The Model Bakery’s English Muffins

These English muffins are from The Model Bakery Cookbook (Chronicle, 2013) by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen, written with Rick Rodgers. We interviewed Rick and when asked for one recipe he thought we should bring to our community, he didn’t miss a beat. He said these were incredible, and they are. Be prepared to never want to settle for store-bought English muffins again.

Model Bakery_English Muffins

Even though the bakery’s doors had been open for over 80 years, these muffins put us on the national radar when they were featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We used to make these the old-fashioned way, shaped in ring molds (actually, we made ours in old tuna cans, which you cannot do any more because the sizes have changed). When we realized we could shape them by hand, it changed our lives—literally—as everyone for miles around wanted to try this “new” free-form version. Our English muffins are quite large when compared to the supermarket variety, which makes them wonderful sandwich rolls as well as breakfast treats. A couple of notes: You will need a heavy skillet or griddle (preferably cast-iron) to make these. And be sure to make the biga at least 12 hours before making the dough. Since you will probably be toasting the muffins, they don’t have to be fresh from the griddle; so make them a day or two ahead (or freeze them) if you wish.

The Model Bakery's English Muffins
Makes: Makes 12 English Muffins
  • ½ cup/75 g bread flour
  • ¼ cup/60 ml water
  • ¼ tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1⅓ cups/315 ml water
  • ¾ tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3½ cups/510 g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
Additional Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup/35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 6 Tbsp/90 ml melted Clarified Butter, as needed
  1. To Make the Biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.
  2. To Make the Dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)
  3. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)
  4. Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.
  6. Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.
  7. Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

23 Responses to The Model Bakery’s English Muffins

  1. October 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Dede, these look amazing!! I love that show too, I watch it all the time. I have to try these english muffins, never tried making them myself, but I love to bake, so I’m adding these to my list. Thanks for sharing the recipe. 🙂

  2. Alycarson November 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Has anyone tried this receipe yet? Mine came out super heavy and dense, unlike the light, fluffy, heaven at the bakery. What am i doing wrong? Is your Biga suppose to be gooy or pizzza doughish?…

    • Dede Wilson November 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      We asked co-author Rick Rodgers for you and he graciously provided you and us with some further information:

      Rick says: The biga should be dough-y. (It says a “sticky dough” in the recipe.) It is not a batter, like a poolish or sponge.

      Was the flour unbleached all-purpose? We use bread flour in the starter because in combination with the unbleached all-purpose, the total gluten is a good amount. You “could” use all unbleached. We tested the recipes with King Arthur Flours throughout: bread, unbleached, unbleached cake. These are higher in gluten than Gold Medal or Pillsbury. (Although I have made these with supermarket flours many times, too.)

      You need to add enough flour to the dough during mixing until makes a soft, sticky dough that cleans the bowl. I did find that I had to use a bit more flour this time around, and the amount will change according to the ambient humidity and the brand of flour.

      The muffins do need to rise COMPLETELY before griddling. As it also states in the book, a truly warm place (77F) is the ideal place for rising. Most kitchen are well under that, and people don’t let the doughs rise enough because of impatience (which I totally understand)!

      Be sure that the yeast is active. There is no sugar in the recipe, but the baker might want to do a test with yeast, water, a pinch of sugar to check the activity of the yeast.

      Hope this helps…


      • Sharon July 9, 2022 at 6:23 pm #

        In other places the amount of yeast in Biga is 3/4 tsp. Is 1/4 in your recipe a misprint?

        • July 10, 2022 at 7:04 am #

          The recipe is from the book and this is how the author presented it.

        • Muffin Man June 14, 2023 at 7:55 pm #

          The Model Bakery’s official cookbook says it is 1/4 tsp yeast in the biga, and 3/4 tsp yeast in the dough… I noticed some other sites have these two mixed up.

    • Adam December 7, 2013 at 2:03 am #

      I made these only once from fallowing a recipe that I found off some foodie’s blog and also from some tips that I caught while watching the t.v. episode on the Food Network.

      They turned out so good. But I’ve lost that recipe.

