McMake ’em yourself: Breakfast sandwiches

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.

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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.

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Mix to make a very wet dough…

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Then beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Look at this beautifully glossy soft dough!

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WHOA! The gluten is nicely developed, too.

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Scrape the dough down to the bottom of the bowl…

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…and let it rise, covered, for about 90 minutes.

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Here it is, all puffed up and ready to go.

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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.

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Grease the rings…

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…and set them on a medium-hot (300°F) griddle. Sprinkle a shower of semolina inside each ring.

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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.

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Place the circle of dough in the ring. Sprinkle more semolina on top.

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The dough will rise within the rings as the English muffins dry-fry.

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When the muffins are golden brown on the bottom, lift off the rings and turn them over.

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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.

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And here they are, in all their golden glory. This recipe will make about a dozen muffins.

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Look at this muffin’s nicely craggy interior—perfect for a pat of soft butter. Or a breakfast sandwich fit for a king—

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Ah, beautiful melty cheesy hammy eggy breakfast sandwiches.

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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

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Bridget

    Oh, those look so yummy! Egg McMuffins are my favorite….I’ve always hated that McD’s stops serving breakfast at 10:30. Good thing for me that they do, though. Maybe it’s homemade from here on out. :)

    And yes….parchment paper!!! Couldn’t live without it!

    Reply
  2. Ann

    I’ve made English muffins before, and was discouraged by the process, but these look easier to make (yes, I do have rings). The muffins didn’t rise very well, but were tasty enough. And they were very tough the next day. The recipe I used didn’t mention “beat at high speed” as this one does. Maybe that’s a key point?

    I’ll have to try them again.

    And — where can I get some of those nifty mittens you used to handle the hot muffing rings?

    Hi Ann,
    The gloves are called “Ove Gloves”. We carry them in our catalogue — item 5847. We love them in the test kitchen.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane with The Baker’s Hotline @ King Arthur Flour

    Reply
  3. Lynn Wollenberg

    Is there a recipe using whole grains? These look great and I would love to be able to make my own but with whole grains.

    Hi Lynn,

    You could use white whole wheat flour in this recipe easily. We usually recommend starting with a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and AP flour for those who are not used to baking with whole grains. If you bake with whole grains more often, just substitute the white whole wheat for the AP flour, and keep in mind you may need more liquid to compensate, as whole grains absorb more liquids than lower protein white flours.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    Would it work to make the dough in the bread machine? With dry milk it looks like you could use the timer and have dough ready to bake in the morning.

    I am loving the store bought vs. homemade cost comparisons!

    Reply
  5. MaryJane

    Hi Sarah,

    Regarding using a bread machine for the dough, it probably won’t produce the same results as the beating on high for 5 minutes. Another baker here, Mary, said she has done the dough cycle multiple times for bagel dough, so that may be something you want to experiment with. She runs the dough cycle until the first knead stops, then starts the cycle again, etc etc.
    We would love to hear how this works out if you!

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane with The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  6. Marion

    Mary Jane-
    Could you use the cuisinart to beat at high speed? I have a bread machine and cuisinart but don’t have the kitchen aid.
    What do you think? They look pretty yummy….

    Hi Marion,

    It is possible to knead the dough in the food processor. Normal batches of dough usually come together in 45-60 seconds. I don’t know exactly how long it would take in the processor to ‘equal’ the 5 minutes, but I would go 15-30 seconds at a time until the dough looked like PJ’s photo, smooth, more white than cream colored, and very elastic. Be sure to let us know how this works out!

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  7. Tom

    I saw this recipe in the catalogue a while back and I’ve made it multiple times since.

    I do things just a bit differently: I use baker’s grease on the rings, and skip the forming part. I use an oiled 1/3 cup measure and drop the dough straight into the rings.

    These are good. Very good.

    Reply
  8. Joanne

    I made these for breakfast this weekend, and they are SOOO good! MUCH better than the fast-food kind. The muffins are also really yummy just split and toasted with just butter (and maybe a dollop of freezer strawberry jam!) I made them with 1 cup of white-whole wheat flour to 2 cups white and they turned out fine. I used a Cuisinart (no KitchenAid yet!) and it took about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes to mix. I only got 10 muffins out of the recipe though, and mine seemed about the same size as yours. I really love sourdough, any ideas of how I could incorporate sourdough starter into these? BTW, I love this blog!

