Last Saturday the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Eggs Benedict, with a recipe for the dish plus recipes for hollandaise and for homemade english muffins. Sounded so easy and relatively quick/effortless so I thought I'd treat my spouse to Eggs Benedict. Since I'm an early riser I figured starting the muffins at around 5AM would give me plenty of time to feed him a delicious breakfast at around 7:30 AM. WRONG! Even though I took the extra steps of measuring out all the ingredients the night before and triple reading the recipe, I finally finished the last batch around 9:30AM. While they were delicious, I had a couple of problems.
The recipe provided in the WSJ is "adapted from" Elizabeth David's recipe in "English Bread and Yeast Cookery", which I also happen to have. So I read ED's recipe over several times as well, but failed to pay attention to the ingredients.
There's very little work in making the dough - no kneading, basically just stirring the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until a cohesive well formed dough is formed, then set it aside to rise. No problems so far. Next, tip the dough onto a floured board and divide into ten pieces. Using floured hands, you are directed to roll each piece into a rough ball. Here is where I had a huge problem. The dough was so wet that when I tried to pull off a portion to "make a ball" the dough just stuck to itself and to my hands. No amount of flour on my hands would allow me to separate the dough to make a ball. I ended up having to work lots more flour into the dough - I'd guess maybe about 1 1/2 cups more flour - in order to make a dough that could even be separated from itself.
The WSJ author's recipe specified "4 loosely packed cups" of bread flour. What does loosely packed mean? As for liquid, 2 1/4 cups milk and 2 tablespoons oil or butter was also specified. Referring to ED's recipe, she specifies a pound of flour, or about 3 cups, to 1 3/4 cups of water, and 2 tablespoons fat. Since I haven't tried the recipe using ED's quantities I don't know if I would have the same problems that I had this morning, and I didn't weigh my flour so I'm not sure if I'd also have issues with ED's recipe.
Other than having to add about 25% more flour than initially specified, the muffins I made needed more salt. Both recipes specify 1 tablespoon salt, but since the WSJ recipe uses about 25% more flour and about 30% more liquid, clearly the WSJ recipe was deficient in salt.
That said, despite having to add significantly more flour, the muffins turned out great looking and pretty good tasting - they would have been perfect with more salt. But each batch of muffins took 20 minutes to cook on the griddle - I could only fit four at a time on the griddle, so it took an hour to cook all ten muffins. And they were huge - 5 inches across and 1.25 inches high. Next time, if there is a next time, I'll make the dough into probably 15 or so muffins. Or I'll just follow E. David's recipe to make fewer.
In any event, DH didn't get his Eggs Benedict this morning. The muffins are going into the freezer for some later delicious brunch.
Here's a link to the WSJ article; sometimes the Journal removes online access to articles after a period of time, but as of this writing it is freely accessible.