English muffins from Part & Parcel in Biddeford. Photo courtesy of Part & Parcel

It’s still too early to tell if they’ll become as trendy as poké, smoothie bowls, avocado toast and cupcakes, but I’m calling it: English muffins are on the rise. (Leavening pun not intended.)

While these ring-molded, pan-griddled treats aren’t a new food by any means – they’ve been around for at least a few hundred years in their current form – bagels, quick breads and other morning carbs have squeezed out English muffins on restaurant menus and bakery shelves, making them a bit of a rarity. So much so, that it used to surprise me when I ran across them for sale. That is, until recently.

Over the past few years, it has not only become possible to purchase excellent, locally made English muffins across southern Maine, but bakers have taken to tweaking and adapting classic recipes. Nowadays, you’ll find tall ones, tiny ones, sweeter ones, even ones that aren’t actually round (or even individually portioned).

Tasting and re-tasting my way through some of the area’s best English muffins has been no hardship. As I’ve done so, I’ve spent time thinking about how differences in flavor, size and format imply a range of different uses. We’re living in a golden age of baking where there’s an English muffin for every occasion. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Part & Parcel’s tall English muffins are particularly elegant. Photo courtesy of Part & Parcel

When you’re looking for something elegant to serve company:

Part & Parcel, Biddeford
One of my favorite mid-pandemic discoveries was the baked goods display at the rear of Part & Parcel, where alongside fresh breads and pastries sat a few sleeves of baker Fionna Richardson’s pale, delicate English muffins. Tall and narrow in circumference, these sourdough-leavened treats have a fine crumb and emerge from Part & Parcel’s deck oven nearly the same shade as the cornmeal that dusts them. For a cocktail hour hors d’oeuvre, I’ve split, toasted and quartered the rounds, then schmeared them with whipped crème fraiche, thin slices of pickled okra, cracked pink peppercorns and a few flakes of tarry Urfa Biber pepper. Glorious.


When you’re after well-baked muffins with a little char:

Scratch Baking, South Portland
English muffins have been on Scratch Baking Co.’s menu for years, but they always seemed to lag behind the shop’s insanely sought-after bagels in popularity. I’m guilty of ignoring them myself, once upon a time. These days, I don’t visit Scratch from Thursday through Sunday without picking up at least a few of its dark-baked English muffins. Because Scratch gives its squat, palm-sized rounds a little longer in the oven than most, they’re sometimes char-marked in all the best ways. Drizzle them lightly with Maine maple syrup and a few crumbles of fresh goat cheese to bring out the crust’s smoky, bittersweet overtones.

The Yinz Breakfast Sandwich and, in back, a trocadero, from Ugly Ducking in Portland. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

When you want a sandwich where the English muffin is the star:

Ugly Duckling, Portland
At this charming little luncheonette in the West End, chef Ilma Lopez bakes more than a half-dozen flavors of English muffin every day that the restaurant is open. Yeasted, with a hint of tang from buttermilk, these chubby, slow-proofed rounds are fluffy, light and sweet. On their own (or spread with butter and salt), they’re terrific, but these English muffins have a higher purpose: to become the foundation of Lopez and husband/chef Damian Sansonetti’s elevated sandwiches. Rye flour and caraway seeds incorporated into the muffin dough create a fragrant, anise-scented backbone for a fried-egg and house-made pastrami sandwich, or a black Angus “quarter pounder” with pepper jack cheese. If you’re still in doubt about the scene-stealing potential of Lopez’s English muffins, take a look at Ugly Duckling’s Instagram account, where parsley-water-and-spinach-tinted, St. Patrick’s Day English muffins form chartreuse bookends for thin slices of house-cured corned beef and sauerkraut. Slainte!

When you want to make your own sandwich:

Maple’s (New Gloucester)
Anyone who reads my column regularly will know of my boundless enthusiasm for Maple’s in Yarmouth. When chef/owner Robin Ray shuttered the business a few months ago, I went through several of the seven stages of grief. Fortunately, I had prepared for this day by vacuum-sealing and storing plenty of Maple’s goodies in my freezer. Naturally, English muffins were part of my stockpile. These frisbee-wide discs are yeast-leavened and sturdy, thanks to high-gluten flour. And because they’ve got a resilient, yet tender chew, they hold up to almost any sandwich topping. I like to split them and spread them with a little mustard, a few dill fronds, white onion and a slice of liverwurst. But tuna salad, chicken salad, cold cuts and scrambled eggs work just as well. Luckily for you (and me), Maple’s new shop in New Gloucester is scheduled to open a few short weeks from now, with English muffins on the menu.


When you’re feeding a crowd:

Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe, Brunswick
It will take a bit of planning on your part, but if you show up early on Saturday morning, you can snag one of the golden “English muffin bread” loaves at Wild Oats in Brunswick. Act quickly, because these sell out like hotcakes (which are actually a kissing cousin of the English muffin). For $10, you can score an enormous loaf, big enough to feed a half-dozen or more (and if you ask nicely, staff will even slice it for you). The Wild Oats loaf has a drier interior than some of the muffins on this list, so toasting should be considered mandatory. Spread the toasts with a little butter, some Kewpie mayo, then add a few strips of crisp bacon and a fat slice of tomato for a sandwich that will get better and better each time you make it as the warm weather months unfold.

A breakfast sandwich on an English muffin from Big Sky Bread Co. Photo courtesy of Big Sky Bread Co.

When you’re not quite sure what you want:

Rosemont Market, locations across Southern Maine


Big Sky Bread Co., Portland

If you find yourself hankering for an English muffin, but you’re not certain what you want to do with it, both of these will fit the bill. Rosemont’s English muffins are pale, well-risen and extra-large in proportion. Their tight crumb makes them a suitable vector for melted butter (or butter and a thin layer of Vegemite, if you’re game), or chop them into rough cubes and toast for some of the crunchiest croutons around. Big Sky Bread Co., on the other hand, bakes English muffins with a hint of caramelization on the exterior and a webby, almost custardy interior. They’re great for sandwiches and may be the best choice of the bunch for a sublime Mother’s Day eggs Benedict. If you’re reading this early enough, there might still be enough time to make it to Big Sky and back.

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of five recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.

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