Sourdough Muffins

What are English Muffins called in England?

Muffins? Breakfast muffins? Half a Benny?

As I grilled these doughy disks on my cast iron skillet this morning with my daughter lingering over my shoulder hoping she could nab one for her breakfast, I wasn’t really pondering such things.

As 2022 progresses and I recall back to my sourdough goals for this year — in other words, baking with my starter by branching out beyond breads and sandwich loaves — I warmed up and fed my starter yesterday with the intention of attempting to make some English Muffins.

The recipe and process turned out to be much quicker and much simpler than I’d expected.

Unlike the bagels I’d baked about a month ago, the full cycle for this recipe was short and took only about fourteen hours, from idea to tray of hot bready goodness including the twelve hour overnight proof on the counter.

The dough was essentially a wetter, sweeter version of my basic bread, including the addition of liquid sugar (I chose maple syrup, because yes, we just have jugs of maple syrup in the cupboard, ohhhh Canada!) and replacing the water with milk.

the recipe

360g bread flour
240g milk
100g active sourdough starter
20g maple syrup (or honey)
8g salt
cornmeal for dusting

I combined the ingredients (minus the cornmeal) into a fully hydrated dough ball. This took about an hour of resting and folding and resting and folding. My timing here was the critical part, as this needed a twelve-hour counter-top rise. I had this ready to proof for about 7pm so that it would do it’s thing while I slept.

The next morning, the dough ball having easily doubled (or more) in size, I patted it out on a floured surface with my fingertips until it was about 2cm thick. This got cut with a “biscuit cutter” into rounds about 10cm across. (My biscuit cutter was a drinking glass.) I dusted the eight rounds with cornmeal and set them onto a cookie sheet to rest and rise for about one more hour.

I set my cast iron skillet over a medium-low heat. The key here is getting the muffins hot enough to cook evenly through to about 200F, while not over-cooking the outside. Low and slow. We’ve bought enough English Muffins over the years that I have a pretty good eye for what a finished product should look like, but I still used my digital thermometer to make sure they were cooked through. This was mostly me setting the kitchen timer for four minute intervals and flipping only on the beeps. It’s tempting to flip-flip-flip, but I think these benefit from minimal fussing.

For my next attempt (some day in the future) there are some minor adjustments I will make, specifically around the cook time and temperatures, but the only advice I can offer here is that you need to get to know your equipment and work along with it for this recipe. I’m still learning too, but my final product turned out pretty good for a first attempt.

The biggest surprise was the timing. I was expecting this to take much longer. Sure, fourteen hours is not a last minute meal idea, but in the world of sourdough it’s essentially instant fast food, and the type of thing I could see putting together the night before needing to make a family breakfast with unexpected company.

Fresh egg sandwiches everyone?