Great British Bake Off Challenge: Cheese and Onion English Muffins

I have less than seven weeks left at work before I go on maternity leave. I'll be waking up to a year off work and that feels really weird. Time is going so fast and our due date is 3 months on Wednesday. Even scarier if baby decides to come early. I'm going to try and enjoy the time left but at the same time I hope it goes quickly because I'm so impatient and absolutely terrible at waiting for anything. This is why I'm so bad at bread because you have to wait for all that rising, these muffins were worth the wait though...as I'm sure Baby Cake Hunter will be!

Week two of the Great British Bake Off brought us bread and I decided to have a go at the technical challenge this week and make English muffins, another bake that had been on my 'to do' list for some time. Nick particularly wanted cheese and onion muffins, but, after searching around for a recipe to reference I found that there doesn't seem to be any cheese and onion English muffin recipes out there. I don't know if my search terms were completely wrong (although how many ways can you phrase 'cheese and onion English muffin'?) but I could only find recipes relating to grilled cheese muffin sandwiches. This obviously meant that the internet needed a recipe for them!

I was really pleased with how these turned out. They were shaped by hand, rather than using a pastry ring to cut the circles. I was concerned they would look messy this way however, by being precise and weighing each muffin before shaping, they came out pretty much all the same size. 

My kitchenaid is broken at the moment and I'm at a bit of a loss as to how or where to get it fixed. This meant kneading by hand, which I have avoided for a long time because I had my trusty kitchenaid to fall back on. It was good practice though and easy to do provided I had music on in the background to keep me going. The original recipe said to knead for 10 minutes but I went for a little longer to get the smooth finish on the dough I was looking for. The original recipe (from Leith's Baking Bible) suggested cooking these for 15-20 minutes on each side but they would definitely have been burnt had I done that so I tested one for 20 minutes total (10 on each side) and it came out perfect so I'm not sure if that's a typo on the part of Leith's. I also upped the flour content because the onions made for a wetter dough. If you find you need to add more flour, just sprinkle a little on as you're kneading. 

Cheese and Onion English Muffins
(adapted from Leith's Baking Bible)

550g strong white plain flour, plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon or 2x 7g sachets of dried active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
340ml whole milk, lukewarm
semolina, to coat the muffins
100g strong cheddar, grated
1 large white onion, finely chopped
a little olive oil, to cook the onions

  1. Start by frying the onions in a little olive oil until soft and golden. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix in the grated cheese. Add the yeast and sugar to the milk and let sit for 5 minutes until the mix starts to look a little frothy.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture. Bring together and knead for around 12-14 minutes (Leith's suggests 10 for plain muffins but I found it needed longer).
  4. Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for an hour, or until around double in size.
  5. Knock back the dough and knead for another 2-3 minutes. Cover again and leave for 30 minutes. In the meantime, sprinkle two baking trays with semolina. 
  6. Without knocking back the dough, divide it into 10 equal pieces (I did this by weighing the dough as a whole and dividing by 10...simple).
  7. Shape each piece into a ball and place on the baking tray. Flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand and sprinkle the tops with semolina. Cover and leave for another 30 minutes.
  8. In the meantime, very lightly oil a heavy bottom pan or skillet and place over a low heat. Place 2-3 muffins in the pan and cook for about 20 minutes (10 minutes each side). They should be done when the sides spring back when pressed. 
  9. Keep them warm by wrapping them in a clean tea towel.
The best tip I've read is to break them open with a fork, this increases the surface area for when you smother with lovely butter.