Small, plain, yeast-raised loaf cooked on a griddle, or between two griddles, to form a very soft bun c5ins diameter, 1in thick. Known at least since the beginning of the 18th Century with a recipt in Glasse 1747.
The Muffin Man
from Punch, 1892
Muffins are most traditionally eaten hot - torn (not cut) apart, a knob of butter placed between the halves and the structure closed while the butter melts. They were once as commonplace a teatime staple at the factory canteen as on silver plates in a gentleman's club, the one bread-cake which united a nation.
Punch, in 1892, could say...
Lives there a cit with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my crisp, my native-bred,
My British muffin!"
The muffin-man crying his wares through city streets, was ubiquitous from the 18th Century to almost the 1930's;
Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?
Muffins fell out of favour around the second world war, so that Mason+Brown in 2004 could identify only two bakers, both in Lancashire, still making them, though bread cakes made in imitation of the old muffin have recently become relatively commonplace.
Muffin man. c1900? Origin unknown
Original Receipt in 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy' by Hannah Glasse, 1747 (Glasse 1747);
To make muffins and oat-cakes.
To a bushel of Hertfordshire white flour, take a pint and a half of good ale yeast, from pale malt, if you can get it, because it is whitest; let the yeast lie in water all night, the next day pour off the water clear, make two gallons of water just milk-warm, not to scald your yeast, and two ounces of salt; mix your water, yeast, and salt well together for about a quarter of an hour; then strain it and mix up your dough as light as possible, and let it lie in your trough an hour to rise, then with your hand roll it and pull it into little pieces about as big as a large walnut, roll them with your hand like a ball, lay them on your table, and as fast as you do them lay a piece of flannel over them, and be sure to keep your dough covered with flannel; when you have rolled out all your dough begin to bake the first, and by that time they will be spread out in the right form; lay them on your iron; as one side begins to change colour turn the other, and take great care they don't burn, or be too much discoloured, but that you will be a judge of in two or three makings.
Take care the middle of the iron is not too hot, as it will be, but then you may put a brick-bat or two in the middle of the fire to slacken the heat.
The thing you bake on must be made thus: Build a place just as if you was going to set a copper, and in the stead of a copper, a piece of iron all over the top fixed in form just the same as the bottom of an iron pot, and make your fire underneath with coal as in a copper.
Observe, muffins are made the same way; only this, when you pull them to pieces roll them in a good deal of flour, and with a rolling-pin roll them thin, cover them with a piece of flannel, and they will rise a proper thickness; and if you find them too big or too little, you must roll dough accordingly. These must not be the least discoloured.
When you eat them, toast them with a fork crisp on both sides, then with your hand pull them open, and they will be like a honeycomb; lay in as much butter as you intend to use, then clap them together again, and set it by the fire. When you think the butter is melted turn them, that both sides may be buttered alike, but don't touch them with a knife, either to spread or cut them open, if you do they will be as heavy as lead, only when they are quite buttered and done, you may cut them across with a knife.
Note, Some flour will soak up a quart or three pints more water than other flour; then you must add more water, or shake in more flour in making up, for the dough must be as light as possible.
Tesco Muffins, 2012
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