The Story of English Muffins: A Victorian Tradition
The English muffin has come a long way -- culturally and geographically.
Originally eaten by the "downstairs" servants in England's Victorian society, the English muffin surfaced and rose to prominence in Great Britain when members of all classes of society became aware of its goodness. The family baker made English muffins from leftover bread and biscuit dough scraps and mashed potatoes. He fried the batter on a hot griddle, creating light, crusty muffins for the servants. Once members of the "upstairs" family tasted these rich muffins, they began to request them for themselves -- especially during teatime.
As a result of the English muffin becoming the "most fancied" bread on the isle, English muffin factories sprang up all over England. Muffin men could be heard in the streets selling their muffins from wooden trays slung around their necks. For teatime in private homes and clubs, the English muffins would be split and toasted over an open fire and served in a covered sterling dish alongside tea. The prominence of the muffin men in English society was evident when "Oh, do you know the muffin man" became a popular children's nursery rhyme. The popularity of the English muffin reached its zenith in Great Britain during the years preceding World War I.
A New American Tradition: The History of Bays English Muffins
Across the ocean in 1933, George W. Bay opened a bakery in Chicago's downtown Loop district starting a new chapter in baking history. He sold English muffins with orange marmalade -- a Bay family tradition. Using the original recipe his English grandmother brought to this country in the 1800s, George Bay made English muffins with only top-quality ingredients.
Sold by the dozen in brown paper bags, the muffins were hand-delivered to bakeries, restaurants, hotels and private clubs. Soon Americans made English muffins a favorite breakfast meal. In 1938, Bays Corporation was one of the first companies to package their English muffins in a box with a cellophane window. The muffins were sold by the half dozen and distributed to major grocery stores including Jewel and National Tea Stores. As the English muffin gained acceptance in the U.S., it lost popularity in its homeland. By the 1950s, it was rumored that the Queen Mother, unable to find muffins commercially, had established a source for her own private supply. In the early 1970s, McDonald's introduced the highly successful Egg McMuffin - a delicious Canadian-style bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich on a toasted Bays English Muffin.
Today, Bays continues to carry on the family tradition - operating as a family business and adhering to the authentic, original recipe. Bays maintains its standard of excellence using only Hawaiian cane sugar, Minnesota spring wheat and whole milk, Wisconsin AA butter, and potato flour.
The Bay Family: A Commitment to Quality and a History of Baking
George Bay was joined in the family owned and operated business by his son James N. Bay, Sr., in 1951. They worked closely together until George W. Bay retired in 1968 and James N. Bay became president of Bays English Muffins Corporation. His sons, James N. Bay, Jr. and George A. Bay, later joined the company and are now actively running the firm.
Bays English Muffins are sold in the refrigerated dairy cases of major grocery stores. All muffins are made to order, and leave the factory within 24 hours of their baking to be shipped across the country in refrigerated trucks.