Fresh Yeast Muffins



Those of you who are Keen™ will know that there’s already a muffin recipe on the blog. Nevertheless, I decided to revisit muffins in part because it is now ridiculously easy to get hold of fresh yeast but also because a lot of muffin recipes and videos Out There™ are just plain wrong when it comes to the method of shaping them. There, I said it. Oh yes, there’s no holding me back when my dander is up.

Because there’s no need to go faffing about with rolling out the dough and using *in her best Lady Bracknell voice of disapproval* a pastry cutter. Apart from anything else, it ruins the iconic shape of the muffin (a flattened top and bottom with a smooth, soft and pale crust around the middle) with an ugly seam where the dough has been compressed as it was cut.

This recipe is adapted from one listed in Florence White’s Good Things in England and dates from 1826, and without being overly dramatic, eating them is like biting into a cloud. To keep them as soft as possible, I’ve used ordinary plain flour and used the whey from some curd cheese I made earlier this week as part of the mixing liquid, as it gives a beautifully soft crumb. Don’t worry about having to use whey, you can just make the mixture equal parts whole milk and water.

Fresh Yeast Muffins

Makes 14

560g plain flour
20g fresh yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1tsp salt
300ml whey + 150ml whole milk OR 225ml water + 225ml milk

cornflour for dusting

semolina for cooking (optional)

  • Put the flour and salt into a bowl. I use my stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  • Crumble the yeast into a small bowl  and add the sugar. Work the sugar into the yeast then set aside for five minutes until it becomes liquid.
  • Mix the whey and milk (or milk and water) in a small pan and warm gently to blood temperature.
  • Pour the yeast into the milk mixture and then pour the whole into the flour.
  • Mix thoroughly and knead for 10 minutes – five if using a dough hook.
  • Cover and leave to rise for 1.5-2 hours.
  • Deflate the dough, knead briefly, cover, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the work surface with cornflour. The dough is rather loose and prone to stickiness. The cornflour doesn’t stick to itself, and will therefore act as a non-stick layer between the dough and the work surface.
  • Tip the dough out and divide it into 75g portions. This quantity of dough will, when risen and cooked, make the perfectly-sized muffin – 8-9cm across and 4cm thick. You can make them larger, but remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • For each piece of dough, fold the edges in towards the middle, then turn over so that the folds are underneath and the top is smooth. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it in small circles, shaping the dough into a smooth ball. Set the ball on a cornflour-dusted surface to rise. Don’t put the balls of dough too close together, or they might rise into each other.
  • Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes from the moment the first ball of dough is shaped. They will take time to cook in batches, so with the staggered batch cooking, the last few will have risen just in time to be cooked.
  • Put a heavy-based pan onto a large ring on a low heat.
  • Cook the muffins in batches. Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook 4 or 5 at a time. Sprinkle the pan with semolina if you like, although if your pan is non-stick, this can be omitted.
  • Gently slide a thin spatula under one of the risen balls of dough and transfer it to the pan turning it upside down as you do so, so that the top of the muffin cooks first. This will help create the perfect muffin shape, because the base of the dough is already flat and the top is rounded. If you cook the base first, the top continues to rise and curve, and the drying effect of the radiated heat from the pan will dry the surface of the dough and will make it ‘reluctant’ to flatten into the traditional muffin shape. Cooking the top first, the weight of the dough allows it to settle like a gently deflating cushion, into the flattened shape, and a partial hardening of the already flat bottom (which is currently the top) is fine.
  • Cook for five minutes, then gently turn the muffins over and cook for another 5 minutes. When done, they should sound hollow when tapped.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Wipe the pan free of semolina, then repeat until all the muffins are cooked.

To serve – very important

These instructions are adapted from Hannah Glasse, who insisted that no knife should touch muffins, as they would become heavy. Here is a guide to enjoying your fresh muffins.

You will need:
chilled butter cut into thin slices.
toppings such as jam, honey or sausage, egg and bacon, depending on degree of hunger.

  • Whilst perfectly delicious soft pillows when freshly cooked, unless you are able to eat them hot from the pan, muffins should be toasted on the outside before being served. The insides are best left un-toasted, so you can bite down through the softness to the crunchy outside. The contrast is sensational.
  • Grill  for 2-3 minutes each side until the outsides have crisped, but not darkened.
  • While the muffin is still warm, take a serrated knife – yes, I know Hannah said no to knives, but a little help is needed in order to divide the muffin.  Take your knife and gently draw it around the side of the muffin like an equator, if you will – just breaking the soft crust to a depth of 1-2mm.
  • Once the ‘skin’ (it really is too soft to be called a crust) has been scored all the way around, hold the muffin sideways and with the tips of your fingers, gently pull the muffin apart. The cutting will help it divide evenly into two halves.
  • Quickly lay a slice of cold butter between the two halves and put them together again.
  • Cover with a cloth to keep warm.
  • After about a minute, turn each buttered muffin upside down, so that the now melted butter can seep into the other half of the muffin.
  • Your muffin is now ready to be enjoyed as is, or to drizzle over the toppings of choice. Remember, do not spread your toppings, or the pressure will deflate your soft, billowy muffin.

8 Comments on “Fresh Yeast Muffins”

  1. I love these type of english muffins for breakfast.. thanks for the recipe!

  2. Wotchers,
    I was rewatching some bakeoff on disc and it only then occured to me that you might have a blog (quick on the draw or what).
    This led to getting the book and a subsequent “to do” list .
    A cooks cook is a lovely find.
    I enjoy the series as they come round but I cannot get excited about contestants who manically cook all night or who explain every technique and then tell us that their effort is “perfect”whilst simpering to camera.Sorry, rant over.
    I know I’ve put this in the wrong place but I don’t do twitter/facebook.Reason for writing (apart from saying you were robbed and the book rocks) is a question (oh at last we get to it!).
    I’ve been given a load of meddlars and some quinces too.People tend to do that as I cook things other people might not bother with. I’ve done jellies before and thought you might have an idea/suggestion.
    I don’t know how many requests you get or if you do e mail reply’s .Its just if you do I would love to here from you on the meddlar/quince thing .
    NB I would put Witches abroad at number one – all the funny bits and that bit where she has to cut up the beautiful dress which made me cry…
    best wishes
    Angela Lambert.

