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.

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.

Mix to make a very wet dough…

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

WHOA! The gluten is nicely developed, too.

Scrape the dough down to the bottom of the bowl…

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

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

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.

Grease the rings…

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

Ah, beautiful melty cheesy hammy eggy breakfast sandwiches.

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

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. 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.


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