Authentic Lancashire English Oven Bottom Muffins

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 The English Oven Bottom Muffin....quintessentially as English as say, the London Red Bus or the fish and chips....well, not fish and chips, obviously; they had their origins in Spain and Portugal, after all. But, you know what I mean. 

The oven bottom muffin has a distinct provenance and a place in social history. They're often referred to as 'Lancashire Bread Buns'. Traditionally, they were cooked by the housewife on a cast-iron griddle and finished off in the oven. Commercial bakers cooked them...on the oven bottom! This gave them their distinct flat tops and bottoms, the rich golden colour of the crust and, of course, their name. 

But from where does the name 'muffin' originate? In the 19th century, it was suggested that it might come from the Greek work for a cake baked on the hearth or griddle, a 'maphula'. Or perhaps the Old French word for soft bread, a 'moufflet'. There is no record of the word in print before 1703 and in 1975, we see the first mention of them in a nursery rhyme. 

Have you seen the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man?
Have you seen the muffin man,
Who lives down Drury Lane? 

Although we could bake ours on a griddle and then transfer them to the oven, we're going to use the oven for the whole process, whist being careful to turn them early on in the cooking process. 


500 gms of all-purpose of plain flour (Buy good quality flour - try and find some with a protein level as close to 13.2% as you can)

350 gms whole milk at room temperature (known in the UK as 'blue topped milk)

8 gms of active instant yeast

10 gms sea salt

Semolina flour for dusting

NB : searching for a high protein all-purpose / plain flour was not an easy task. Normal UK plain flours are around 9% - 10% protein. Eventually, I found an organic plain flour at 11.8% and decided to use 450 gms of all purpose and 50 gms of Type 0 flour to give it a little 'boost'. 


1. Add the milk to a large bowl and then stir in the yeast.

2. Add half the flour and the sea salt and mix.

3. Add the remainder of the flour and bring together into a sticky dough. 

You can mix it by hand or by using a stand mixer. If you have a bread machine, use a Pizza setting (or a programme that starts the blades as soon as you press 'On'). Keep the lid open and stop the programme as soon as it forms into a sticky mix

5. Place the sticky mix into bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 60 minutes.

6. Tip the cold dough out onto a work surface and knead - stretching backwards and forwards and working the dough until smooth. 

7. Form into a boule. Return into the bowl and cover with a plastic bag or shower cap.

8. Refrigerate for between 18 and 24 hours. 

The next day

9. Weigh the dough. Tip the dough out onto an unfloured worktop and divide into 9 equal portions. 

10. Mould each dough portion into a round ball and then flatten with your hand and dust generously with semolina flour. 

19. Place on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or silicone sheet) and cover with a tea towel. Allow to finish proofing at room temperature for one or two hours until fully proofed.

Ensure the muffins are fully proofed otherwise they will be doughy when cooked. 

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. 

20. Once they are fully proofed, handle them with utmost care. Dust them again on both sides with semolina flour and make sure the flattest side is uppermost. 

21. Transfer to the oven and bake for 7 minutes. 

22. Remove the tray from the oven and turn the muffins over so the top becomes the bottom. This will help to flatten them. be gently. 

23. Continue to bake for another 8 minutes or until the muffins feel light and have a good colour on the top and bottom. 

24. Remove from the oven and quickly colour the tops and bottoms in a very hot and dry frying pan. 

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. 

Happy baking, tha'knows!


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