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cheddar and black pepper muffinsThe word English is in quote marks as we here in the UK don’t call this style of muffins English muffins, just muffins. It is somewhat confusing, however, because US muffins – sweet and spilling over their paper cups – are much more prevalent here than the former. But you can’t spread Marmite over American-style muffins, which is the whole point of muffins in my opinion. American muffins = sugary afternoon indulgence; English muffins = tasty vehicle for Marmite and butter. You can happily have one or two of these savoury ones for a light supper with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or perhaps top with ripe sliced avocadoes and chopped tomatoes, plus obligatory sriracha sauce. Then you can impatiently wait until the morning to split, toast and butter the leftovers, smearing with Marmite or jam as desired. And I desire. Muchly.cheddar and black pepper muffins

This recipe is a reworking of one found in Dan Lepard’s fantastic baking book, Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (UK link). Loads of his recipes have caught my eye but I made this one on the actual day I bought the book. From a real live shop! I have simplified Dan’s method, ditched his vinegar and water, and added baking powder and wholemeal flour for additional oomph. Oh, and the cheese and pepper. His original recipe is not difficult if you want to give it a go. But he wants you to leave the muffins overnight – or longer! – before you actually cook them. I’ve done the waiting thing as well as this quicker way without any real difference. You may think differently though. There are still a few rises to wait out, so this is probably a weekend bake. You could also start this the night before and do the first rise in the refrigerator, as Dan suggests. They are worth the wait, regardless of approach.

There are a few other, somewhat similar, recipes I fancy trying, including this one from Alton Brown. It sounds more like the thin, holey English muffins of my childhood. But the looser, almost pancake-like batter made to achieve this type of muffin is perhaps not so amenable to titivation. And we know how I like to titivate! Otherwise known as mess with/screw up.

Dan’s recipe is a stiffer, cuttable dough – suitable for add-ins like cheese, and more like the kind we get in our UK grocery stores, but obviously better (or at least my family thought so). I like the reassurance of cutting the dough rather than the scarier thought of wrangling a loose and wayward batter into baking rings. But I will tackle that at some point. For now the more methodical, contemplative approach suits me. Either way, pass the Marmite!

Belatedly I am popping this over to April’s One Ingredient Challenge (Cheese) hosted by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen and Laura of How To Cook Good Food. Please go over and see the other cheesey offerings, and maybe even send over one of your own. They will have a roundup with images later in the month.

cheddar and black pepper muffinsCheddar and Black Pepper Muffins

Recipe adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (US link)

This Week in 2011: Tuna and Crème Fraiche Pizza

This Week in 2012: Forager’s Fritters

Miss R’s Track of the Week: Tom Odell, Supposed To Be. A word: stunning

These light but sturdy savoury muffins beg to be buttered and eaten right away. But any leftovers are delicious the next day, split and toasted as per bought muffins. They may look a faff to make, but they are not in the least bit difficult to prepare. You just need a bit of time and patience. You could even make a double batch to bake and freeze for eating in the future. 

50g butter
1 tsp sugar
150ml milk
100g low fat Greek yogurt OR buttermilk
1 tsp fine salt
1 medium egg, beaten
300g white bread flour (strong flour)
75g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ heaped tsp freshly milled black pepper
1 packet (7g) fast action yeast (the kind that doesn’t need reconstituting)
75g shredded mature (sharp) Cheddar cheese or other strong hard cheese

Polenta/cornmeal for dusting

Put the butter, sugar and milk in a large pan and heat gently just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add in the yogurt, salt and egg. Mix until smooth. Add in the flours, baking powder,  and yeast to the buttery mix and stir well. Decant the dough onto a floured surface and stretch to a rough rectangle. Sprinkle over the cheese and pepper; fold in half.  Press all over with your hands and fold again from the opposite direction, pressing well. Do this another time or until you feel the cheese is distributed evenly. Surround the dough with your hands flat out and draw your hands together underneath the dough. This will help make it a rounded shape.  Pop the dough into the cleaned pan, or into a large bowl.

