Photo of an English muffin on a plate

Nooks & Crannies

Spending time with a friend recovering from surgery, we’d talk a lot about and plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. From salmon en papillote to grilled cheese, our culinary journey was protein packed and filled with favorites.

It was, however, the humble English muffin that brought the most joy. Who could resist that hot from the toaster crunch slathered with butter filling the nooks and crannies? Some days there were other toppings: Honey, peanut butter, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and even chicken salad. What’s your go-to?

Is the English muffin’s origins English? Kinda sorta. What we know as today’s English muffin was created in 1894 by British-born baker Samuel Bath Thomas. Thomas first worked in a bread bakery in New York City, then opened his own bakery where he created a “toaster crumpet,” a version of the English crumpet that was both flatter and what is now called fork-split. He used a secret process that included griddle baking to create a muffin that was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

His technique preserved the nooks and crannies where all the delectable toppings congregate and provide a treat for your palate. True aficionados know never to slice an English muffin with a knife; doing so would ruin all those wonderful pockets. Use a fork to perfectly preserve the peaks and valleys.

Thomas eventually opened a second New York City bakery at 337 W. 20th St. in a building that remains known as “The Muffin House” and word spread fast. Fine hotels began serving it as a more elegant alternative to toast, and soon thereafter America in general embraced the English muffin. The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the origin of the term English Muffin to 1902. In a 1926 trademark filing for a bakery brand by Thomas’, it was claimed the term was first used in 1894. The American version wasn’t available across the pond until the 1990s.

How about making a batch this weekend? Snap a picture and send me your results.

News & Notes
Upcoming classes not yet on the calendar include:
      • Monday, Oct. 25 in tribute to Dia de Los Muertos: Sugar skull making and decorating, cookie and Pan de Muerto decorating at La Estrella Bakery’s newest location, 901 N. Grande Ave.
      • The November Tucson Originals class is Wednesday, Nov. 10 at FireTruck Brewing Company, 4746 E. Grant Rd.
      • Chef Tommy Begay III, who recently returned to Sushi on Oracle, 6449 N. Oracle Rd. is back on Monday, Nov. 15 at The Urban Grove, 550 W. Orange Grove Rd.
      • Bread baking with Chef Daniel Martinez of Café Francais is in the works.
      • Burgers with Chef Lindy Reilly will be scheduled after his Thunder Bacon Burger Co., 621 N. 4th Ave., opens.

The inaugural Over The Border Festival is Saturday, 3-5 p.m. at Rillito Race Track, 4205 N. 1st Ave. The taco and tequila throwdown is a family-friendly festival and highlights Latin America culture and heritage through cuisine, music and a passion of being linked together in the Southwest. The festival will include two performance stages, the main stage and the Disco Barn. In addition to music, there’s taco row, Tecate Alta lounge, margarita village, tequila expo, local Latin-owned vendors featuring art, artisans and a fun amusement. Tickets are $18-$95.

Week 5 of Tucson Knife Fight is Monday, 8 p.m. at Union Public House, 4340 N. Campbell Ave.

The Cup Café at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. was named one of the “100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America” by the website OpenTable.

Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea, 1730 E. Speedway Blvd., has reopened Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.–4 p.m.

Good Oak Bar, 316 E. Congress St., next to the Rialto Theatre, reopens Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. Fried pickles will be back, too.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,


English Muffins
Yield: About 18

1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, 110°F
¼ cup shortening, melted
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. In a small saucepan, warm milk until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine milk, yeast mixture, shortening and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add salt and rest of flour or enough to make a soft dough. Knead. Place in greased bowl, turn once to coat, cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.
3. Punch down. Roll out to about ½-inch thick. Cut 3 ½- or 4-inch rounds with biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Sprinkle waxed or parchment paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45-60 minutes.
4. Heat greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. Keep baked muffins in a warm oven until all have been cooked. Allow to cool and place in plastic bags for storage. To use, split with a fork and toast.

Photo credit: Cooking Maniac

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