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?

What’s the best first cast iron pan to buy?

First, always consider that the tool you’re most likely to get the most use out of is the tool you have the most reason to use. Buy a pan to suit the type of cooking you like to do.

A big flat skillet will let you cook big batches of pancakes or grilled sandwiches.

A small frying pan will be your breakfast companion for years to come.

A generous dutch oven will serve you well for chilis, deep frying and crunchy sourdough breads.

So, the simple answer here is buy the pan you need first and build out a collection from there.

But, you ask, what would the Cast Iron Guy recommend?

You’ve read all about this cast iron movement and you’re looking at your chipped and scratched collection of aluminum pans from the supermarket and pondering leaping into building a legacy collection of cookware and begin replacing your nonstick throwaways.

You can’t go wrong with a medium-sized frying pan, of course. A simple ten to twelve inch pan is a staple of any collection and will be of great use in any kitchen.

But the piece I recommend, the piece that sits atop my stove and rarely ever finds it’s way back into the cupboard, the piece that I would buy as a gift for a friend or family member who was debating their first acquisition is a round griddle.

I own the Lodge 10.5 inch round griddle. *not a paid endorsment

This piece is a low walled, simple round, smooth pan with a bit of a lip around the rim. It’s simple to use and maintain, and cooks just about everything day-to-day: grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, fried eggs, crepes & pancakes, and naan bread. It heats fast for warming leftovers. It packs well and I often take it local travelling to hotels (like when we go skiing in the mountians where we often have a kitchen but usually not-so-great pans.) It’s an all-in-one workhorse for egg sandwiches, grilling sausages, and my lunchtime meals-for-one. It goes into the oven as a roasting pan for numerous meat and vegetable dishes, and if I need to broil anything it’s the pan I turn to first.

And if I was rich, I’d buy these by the caselot and hand them out as gifts.

So, my recommendation: you need a great first pan, and you are not looking to fill a specific cooking need, I don’t think you can go too wrong with a simple round griddle.

Gaige’s Famous Inside-Out Grilled Cheese

Some day I’ll dig into my second-favourite cooking topic after cast iron, and write some posts about sourdough bread.

In the meantime, know that my classic sandwich loaf sourdough serves as the base for a mouthwatering recipe that blurs my passion for cast iron cooking with fresh bread and delicious lunch foods.

It’s a simple hack for your grilled cheese, but add a bit of grated cheddar to the buttered outsides of a classic grilled cheese sandwhich (bread, butter, cheese and heat.)

2 slices of sourdough bread
1 tablespoon of butter or margarine
1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese

Grill as normal. (My normal is on a hot-hot cast iron griddle.)

If you’ve got a soft spot for fried cheese, the crisp exterior of your sandwhich will warm your heart (and probably clog your arteries … did I mention that this is a sometimes food?)