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English muffin with strawberries
English muffin with “strawberries and cream” cream cheese). Photo courtesy California Strawberry Commission.

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KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.

 

 

September 2010

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Breadstuffs

English Muffin History

How A Favorite Breakfast Treat Came To Be ... And To Be Called An “English Muffin”

 

CAPSULE REPORT: The English muffin, first called a “toaster crumpet.” was invented in 1894 by a British immigrant to New York, Samuel Bath Thomas. Immediately embraced as a more elegant alternative to toast, it was served at fine hotels and ultimately became a mainstay of American breakfast cuisine. This is Page 1 of a three-page article. Click on the black links below to visit the other pages.

 

 

What Is An English Muffin?

Surprise: The English muffin is not a muffin, but a variation of the crumpet, a raised muffin cooked on a griddle in a ring mold until is brown on the bottom and riddled with small holes on the top. That description is not too dissimilar from a topside manifestation of “nooks and crannies” that Thomas’s, the original English muffin, has been proclaiming for some 30 years.

What’s A Crumpet?

You may see crumpets at specialty food stores or at fancy brunches and teas and think that they’re English muffins, but the giveaway is that they’re unsplit. Then, what’s the difference between an English muffin and a crumpet?

They are cousins, maybe even half brothers, depending on how you like your culinary analogies. Both have milk and yeast (plus flour, shortening and salt), but crumpet batter is moister to begin with and cooks up to more of a muffin-like moistness than the English muffin, which is similar in moisture to other toasted breads. Whereas English muffins are known for having small holes inside, crumpets develop the holes on their top side.

In fact, the English muffin started life as a split crumpet known as the “toaster crumpet.” Here’s the story.

 


Some of our British friends say that British and Irish people know what a crumpet is, but to everyone else it looks like a kind of pancake made with yeast. We know better: Toast them and serve with butter! Crumpets available from Wolferman’s.

Who Invented The English Muffin? Samuel Bath Thomas!

The Brits did not invent the English muffin—in fact, they had never heard of it until the 1990s, when Best Foods, a unit of international conglomerate Unilever, bought the S.B. Thomas brand† and began exporting it to the U.K.

†The brand has been sold numerous times. In 1922, after the death of Samuel Bath Thomas, the family incorporated S.B. Thomas, Inc. On August 3, 1926, they registered the “Thomas” trademark. In 1970, the business was acquired by CPC, food conglomerate; January 1, 1998 it was renamed Bestfoods. It was recently owned by George Weston Bakeries, an operating unit of George Weston Ltd., which sold it to the U.S. subsidiary of a Mexican baking company, Bimbo Bakeries USA, in early 2009.

 

Continue To Page 2: Who Invented The English Muffin, Continued

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