All last winter I kept hearing about this amazing English Muffin Toasting Bread my parents were making while wintering in sunny Florida. Unable to find English muffin bread in any of their local stores, they set upon a mission to make their own version from scratch, with results so good that they couldn't stop talking about it.
This summer, upon returning home, my mom baked a couple loaves just for us and I finally understood what all the fuss was about. This is some of the best toasting bread I have ever tasted, and it is so easy to make that even a novice baker should have good results.
Toast is a time-honored breakfast ritual for many of us, one which can be infinitely elevated simply by using the proper bread. When done right, good toast doesn't need trendy toppings like chutney or smashed avocado - plain old butter (salted, of course) or your favorite peanut butter and jelly will be enough.
My parents just returned to Florida for the winter, but not before I made my mother teach me how to bake this perfect toasting bread. Last week, over the course of an afternoon, my mom and I baked four loaves of beautiful bread, which included both white and whole wheat versions of the recipe.
Making food from scratch is a great way to save money and control the quality of the food your family enjoys. Unlike a store-bought version, which lists more than 15 ingredients and a host of preservatives, this recipe consists of just eight pantry staples: flour, active dry yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda, milk, water and cornmeal.
A single batch yields two loaves and takes about 90 minutes from start to finish, including 45 minutes to rise and 35 minutes to bake. Similar in texture to an English muffin, this bread is filled with wonderful pockets of air that create its signature spongy texture and make it perfect for toasting.
You could make this bread by hand, but the process is even easier with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Unlike traditional bread that forms into a smooth, elastic dough ball, this dough will appear rough, sticky and stretchy when ready.
One tip I learned from my mother is to place the yeast and sugar together on one side of the mixing bowl, after the flour has been added, and the salt on the salt on the opposite side. Yeast loves sugar, which helps it to activate, while salt will work to slow this process down. She also recommends investing in a good yeast like Saf-Instant, which is sold in one-pound packages and can be stored in the freezer, but the regular packets in our local grocery stores will also work.
This bread freezes beautifully, and if you slice it before freezing you can pop it straight into the toaster and have perfect toast within minutes. I'll toast to that!
English Muffin Toasting Bread
Makes: 2 loaves
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 ¼-ounce packages active dry yeast — each packet is equal to 2 ¼ teaspoons
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups very warm milk (120 to 130 degrees F)
½ cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees F)
Grease two 8x4-inch loaf pans with cooking spray, liberally coating the bottom and all sides. Sprinkle pans with a tablespoon of cornmeal each, and shake/tap to evenly coat the pan, discarding any loose cornmeal.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda, placing the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the opposite (salt will retard the yeast). Use a dough hook to mix the dry ingredients until combined.
Add the warm milk and water, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Add the remaining flour and mix on low speed for 60 to 90 seconds until the dough appears sticky and stretchy - it will not form into a typical dough ball. The dough is ready when it easily falls off the hook when raised.
Use a large spoon or spatula to transfer the batter evenly into each pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of corn meal over the surface of each loaf, and use your hands to gently press the dough into the pan, spreading the corn meal as you work. Cover pans with a dry towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown. To test for doneness, knock on the top of each loaf - it should be firm to the touch and sound slightly hollow.
Remove bread from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. Slice and toast to serve.
To store: Store at room temperature for several days in plastic zipper bag, or freeze for several months.
- For a whole wheat version, use 2 cups whole wheat flour with 3 cups all-purpose flour. Add the wheat flour in the second addition of flour, along with 1 cup all-purpose flour.
- To warm the dough as it rises, heat your oven until it reaches 170 degrees F, then turn it off. Place the covered loaves in the oven and let rise for 45 minutes until doubled in size.
- For easy use, slice bread before freezing.
- Use heels, crusts and leftover bread to make croutons or bread pudding.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.