      I think I used vitamin C in that mix I made, one crushed tablet. I think it will help create a tender inside and uniformed small holes. It’s been a while since I have baked bread, so I am sorry that I can’t say more about what it does and why; it did make a difference.

      I didn’t see any vitamin C in this recipe. So I am searching for that episode to see.
      Good Luck!

  3. Naomi January 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Yum yum yum. These are so good! I wanted to make some muffins for my family and many of the recipes on the internet have milk, egg and/or butter but my kids are allergic to dairy and/or egg. Also I normally make bread with a preferment so this recipe appealed to me. Tomorrow I will try adapting the recipe to make fruit muffins.

    • Naomi January 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      PS I used coconut oil instead of butter due to allergies and it worked perfectly.

  4. oxfordbaker March 18, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    I made these and they were delicious. I’d love to try a sourdough version — do you have any advice on adapting the recipe to use a sourdough starter?

    • Dede Wilson March 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      So great to hear! While I do not have any suggestions about adapting this recipe, I would recommend this one from King Arthur. Let us know if you try them. I can smell them now!

  5. Julie Baron April 3, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Wonderful recipe! We’ve made them a few times and they are terrific. We usually make a double batch then slice and freeze them. A terrific treat to have first thing in the morning.

    One question: when you say the dough can be refrigerated 8-12 hours, is that after the 2 hour rise or instead of? I’m assuming instead of as that is typical but just want to be sure. Thanks!

    • Dede Wilson April 3, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Great question….the long, slow refrigerator rise is Instead of the 2 hour rise. This not only allows you flexibility, but many people like a slower rise to develop flavor.

  6. Greg K January 31, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    I was happy to find this recipe. Thank you very much. The only way we could get them in the past was either go to Healdsburg or order them on line. I have one question. How do you get them uniform, round and fluffy? Mine tend to get flat and are not very uniform in size.

    Thanks again!

    • fitzie63 January 14, 2021 at 11:20 pm #

      Read my comments just posted. Might help.

  7. fitzie63 January 14, 2021 at 11:19 pm #

    Great GO TO recipe. Just finished making my first batch. Bob Ballard Make sure you plan enough time. It’s a two day process when making the biga starter dough is included. Make certain your skillet temperature is no higher than 275 degrees. Cover the skillet with a glass lid for each turn. I cooked side 1 for 8 minutes and side 2 for 4 minutes. You don’t need to have the muffins doing a backstroke, swimming in butter like I saw on some videos. Only 2 Tbsp unsalted butter needed per skillet load.

    • Swanman January 22, 2021 at 6:25 pm #

      Hi fitzie, these are the best English Muffins ever, I’m making triple batches now because my friends all are begging for them.

      Making so many, I found that just frying until they were the perfect brown and finishing off in a 300 Degree oven until the internal temp of the muffins was between 200-205 worked great.

      I agree that you don’t need too much butter, I actually bought ghee which is Indian style clarified butter and it was perfect.
      Making these and bagels this weekend

  8. Cathy Pod February 26, 2022 at 9:40 pm #

    Wondering if the 1/4 tsp. Yeast in the biga is correct? I have seen many other copies of this recipe that calls for 3/4 tsp in the biga. Not sure which one to use.

    • Nikki Boyle Sapp May 6, 2022 at 6:41 pm #

      I have the same question??

  9. Kasey July 26, 2022 at 3:56 pm #

    Can you use active dry yeast instead of the instant?

  10. Elsie September 28, 2023 at 11:50 pm #

    So good! I made this in high altitude so I added a bit more water and they came out PERFECTLY. For everyone wondering, yes the 1/4tsp for the biga IS correct.

  11. Jo March 3, 2024 at 3:58 pm #

    So glad to find this recipe, as the muffins I ordered through Goldbelly had changed in character. the last 2 times I have ordered the “Model Bakery English Muffins” they were crushingly disappointing: no taste, dense texture–nothing like I remembered from earlier purchases. I wonder if Model is outsourcing and there is cost-cutting involved, at the purchasers’ expense.

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