Cover the bowl and leave in a warm, draught-free place for one hour. It probably won’t rise very much, so don’t worry. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for one minute, then shape it into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of notebook paper (A4). Draw up the bottom third to the middle, then bring down the top third over the whole. It will be a third of its original size now. Cover it with a tea towel and leave for another hour to gently rise.

After the second rise sprinkle polenta or cornmeal onto a tea towel covered baking tray, and very gently roll the dough out to about 1 ½ cm, keeping a rectangular shape if you can. Cut the dough into even squares, flip each onto the polenta so that both sides are dusted, then cover again for about 2 hours. The soon-to-be muffins will rise by about half.

When the dough has risen for the final time, heat the oven to 180C/350F. (Although you will start the muffins off in a hot pan, they will be completed in the oven.) Now get a heavy skillet – preferably cast iron – and heat over a medium flame. Carefully place up to four muffins in the hot pan and cover. This allows the moisture in the muffins to create steam, which will help the muffins puff up. Check the bottoms after 2-3 minutes and flip when a good dark gold, with the polenta browned. Do the same on the other side.

Put the bottom-warmed muffins on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes – maybe a minute or so more, if needed. Carry on with the remaining muffins in the same way. Eat fresh from the oven, with next days’ leftovers split and toasted under the grill/broiler until browned.

Makes 8 small, fat muffins.DSC_0007cheddar and black pepper muffinscheddar and black pepper muffinscheddar and black pepper muffins

40 thoughts on “Cheddar and Black Pepper ‘English’ Muffins

  1. lauralayne says:

    These look absolutely delicious. English muffins bring my back to my childhood and this is a great recipe to transform it into a more adult version. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Wow, you were quick off the mark! I’m glad you like them. They really are scrummy, even if they take some time to make. I promise I will do something more quick to make next time ;D

  2. itselliewellie says:

    Making these this weekend for sure!

    1. I really hope you like them!

  3. Well, THESE look delightful!

    1. Thanks for the caps lock comment ;D

  4. I don’t have much patience for making bread but these look so delicious they might be worth it!

    1. Either you are in the mood for some yeasty/risey baking or you’re not. Mostly I’m not, but these are lovely. And they freeze really well

  5. Sophie33 says:

    I love your savoury big English muffins a lot! They look amazing, rich & prettty tasty too! 🙂 Yummm!

  6. They look great & I bet they freeze well too – always handy for the unexpected guest. Lovely, thanks.

    1. They do indeed! Double batch highly recommended for just that very thing ;D

  7. shuhan says:

    looks GORGEOUS kellie! that touch of cheddar and black pepper is def making this sing. Think I might even have a couple without any topping or filling. Bookmarked for a day when I get a spare bit of time for baking!

  8. Yum! I love the look of these. I make a cheese and mustard scone recipe that is a bit more basic that your muffins – can’t wait to give them a try!

  9. ohhh simply love it!

  10. Yes! I love English muffins, but we can’t get them here. Nor can I find crumpets. I’ve been thinking of making my own for some time, but have been looking for the rings to make them and haven’t found any yet (yes, I am aware of this thing called the ‘internet’ where I could just order them, but what’s fun about that?!). Squares! I never woulda thought! Now I can give these a try and stash them away in my freezer for those mornings I wake up and *need* to have a hot buttery piece of toast with marmite scraped over the top. Thanks Kellie!

    1. Marion says:

      If you remove the tops and bottoms from tuna cans, you can use them, so I’ve heard

  11. Wauw, these looks great. Will definitely make them later this week 😀

  12. aNN says:

    I currently have the dough for these rising. I think I may have made a mistake though, instead of yogurt I used extra milk and told myself to not add it in all at once but due to lack of caffeine in it all went! It made a very sticky dough so I chucked extra flour in until it resembled bread dough but it is still slightly sticky. I’m hoping it’s supposed to be like this 🙂

    1. I’m sure it will be fine. It’s quite a ‘friendly’ dough. Let me know how they turn out 😀

  13. Reblogged this on Katie's Kitchen and commented:
    These look fantastic! Though the recipe measures its ingredients in grams and milliliters, a simple google search will certainly make the conversions for you. I know what I’m making tonight!