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Angela!

      So happy you’re enjoying the book/blog! 😀

      I’ve got a couple of recipes for medlars saved in my bookmarks HERE – although the page is now archived, so you might want to save it as a text file.
      If you’re game for a challenge, I also have this recipe for Medlar Tart in a book from 1760.
      Quince I love. They are great for being a 2-for-1 fruit – wipe & chop the fruit, then simmer in water until tender. Make Quince Jelly from the flavoured water and Membrillo (Quince paste) from the sieved fruit pulp – sublime with Manchego cheese!
      There’s also this recipe for a Quince Cheesecake from an old Dutch recipe book, and quince are used in this fabulous Christine Ferber recipe for Christmas Jam.

      Hope these are of use! M-A 😀

      • Wotchers Mary Anne!
        Well you’ve done it now!
        Have you never heard of pester power?
        Seriously I am so chuffed with your reply.
        MEDDLER TART-more recent recipes say “bletted”.Is this a Victorian/American euphemism like never saying “lav” if you want to go I wonder.Think it will look like a treacle tart and am going to go for it but wonder if I should just squidge out the pulp with my fingers- I’ve got enough meddlers – not fingers!Oh God now its sounds like I’ve been careless with the carving knife!
        I see what you mean about the CHRISTMAS JAM and moving the recipe on(or in my case having a squint in the cupboard).I’ve bought golden sultanas and dried cranberries for the mincemeat so could do this instead.I’ve also got the last of the wet walnuts,which I suspect are not wet any more so they can go in.Just need more heft.I’ve got some of those giant American raisin/sultanas plus a huge bag of bargain currants.What do you think? I wondered about fresh lemon and orange zest plus the pulp.Would I still get the Christmassy ho,ho,ho with this and the spices?
        I bought a second hand mincer for a fiver today for said proposed mincemeat.The processor tends to take the texture down too much even if you pulse carefully and save some whole dried fruit to merrily sling in at the end.(Wot too idle to just chop it missus?).so could use this recipe for its maiden voyage so to speak.
        MEMBRILLO-am a bit unsure but willing to experiment – I’ve got enough to do both I think.So ,just cover with water and boil then simmer down till I’ve got a paste?Don’t suppose it will keep but I really fancy the Manchego combo.
        Have just noticed that spell check does not like the following:
        wotchers,bletted,lav,squidge,christmassy,wot,membrillo and manchego.
        Seems like the makings of a rather good popular tune.Perhaps not.
        Again thanks for taking the trouble.

        • MAB says:

          So glad you like the recipe suggestions!

          I think any combination of dried fruit plus booze plus spices will evoke the Christmas spirit – and personally, I love the addition of fresh fruit juice. Have you had a look at the mincemeat recipe on the blog? *shameless plug* It’s fat-free and very zingy! I’ve never minced any fruit myself, but if you’ve got a lot of mincemeat to make, I can see how it would reduce the chopping aches and pains.

          I found you a recipe for the membrillo and quince jelly – – you can just scale it down by half if your quince supply is running low. Membrillo will definitely keep, due to the high sugar content – and is a wonderful addition to the Christmas table, as is the quince jelly if you’re having game birds or venison. If you’re concerned about it keeping as a slab, you can pour it into jars and seal as per any regular jam. If you have any straight-sided jars, it’s then easy to slide it out whole and slice, but a spoon into the jar is also fine.

          Happy preserving! M-A 😀

  3. Well I owe you a pint for that.
    The jelly/membrillo combo is the way to go.Its a good link too ,I now get the membrillo thing.
    When I make jelly(crabapple,elderberry etc ) I usually go for roughly for a pound of sugar to a pint of liquid and this seems about the same ratio all told.
    I weighed the quinces just now and I’ve got 8lb 9oz so thats ok for the Christmas jam as well (gloats in irritating fashion).
    I went to the market today and they had the usual thing of a bowl for a pound.I got one of oranges and one of lemons.If I’ve got too many for the jam its back to your book for a plan (what a hardship!)Am just wondering how far to push the citrus thing and not kill the quince taste.I’m thinking one orange,two lemons.Sound ok?
    I can’t go too mad as the quinces look a bit ropey (said she looking a gift horse in the mouth)and I may have to peel or cut away.
    This is now first priority and moves one of your recipes down the list.I was all geared up for Broonie.Incidentally had to go a distance to get oatmeal and as I am planning your Cranachan as well I wondered how wide of the mark I would be if I put some medium oats, in small quantity, in the processor.
    DONT SHOUT. Just thought there would be some texture and taste that is akin to the oatmeal.Could put a few whole oats in too.Would probably call it something else but is it a goer?
    It is just such a joy to “talk”to somebody with similar enthusiasms.How many times have I waxed lyrical about a culinary adventure and watched peoples eyes glaze over(mind you there’s no problem with the eating element or the cadging of a jar of something).
    Seriously though would love to carry on talking.Next thing for me is potted meats and fish ,rillettes,terrines,pates …. I just know you would have something interesting to say but you have a life as well as a blog.So say if you want to leave it here – I’ll just go off and sulk!
    Best wishes

  4. dalezapata says:

    We just watched the end of season 2 of Bake Off and want to let you know we think you are an inspiration! Thanks for doing what you do. -Dale and Emily

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