    Great, Joanne, glad the recipe worked for you. Maybe your rings were a tiny bit wider…? Anyway, as for sourdough, I’d say substitute some sourdough (try 2/3 of a cup?) for 1/3 cup of the flour and 1/3 cup of the milk or water. Good luck! -PJH

    Reply
  9. Kathe Mayer

    Sounds good, I haven’t made English muffins in years, maybe it is time to try again. We used to live 5 miles from a grocery and I would make bread, muffins, etc because it was much easier then trying to get to the store with 2 small children and a way to go. Now we do it to save gas!

    Enjoy the blog.

    Reply
  10. Bill

    I made the recipe this morning. The best english muffins I ever had! I’ve tried other recipes but this was the best and easiest. The tip about wetting your fingers was a good one. I use a scoop to take out the dough, that worked well.

    I departed from the instructions a little, since I was making two batches I wanted to speed up the production process a little.

    I started the muffins on the griddle, once I flipped them I transferred them to my bakestone, in the oven pre-heated to 300 degrees.

    EXCELLENT idea, finishing them by baking in the oven, Bill. I’ll have to try that sometime- PJH

    Reply
  11. Mary Delgado

    I have been making breakfast sandwiches for awhile for my boys to take to school on early workout mornings. Not only do they provide a wonderful make ahead breakfast( I heat them at 5:30 am the day of )but the other players drool over them. I have been known to cheat by using store bought English muffins. Your demo has me thinking this week’s project is English muffins. Thanks for making my egg snadwiches just that much better.

    Reply
  12. Rita Maldonado

    English Muffins bring back memories for me. When I was in 6th and 7th grade I lived in Nairobi, Kenya and had many American friends who missed English muffins. Me and a friend decided to make them to sell to our these friends’ mothers. We had quite a business for a couple of middle schoolers with weekly orders. All the kneading was done by hand.

    As an adult I’ve only made English muffins a couple of times even though I make all my own bread–I think I’ll have to make them again in the next couple of weeks.

    Reply
  13. Jan E.

    Can you use the english muffin rings as general pastry rings/molds as well. i want to buy them to make the breakfast treats but i like to buy multitaskers because of limited space. Thanks PJ for your postings, i love them all…

    Hi Jan,
    You could use the muffin rings to mold other desserts, etc. They are rather shallow, maybe one inch, so layered desserts would be tricky.

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  14. kim

    I was wondering if I dont have a griddle can I use a skillet or even bake in the oven?

    Kim, you can certainly bake in the skillet – a griddle is larger, which is the reason I use it. And one of our readers above said he starts by browning his English muffins in a skillet or griddle, then bakes them in the oven to finish. So you could do that, too. Good luck! – PJH

    Reply
  15. Pandi

    You can use the muffin rings in a frying pan to get perfectly sized fried eggs to go in these!

    Has that been suggested? I wasn’t paying attention..

    I don’t see where it was specified in the post, but in the photos, it appears that the scrambled eggs were cooked in rounds. Fried eggs would work great too in the rings. Thanks!

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Hi Pandi – I did indeed try frying the scrambled eggs in the rings, and it worked… kind of. I decided it was too much trouble to instruct people to do that. You have to pour in a very scant layer of egg first, to seal the bottom; if you pour it all in at once it leaks out like crazy. Then once the bottom is sealed, you can pour in the rest… You could indeed do a fried egg this way, and maybe it would work better, since it’s not so “loose”? Give it a try! – PJH

    Reply
  16. Jana

    The tuna cans did not work as the bottoms are formed differently and I could not cut the bottom off. I ended using a pineapple can and 2 small coffee cans. The coffee cans worked the best because I could get my hands in to smooth out the dough in the bottom. I had to cook the muffins much longer than the recipe sugests but they are for sure a do again, maybe with more coffee cans. The muffin rings are out of stock on the web site. Bummer. Thanks for another great recipe!! My family checks now to see where the I found the recipe before they taste!

    Hi Jana,
    We have a replacement set of rings that we are selling until we can get more of the original vendor’s rings. You can order then by phone, as the website will not have the item number. Just call customer service at 1-800-827-6836 and they can give you a hand.

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  17. Marian

    I made these with freshly ground white wheat. I added 1 T lecithin powder and 1 T gluten flour. I used a scant 1 T. SAF yeast. They came out great…nice and light.

