tablespoon solid shortening
- tablespoon or two of gluten-free cornmeal
In a stand-mixer bowl, weigh out the flours to a total of 12 ounces. The flours listed are what we like that gave us a good crumb, but feel free to use what you like best.
Zero out the scale, and weigh the milk powder into the same bowl and add the other dry ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, mix up the dry ingredients for about 15 seconds to incorporate it together. Use a low setting so you don’t dust the walls with flour.
In a glass measuring cup heat up the water and the shortening in the microwave for just a minute or until it is between 120 to 130 degrees. No hotter or you will kill the yeast. You want the shortening to melt in the water. Yes, greasy water. I do this while I’m measuring the flours because it always comes out too hot and has to cool down while the shortening is melting. Here is where the instant-read thermometer comes in handy.
While the mixer is running on low add the egg white and mix for a few seconds. Add the liquid once it is the right temperature and mix for about 3 minute on medium speed.
Scrape down bowl and give it one twirl with the spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Yes, seriously, overnight. Do it before you go to bed.
While you are still awake, get out two large baking sheets and line them with parchment, not silpats. Get out your muffin rings (don’t use the pineapple cans, seriously). And leave it all for the morning.
When you get up in the morning, ready to take on the last part of the muffin adventure – you’ll be happy the baking pans are ready. Using cooking spray, make sure each ring is well coated and place them all evenly on one parchment covered baking sheet.
Leave the second sheet pan empty.
Sprinkle a pinch of cornmeal in each ring. Save some for the topping.
Pour yourself some coffee. Drink.
Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. The dough will have risen and might have some gas bubbles visible, but ignore its rudeness. Place the bowl back on the mixer and using the clean paddle attachment, spin on medium speed for another 3 minutes.
Using a 1/4 cup scoop (think ice cream size) drop the batter evenly into the rings. It should fill 8 rings. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the dough.
Here’s the fun part. Turn the light on in the oven. Take the other parchment paper and place over the rings and place in the oven. Let rise for about an hour. We let it go to about an hour and twenty minutes – gluten-free flours need all the help they can get. They will rise and fill the rings.
Remove from the oven and preheat the thing to 400 degrees. Once at temperature, take the other baking sheet and place it on top of the piece of parchment covering the rings – right side up, not upside down. Double-decker-like.
Place in oven and time for 20 minutes.
Remove 2nd baking sheet and parchment top at 20 minutes. They should be browning. Bake 5 minutes more. Don’t burn them. Alton says they should be about 210 degrees but I’d remove them anywhere around 180-190 degrees. (again, instant-read thermometer comes in handy)
Cool for about 10 minutes and remove from rings and cool a bit more on a wire rack. Split with fork (never slice them) and toast or just eat them.
Et voila! Gluten free English Muffins!
Thank you, Alton Brown.