You know those TV ads for McDonald’s or Wendy’s or (name your favorite national chain) that show these gorgeous—I mean, FLAWLESS—fast-food hamburgers? A perfectly browned, sizzling beef patty; crisp lettuce; a thick slice of tomato; melting cheese, and a golden, light-as-air bun are gently sandwiched together, and look to be a majestic 4” tall.
That’s on the TV screen. But when you pull away from the takeout window and unwrap your hamburger, what do you see? Nothing that’s 4” tall, that’s for sure. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a sucker for McDonald’s dollar-menu double cheeseburger. But the reality of the actual burger is nothing like the carefully groomed version “as seen on TV.”
And, like their burger brethren, breakfast sandwiches go through an amazing transformation between photo studio and takeout window.
I happen to like breakfast sandwiches. Who doesn’t? Melting cheese, soft egg, a slice of savory ham, all wrapped up in a toasted English muffin. (I eschew the bagel, biscuit, and croissant versions as too high-calorie. Though with what’s between the crusts, come on, who am I kidding? This is NOT a particularly healthy breakfast.)
But that high-rise version you see in the TV ads becomes sadly flat by the time it’s assembled, wrapped, and slid into a stack of fellow sandwiches under the heat lamp. I’ve enjoyed takeout breakfast sandwiches that, I swear, were barely an inch thick.
Thus my self-challenge: you don’t like the way they look? Make your own, sister.
Which I did. Right down to the English muffins themselves.
Kind of crazy, huh, making your own English muffins? Well, not really; sometimes it’s as much about the journey as the destination, as bakers well know. (And here in the King Arthur Flour test kitchen, we take a LOT of journeys.) Pulling open a griddle-warm English muffin, seeing its craggy interior, and saying, “Wow, I made this myself”… it’s simply very satisfying.
Make truly delicious, impressive-looking breakfast sandwiches by first making these oversized English Muffins. And bookmark the recipe for Father’s Day—surely there’s a dad you know who’d appreciate a blockbuster breakfast sandwich like this one.
Combine all of the ingredients except the semolina (or farina); that’s for when you dry-fry the muffins. You can skip the semolina, but it does give them that distinctive, slightly “sandy” English muffin crust.
Prepare your frying tools. Semolina (or Cream of Wheat, a.k.a. farina) is easily sprinkled into English muffin rings using a tea strainer; you can also simply use your fingers. English muffin rings are key; if you don’t have them, use tuna cans (labels removed) that you’ve washed, dried, and removed both top and bottom lids. OR simply shape the muffins by hand, though they won’t be as nicely round, nor will they rise as high without the sides of the ring to contain them.
Scoop a scant 1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) of dough out of the bowl. It helps to wet both the measuring cup, and your fingers; this keeps the stickiness to a minimum. Stretch and shape the dough into a circle that’ll fit nicely within a ring.
Lovely, huh? Cook till their bottoms are nicely browned. The whole process will take quite awhile, up to perhaps 35 minutes. The goal is to perfectly brown the muffins’ crust, while cooking them all the way through. It helps to bake a trial muffin first, to make sure your griddle is the correct temperature.
So let’s get to it. Use the rings to cut muffin-sized circles from slices of ham and provolone cheese (or the cheese of your choice). You certainly can skip this step, and just cut the ham and cheese in squares; but circles are nice looking.
Split muffins, and layer with ham (or cooked sausage, or fried bacon), cheese, and scrambled eggs. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet; the parchment will catch any melting cheese, making you thankful at cleanup time. And by the way, if you don’t use parchment to line ALL your baking sheets—why not? Did you know parchment is one of the top 10 items our customers purchase from us?
At this point, you can cover the whole shebang with plastic wrap and refrigerate till just before serving; so this is a good make-ahead brunch or breakfast treat. Can you freeze these? No. The egg and cheese will get icky. But they can live in your fridge for several days, ready to heat and serve.
If the sandwiches have been refrigerated, remove their plastic wrap. Lay a piece of parchment (darn, there it is again!) atop the muffins, then place another baking sheet on top. This flattens them very slightly, causing the meat, cheese, and egg to meld together. Bake the muffins in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
And you made them ALL yourself, from start to finish. Seems like a lot of work. Well… maybe a lot of time. But it’s not work when you love what you’re doing; because then the pleasure is in the process. And as EVERYTHING continues to climb in price, and I find myself thinking twice about any leisure time activity that involves hopping into the car and going somewhere, I remember, once again, how much I love to stay home and bake.
Read our complete recipe for Breakfast Sandwiches.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Takeout breakfast sandwich with egg, pasteurized process American cheese, and Canadian-style bacon, 4.8 ounces, $2.61: 54¢/ounce
Bake: Homemade breakfast sandwich with egg, provolone cheese, and deli ham, 8.5 ounces, $1.57: 18¢/ounce