A Little Princess was one of my favorite books when I was a child. I loved being transported into Sara Crewe’s magical world. One of the most special scenes in this novel is when a mysterious benefactor arranges a delicious hot breakfast for Sara and Becky, seemingly by magic. They wake up in the morning to find the breakfast all laid out on the table.
One of the items on this breakfast table were “muffins.” There is no other description of these muffins in the book, but somehow I just couldn’t imagine anyone in Victorian England eating muffins like we imagine them today. So, I researched a bit about “Victorian muffins” and learned some really interesting things!
Muffins as we know them are a relatively recent invention. In Sara Crewe’s England, what they called “muffins” is what we would call “English muffins” today. In fact, when we hear about “The Muffin Man,” that is referring to a baker who carried around a basket of English muffins, selling them on the streets to passersby. That sounded a whole lot more authentic, so I set out to make my own English muffins in honor of A Little Princess.
I loosely followed this traditional recipe. Be warned that this recipe requires a total of about 12 hours of rising time for the dough. But, don’t let that scare you. The recipe isn’t difficult at all, you just have to be home basically all day to make it.
These scrumptious muffins are worth the wait, though! So much more flavorful than store-bought English muffins.
Homemade English Muffin Recipe – A Little Princess
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 packet yeast (not rapid-rise yeast!)
- 1 1/2 cups cold milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup cornmeal (or more, if needed)
- 2 Tbsp. butter or oil
- Mix together the flour, salt and yeast.
- Add the milk, honey, and egg white to the flour mixture, and stir well.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 3 hours.
- Cover a cookie sheet with a thick layer or cornmeal. Make sure that the entire baking sheet is covered. This is to prevent the dough from sticking. I didn’t put nearly enough cornmeal on the sheet I used, and I had some problems, so the more cornmeal, the better!
- Portion out the dough onto the cookie sheet into about 12 little mounds.
- Sprinkle some more cornmeal on top of these dough mounds, and cover the cookie sheet with plastic.
- Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 9 hours (see note at bottom about rising time).
- Melt the butter or oil in a pan on the stove on medium heat.
- Add the muffins to the griddle, and cook them until brown on the bottom.
- Flip the muffins over and cook until brown on the other side, too.
A note on rising times: The original recipe called for 4-5 hours of initial rising, followed by 12-42 hours of rising in the refrigerator once the muffins are formed. I just simply didn’t have the fridge space for that, so I adapted the rising times and temperatures to meet my needs, and the muffins still turned out great, but if you want to be totally authentic, follow the rising times in the original recipe!
Once the muffins are cooled, split them in half by running your fingers along the edges. You can toast them and eat them with butter, honey, or jam. You can also eat them plain, because they are just that good! I don’t think I’d ever eat a store-bought English muffin plain, but these are good enough to do just that.
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