    Reply
  18. Virgil

    Wow – awesomely good and awesomely simple. I won’t be going to Mickey D’s for breakfast anymore – I can make a week’s worth in advance and leave in the office fridge! Thanks for a brilliantly simple and tasty (and doubtless healthier than the alternative) idea. Cheers!!

    Virgil – they’re cheaper, too. With gas prices being what they are, we need to think about EVERYTHING we spend money on, huh? – PJH

    Reply
  19. bill

    This is a wonderful post, even if it DID result in me spending an unplanned couple of hours in the kitchen. Really good.

    Thanks, Bill – BTW, thanks again for mentioning us in your blog. Nice piece. -PJH

    Reply
  20. poodle hat

    I don’t eat pork, but man…. do those look wonderful. Yum.

    Egg & cheese alone is yummy, too – give ‘em a try. – PJH

    Reply
  21. Nate

    Oh, have you given me a craving.

    I love your photographs, showing each step. You know that these sandwiches can be eaten, not thrown in the trash like the ones made for TV and advertisements.

    Reply
  22. brittany

    I think this should win some sort of blog award for most tempting breakfast.

    Great photos, salivating sammy!

    AWESOME!

    Man, Brittany – back at ya. LOVE your pie photos, they’re incredible. Lighting is gorgeous. Wish I could take pics like that! Post your URL here, would you? I think our readers, especially our pie apprecianados, would enjoy your blog. – PJH

    Reply
  23. jaime

    i’ve been staying in and baking to save money too! i baked 3 types of bread this weekend and didn’t spend a dime! now i have something to try next weekend.

    Reply
  24. trollo

    Maybe that’s a stupid question, but I’m from Germany and we don’t have any English Muffins… :)

    So, do you place the muffins in the oven or is that a griddle with internal heat source, sort of like an electric bbq-grill? I don’t have that, so could I just use a pan or put them in the oven?

    Yeah, it’s a griddle with an internal heat source. And yeah – you can definitely use a pan set over a burner. It’ll just take awhile due to limited pan space, I’d guess. Do one first to fine-tune the level of heat – should be fine. PJH

    Reply
  25. Yum

    These took a loooooong time to be done on the griddle. I ended up baking it in the oven at 300F to finish. When the interior finally reached 200F, the inside was still a little bit gummy-ish, like what sticks to a cake tester when the cake’s not done. Am I supposed to let it cool completely and then the inside will solidify more, before I eat it? Is the inside supposed to be dry like bread?

    The inside should be moist, but not gummy/sticky/wet. Sounds like your griddle wasn’t quite hot enough, or the muffins were a bit too thick. They can be tricky – even though it seems like a pain, it’s often a good idea to cook a single muffin first to get the temperature down pat. And, of course, it’s fine to finish them in the oven if your griddle doesn’t cooperate… – PJH

    Reply
  26. m

    I am so pleased with this recipe. Used my electric fry pan and found it worked the best for me to put the lid on it.-vent open. that way the inside reached 200 degrees within the right time-more or less. Wonder if some of the problems are, as you suggested,-muffin too thick–my test one seemed to have that problem and slooow cooking inside forthat reason as the smaller ones cooked up as stated.
    this recipe is tops for all I have tried fjor an English muffin.

    Reply
  27. Bernadette

    Do NOT try these at home! Thomas’ makes perfectly good English muffins. They don’t cost much, are widely available and take minutes to purchase. And, once you make these, you will no longer be able to eat them. Nor will your family and friends. You will find yourself making double and triple batches and having them disappear in hours. You can eat these plain, unsplit, untoasted, as a sandwich bun. You will never be able to look at Thomas’ in the same light again. So, do yourself a favor and step AWAY from the recipe!

    GREAT advice, Bernadette. But – argghhhhhhhh – it’s too late for me!!!! I already stepped into the… homemade… abyss! :) PJH

    Reply
  28. Rachel

    I’ve had great success making breakfast sandwiches, but with a twist; I baked a soft flatbread in a 9×13 pan, and split it into a top layer and a bottom layer when it cooled. Then I parchment-ed and buttered the same 9×13, preheated it in a 300 degree oven for a few minutes, then poured in a mixture of about a dozen eggs beaten with a little water. Baked it slowly until it was done, 20 minutes or so? I forget how long exactly. When the egg layer was cooked, I placed the bottom layer of bread on top of it while it was still in the pan, and flipped the pan over so the egg would be perfectly aligned with the bread. Layered with sausage and cheese, put the top of the bread back on, then I stuck it in the oven to melt the cheese enough to keep it together when cut, and I sliced it into individual sandwiches to be heated again when ready.