  14. aNN says:

    They turned out really well. Do you think they really benefit from the 3rd 2 hour rise? By this point I had a 5 year old going ‘can we go out now pleeeeeaaassssseeeeee’!!!!

    1. I did the extra rise because we are cold where I live, but if you live some place warmer then you should get a decent result in less time. Thanks so much for letting me know how they turned out for you. I really appreciate feedback and questions.

  15. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand says:

    Oh yes please – much prefer these types of savoury muffins to the sickly sweet fat filled sweet muffins. Tangy cheddar and black pepper sounds really good. Great for weekend brunch!

    1. Yeah, I think these are weekend makes, not weekday. I am glad I got the Jacqueline seal of approval! And hello from a cold but sunny Scotland 😀

  16. I LOVE the way you write Kellie and this post was so entertaining as a Brit who calls a muffin a muffin and a muffin a small bun! LOL! Gorgeous photos too! Karen

    1. Thanks Karen. Good to hear from you. Yeah the muffin thing is funny. If you go to starbucks you know you aren’t ordering one of these savoury ones, but if you say to someone to pick up muffins from the supermarket… well, you could get anything really!

  17. Ann says:

    I’m a brit too and this is a muffin, a muffin is a big bun and a fairy cake is a little bun.

    Anyway, back to the recipe, they’re all gone which says it all really!

    1. Brilliant! That’s the way it should be. Let me know if you make them again with one less rise. You say you are a Brit, but a southern one or a northern one? It is about 5 degrees today here in Edinburgh but very sunny. I could rise a little yeast dough in this nice pool of sunlight streaming in my windows!

  18. laura_howtocook says:

    English muffins are brilliant and I think cheese and
    black pepper would be lovely together. I like the way you have adapted the recipe and your photos really help to understand the process. I have thought of my own variations on muffins but have never gone ahead and made them. I will be back here when I do!
    Thanks for linking to One ingredient xxx

  19. Ann says:

    I’m a Northern Brit though not as Northern as you. I’m a Yorkshire lass 🙂

    Further to the muffin debate what do you call the round circular bread products you get at the chippy? Hubby insists they are also called a muffin however to me they are ‘teacakes’

    1. Do you mean ‘baps’? I take it you mean a soft bread roll. We call them morning rolls or baps. I think of tea cakes as lightly sweetened yeast rolls with dried fruit. But being a transplant from Florida I could be completely wrong! You’ve got me wondering…

      1. aNN says:

        yep they are the ones. Also known as a barm, breadcake, bap and probably lots more!. We’d call the lightly sweetened yeast rolls with fruit in a ‘current teacake’ but as my hubby says ‘you’re from Yorkshire, therefore you’re weird’

        Everytime there is a reply on here I get an urge to make them again but I don’t think I can justify staying up until 2am to do so!

  20. HELEN says:

    ooh these look amazing! I’ve never made English muffins before but now I want to make these.

  21. Yum! Kellie, these look delicious! 🙂

  22. Ooh cheesy muffins – perfect for a base for that lovely breakfast spread you have presented here. I love the idea of these and will be making this for breakfast on Sunday (I may do the overnight rise thing)!

  23. my goodness these look amazing! got to try it!

  24. kneadwhine says:

    Hello – I’m going to be making these (but subbing the pepper for wholegrain mustard) this week. Looking forward to them, they look amazing!

  25. clare says:

    Can you start this the night before for the first rise or do the first two then leave then in the shape overnight in the fridge so that they can be cooked for breakfast?

    1. Hi Clare. They should be fine with an overnight spell in the fridge. I hope you enjoy them. 😊

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