English Muffins & Eggs Benedict

Catching up on the BBA Challenge (and boy, do I have some catching up to do!), I tackled Peter Reinhart’s English Muffins a couple of weeks ago but took forever to post about them, perhaps because the entire process swept by so smoothly and effortlessly in one day, it felt more like cookie-making than bread-making.

Milk, butter, sugar and salt comprise the supporting cast of characters in this simple formula that comes together in six little balls of dough that are left to rise under a scanty coat of cornmeal. Cooked on a griddle, where they don their patchy brown shields, the muffins are finished with a few minutes in the oven, completing their journey towards true, muffin goodness, replete with a characteristically rough and crumbly interior.

Enriched by the addition of butter and milk, English Muffins are a fuss-free and utterly delicious introduction to the world of bread. If there’s one thing that McDonald’s did right for this Singaporean kid many many years ago, it was to show that bread could actually be delicious in a sandwich, worlds away from the bland slices of packaged bread sold by the local industrial bakery. Not much of a bread heritage to crow about I know (since rice and noodles are more my thing), but I’ll always remember my first bite of a freshly toasted McMuffin with its chewy texture and flavors that were strangely comforting for an industrial bread. Of course, one might suspect the addition of numerous anonymous chemicals and the dreaded HFCS to achieve this, which is why I was delighted to discover how unbelievably easy it was to make my own muffins. Another point against industrial food!

Perfect on their own toasted with just a dab of butter, one bite of these mealy muffins with their meltingly soft textures will be enough to convince you that there really isn’t any reason for those frozen store-bought muffins to hide out in your freezer. Really, there isn’t. Especially when you can whip up fancy breakfasts like Eggs Benedict for a mid-week treat to remind you that the weekend’s not too far away.

Usually served with slices of good ham or bacon, I opted for a less calorific (and vegetarian) option by substituting the meats with smoked salmon, which worked out perfectly. Apart from jams and marmalade, runny eggs are the next best thing to enjoy muffins with, their vast absorbent crumb serving as the perfect sponge with which to wipe off the oodles of yellow sauce off the plate with a flourish.

(Note: We’re not posting the bread recipes as part of this challenge, but if you’re curious about the breads we’re making, get yourself a copy of the book, check out the BBA Challenge page and start baking!)

Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon
Makes 2 servings

2 English Muffins, halved and toasted with a small pat of butter
4 large eggs, poached (Elise at Simply Recipes has a great tutorial on poaching fresh eggs, otherwise these silicone egg poachers do the job equally well for eggs that are a few days old)

Keep the muffin halves and poached eggs warm while you prepare the Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce: (adapted from The Kitchn)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Salt and ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, lime/lemon juice and cream with a dash of salt and ground pepper. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan just enough for it to start swirling around the pan and take it off the heat. Do not let it brown.

Whisk five tablespoons of the melted butter into the egg/cream mixture, a tablespoon at a time. Ensure that each spoonful is fully incorporated before adding the next and whisk continuously.

Pour the egg/cream mixture into the pan with the rest of the melted butter, turn the heat to low and whisk vigorously for about 10 to 15 seconds until you get a thick and luscious yellow sauce. It’s important to control the heat at this stage and not to overcook the sauce which would curdle the egg yolks. If your Hollandaise isn’t thick enough, increase the cooking time in five second blocks, whisking continuously until you get the desired consistency.

To Serve:
2 ounces/ 55 grams smoked salmon, cut into 1-by-½-inch slices
3 chive stalks, finely chopped, to garnish
Salt and pepper

Layer each muffin half with two slices of smoked salmon and a poached egg. Drizzle the Hollandaise over the stack, garnish with chives and salt and pepper. Serve warm and soak up any excess yolk or sauce with the bread.

That’s it for this week’s installment and check back soon for the next bread on the list: Foccacia. In the meantime, here are other BBA Muffin baking stories for your reading pleasure:


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