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English Muffins

8 fl oz milk (225 ml)
2 fl oz water (55 ml)
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 level teaspoons dried yeast
a little lard
1 lb strong plain flour (450 g)
1 rounded teaspoon salt
a little rice flour or ordinary flour

Measure the milk and water into a small saucepan and heat until
just hand-hot. Pour it into a jug, add the sugar and dried yeast,
mix it with a fork and leave it about 10 minutes to get a real
frothy head.

Meanwhile sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, make
a well in the centre, then pour in the frothy yeast mixture and
mix it to a soft dough - it should leave the bowl cleanly, but if
it seems a bit sticky add a spot more flour. On the other hand, if
it seems a little dry add just a spot more water.

Now transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead it for about 10
minutes, by which time it should be very smooth and elastic. The
dough can go back into the bowl now, Just slip the bowl inside a
large, oiled polythene bag, and leave it in a warm place until the
dough has doubled in size. This will take about 45 minutes or
longer, depending on the temperature.

When the dough has risen, lightly flour the work surface, then tip
the dough out and roll it out to about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick, then
using a 3 inch (7.5 cm) plain cutter cut out twelve rounds, re-rolling
the dough a couple of times again if it starts to get puffy. Mix
the scraps and re-roll to use all the dough up.

Now place the muffins on an ungreased, lightly floured baking sheet,
sprinkling them with a little flour, then cover with a plastic bag,
loosely tied, and leave them to puff up again for about 25 - 35
minutes in a warm place.

When they are ready to be cooked, grease a thick-based frying-pan
or griddle with just a trace of lard. Then heat the pan over a
medium heat, add some muffins and cook them for about 7 minutes on
each side, turning the heat down to low as soon as they go in.
You'll need to do this in three or four batches, but they can be
made well in advance.

If you want to serve them in the traditional way, all you do is
break them just a little around their waists without opening them,
then toast them lightly on both sides. The correct way to eat them
is just to pull them apart without cutting and insert a lot of
butter. You can store them in an airtight tin for about two days
before toasting if you have any left over.

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