    Next time I make it I’m hoping to try a recipe for English muffin bread baked in the 9×13; just have to figure out the proportions. Quick and easy, and still homemade!
    I’m coming to your house for breakfast, this sounds delicious! Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  29. Lurane

    These are terrific!! Everyone loved them. A little time consuming since I was using 2 rings — doesn’t matter they are that good!!! Collecting more tuna cans to use as rings.
    Only change I made in ingredience — use all white whole wheat and canola oil replaced butter. I used a long griddle over 2 smallest burners and cooking was perfect. I will try cooking 4 at a time next time.

    I should have taken Bernadette’s advise because now everyone wants me to make them a dozen!!!!!!

    Reply
  30. Baker

    I cooked them on a 2 burner skillet (cast iron) and these remained gummy even though i lowered the heat as suggested and cooked for a very long time. I put them in the oven, but it didnt help much either.

    I also tried the tuna cans. After buying 6 cans and taking out the tuna, I tried to take the bottom off and realized it was not going to come off with a can opener. I don’t know if it was the brand I bought or not, but I wasted 6 cans of tuna and ended up going free form – which was ok since they looked great.

    I would try these again if you had any tips about how to make them less gummy inside. were they too big? the recipe made 9.

    I’m betting you got those new-type tuna cans with the rounded bottoms – I guess you don’t like tuna, eh? I should have recommended 8-oz. pineapple cans as well. If you try the cans again, make sure to get ones that a can opener will open, both top and bottom. As for the gummy muffins, perhaps flatten them a bit more, and make smaller ones; it does sound like the ones you made were too big and thick… Hope it works out better for you next time. PJH

    Reply
  31. Lori

    Would be neat if these were gluten free…hint, hint! :)
    We’ll add it to the long, long list! :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  32. Lina

    Wow do these look good! I know this is an old post, and I’m not sure if my question will even be looked at, but… can I make this batter in the evening to store in the fridge until I make the actual English muffins in the morning? Thanks for your help!

    Hello Lina- Yes, I think you could. Just mix the dough, allow it to rest (covered) in a bowl on the counter for 30-40 minutes then move it into your refrigerator. In the morning, remove the dough and proceed with grilling the muffins (no need to bring to room temperature). Happy Baking! kelsey@KAF

    Reply
  33. Lina

    Oh, also -can you double this successfully or would you need to make two separate batches?

    Hello Lina- You could easily double this recipe, however, do NOT double the amount of yeast. Leave the yeast at 2 tsp. Otherwise you’ll an over-excited dough on your hands! kelsey@KAF

    Reply
  34. dehdahdoh

    First I have to tell you that I have been making these for several years. One of my sisters really grooves over them. So much so, I gave her the special ingredients (not common to her pantry), a yeast container, yeast spoon and rings, all from KAF for Christmas last year. This year I am doing the same for our 4 children (adults and have families). We all LOVE the English muffins so much we want to marry them! LOL.

    Last night I made the dough and let rise on the counter as was suggested in a reply to Lina on 10-29-2010 at 4:01. After 40 minutes the dough had hardly raised. (We keep our house about 65-68 degrees in the winter) I assumed that it was just too cold for the bread to raise much, so I left it out for a couple more hours. When I went to put the dough into the refrigerator, the dough had about doubled in size. This morning when I went to fry up the muffins, it had raised more and there were some fairly large bubbles.

    One advantage to having the dough chilled, it’s not very sticky. I put the muffins to dry fry (I use an electric griddle that has a regulated temperature control. I set the griddle at 300 degrees, the muffins have always cooked through) and I was a little concerned that they were not going to raise. After about 5-7 minutes on the grill they puffed up like normal. I fried them about 15 minutes before turning over for the remaining time. About 6-8 min into the second side they fell. The taste was great; they were a little moister than I remember them to be,.but they were fully cooked. Do you have any ideas as to what happened?

    This is going to sound counter intuitive. If the english muffins are too moist, you need more water, or less flour, in the dough. The moisture in the finished muffins is because the dough is too tight, the yeast can’t fully lift it. To help the yeast, you”ll need 1-2 tablespoons more water next time. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply

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