This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I adore the places described in an Agatha Christie novel. Whether it is on the English Riviera down in Devon or a wonderful manor house in some remote location, I just want to be there with the cast of characters. Though not the one that gets the chop, obviously, but sometimes I feel that is a chance I'm willing to take. I think it has something to do with the time period, too. And hanging around with the upper classes. Everything feels so glamorous.
When Miss Marple visits Bertram's Hotel in London, well, I'm rather envious. Even in Miss Marple's time the hotel had old fashioned charm. Refinement, elegance, impeccable service and comfortable chairs in which to consume one's tea and muffins. Yep, I'd fit right in there. Not. Anyway, one can daydream.
It is in this hotel where the best muffins in the country are served. I'm not talking about American muffins, massive things, served in paper cases, studded with fruit. I'm talking about proper muffins. English muffins. The type of muffin served lightly toasted with lashings of butter.
If you mention a muffin today everyone presumes you mean the aforementioned cake type. Bread muffins have been pushed to the back burner. This is nothing new – the rise of the American muffin was about even in Christie's time. Lady Selina, a guest at Bertram's Hotel, talks about the difference between American and English muffins: "Do you know when I went to America last year they had something called muffins on the breakfast menu. Not real muffins at all."
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy muffins, especially homemade ones, but there is something rather simple and lovely about an English muffin. They are as cosy as an Agatha Christie novel feels. I always rather miss the novels when I close them up. And I rather miss a muffin when it is all consumed.
Saucepan, clingfilm, measuring jug, rolling pin, large frying pan.
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
450g strong white flour
Fat for frying
- Measure out the milk and water into a saucepan.
- Warm gently. You don't want it too hot – this will kill the yeast – just lukewarm. Just so you can dip your fingers in comfortably.
- Take the saucepan off the heat, pour the liquid back into the measuring jug and stir in the yeast and the sugar. Leave for ten minutes for it to froth slightly.
- In a separate bowl weigh out the flour and add the salt. Stir.
- Pour in the milk mixture and mix. If too sticky, add a little more flour. If too dry add a little water.
- Bring it all together then cover the bowl with clingfilm or a clear (clean!) shower cap.
- Leave for about one hour to rise.
- Sprinkle some flour on the work surface and roll out the dough to roughly 1cm thick.
- Use a round cutter or, like I did, a plastic beaker (which was about 3 inches in diameter).
- Cut out the rounds, place onto a floured baking tray. Gather up the remaining dough and re-roll.
- Cover the dough rounds with clingfilm and leave to rise again – but only for about half an hour this time.
- Put some fat into a frying pan, just a little – I used lard – and turn the heat up high. Place the muffins in the pan, I did four at a time, and immediately bring the heat down low.
- Cook each side for about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. You can either let these cool for later (put in an airtight tin once they've cooled) or slice in half immediately and toast.
- Serve with lots and lots of butter.