Reta Thompson’s English Muffins

My mother has been saving interesting recipes for years. Many are from back in the day when they used to publish reader’s recipes in The Star, and thousands of home cooks would try them out.

We recently went through one of her books, and one of the recipes we found was “Reta Thompson’s English Muffins”. I dont know which year this is from, but if I had to guess, it is probably from the 1980’s sometime. 

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First let’s get out all the ingredients.

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Next we combine the milk and salt and ‘scald’. I am not sure what that means, except that you should heat it…I always thought that you arent supposed to boil milk, so maybe it means heat until almost boiling?  So I looked it up, and apparently a lot of the old recipes used to call for this step as much of the milk was hand-milked and unpasteurized, and this step would kill all of the bacteria and “wild yeasts” that might exist in the milk that woul interfere wiht the texture, rise and flavour. A lot of the recipes since then have kept this step out of tradition.

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Next is the yeast and water combination – I added a pinch of sugar to ‘feed’ the yeast, evn though the recipe didn’t call for this.

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Next was the 3 tablespoons of shortening, melted. It is tough to melt shortening in the microwave…it took a long time!

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Here is the milk, scalded.

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This is the yeast – looks different now that it is ‘working’.

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So now we combine the cooled milk and the yeast.

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I start slowly combining 2 cups of the flour with the milk/yeast mixture.

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Then the shortening gets added in, and the remaining 2 cups of flour.I didnt need all the flour – by the time the dough formed, there was still 1/2 cup left.

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The recipe calls for you to ‘place dough in a greased bowl and sprinkle a little water on top’. I forgot to grease the bowl, but I did put water on top, then cover with wax paper as instructed. Put in a warm place for 2 hours.

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As you can see, it was tough to get the paper off after it rose. And tough to get it out of the bowl. 

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I rolled it out into 1/2 inch thickness, and cut out the round shapes. My mother used to use an empty tuna can to cut out the shapes into the perfect size, which is a great tip and would work very well. I didnt have a tuna can handy, so I had to improvise with a coffee container.

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Sprinkle a board with cornmeal, put the muffins on the board, and let them rise for 45 minutes (I covered them with a clean towel).  This is what they looked like after they rose.IMG_2044

Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet at 300 degrees, and turn after 15 minutes. Because mine were small, I found 15 minutes to be too long. With the second batch, I turned them after 10 minutes.

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IMG_2046Reta Thompson's English Muffins

So they turned out pretty well! They looked pretty close to the English muffins you buy at the store, and they tasted very similar (better). We ate a few of them and then put the rest into the freezer. It made 16 muffins, but mine were more like 3 inches instead of the 4 inch size called for in the recipe.

I would make this again – it didnt take long (especially if you use the dough hook on  your mixer, or a food processor to mix the dough). It made the house smell great all night (I started these at 8:30pm, which meant they werent ready until close to midnight). But it was nice to have freshly baked english muffins for breakfast the next day.