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Baking Bucket List: English Muffins

June 11, 2012

If I had known how easy it was going to be to make these…

But hindsight is 20/20, and there’s no use crying over unbaked crumpets.

Yesterday was baking day at my house. That meant sourdough bread this week because I’ve been neglecting my starter since the summer weather started, and it needed some care and feeding. I love my sourdough starter and the resulting bread, but I am always left with the dilemma of what to do with the cup of starter left over from the feeding. That problem was doubled yesterday, due to the fact that I had fed my starter twice for robustness. Two cups of starter– ee-gads!

One cup was taken care of by my old standby, sourdough pancakes. I have a lovely recipe that involves an overnight sponge and yields a slightly sour pancake that is fluffy yet toothsome, and perfect with any concoction I have come up with to top them, from strawberries and ricotta to good old maple “slurp”, as my family always called it. C devoured a good solid dozen of those pancakes for breakfast yesterday… how that boy is not the size of a house is completely beyond me, but I pray our future children get his metabolism!

That left me with a second cup, which sat patiently on the counter while I daydreamed about what it would be when it grew up. Pretzels? Eh… C is going to be in the field for the next four days, so who would eat them? Another batch of pancakes to freeze? One batch already makes an obscene amount of pancakes (2 1/2 dozen!) so my freezer didn’t really need that. Another loaf of bread? See comment about C in field above. What the heck was I going to do with it??

Then I remembered a conversation that C and I had awhile back in which I commented that I hadn’t eaten an English muffin in ages, and wouldn’t it be nice to have some for breakfast sometime soon? I wondered if sourdough starter could be used to make English muffins…

It is times like these when I am grateful for the existence of the internet, and more grateful still for the fine folks at King Arthur Flour, who have posted on their website a plethora of tested recipes, including one for… wait for it… Sourdough English Muffins! I could have kept looking for another recipe, but I had already found my Holy Grail. Oh. *groan*

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Waiting to go on the heat

The recipe calls for dry milk, but I almost always ignore that and substitute fresh milk. I’m sure dry milk has its advantages, but I just prefer what I have on hand… dry powdered milk ain’t it. If you have a recipe that calls for dry milk and want to substitute liquid as I do, the ratio is 1:4. As in, a cup of dry milk powder will make 4 cups of milk when mixed. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of dry milk, so I know to substitute 2 cups of fresh milk and eliminate any water called for in the recipe (in this case, also two cups).

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I love the way they puff up in the pan

The recipe, as I said at the beginning, is sooooo easy. It is not, however, quick. Especially if you want to develop the tangy flavor from the sourdough, which requires letting the dough chill out in the fridge for up to 24 hours after it’s mixed. I let mine rise on the counter for an hour an a half and then tucked in the icebox overnight for a total rise time of about 16 hours. So if you’re craving English muffins NOW this may not be your best option. But if you have a day and a half that you’re willing to devote to the process, I can assure you that the wait is well worth it. These muffins are delicious straight from the pan, and divine when split and toasted with a touch of butter and a dab of jelly.

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It would be a better picture, but I was too impatient to finish my breakfast…

Salud!

Amanda

Sourdough English Muffins (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 7 to 8 cups (1 pound, 13 3/4 ounces to 2 pounds 2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid), optional
  • approximately 2 tablespoons cornmeal or semolina

*I used less flour than this, and I think you should too. I mixed the dough by hand, and started kneading it when it was still fairly “shaggy” looking and dry. I incorporated more flour while kneading, which resulted in a springy, elastic dough that was very soft and smooth. Use your judgement, and err on the side of less.

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm milk. Stir in and dissolve the yeast, and then mix in the sourdough starter and 1 cup of flour. Let this sit for a few minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble.

Add the butter, salt, sour salt (if you’re using it; it’s a nice flavor-booster) and a second cup of flour, and beat well. Add 5 to 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form a dough that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. I got C to hold the bowl so I could mix with both hands. If you don’t have an assistant, I suggest you use a stand mixer!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and springy, but slightly on the slack side, about 8 minutes (5 minutes if using a mixer). Add flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. Clean out and grease your bowl and place the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that a thin film of oil coats all sides. If you want muffins with just a hint of sourness, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel, let it stand until it has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, and proceed from * below. If you want muffins with a more pronounced sour flavor, be sure to add the sour salt to the dough for extra tang; then cover the finished dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it sit overnight, or up to 24 hours, in your refrigerator.

* When the dough has risen your chosen length of time, punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, cover it and let it sit for a few minutes (to relax the gluten). Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out separately to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 3-inch rounds; re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. Place the rounds, evenly spaced, onto cornmeal- or semolina-sprinkled baking sheets (12 or 13 rounds per sheet), sprinkle them with additional cornmeal or semolina, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise in a warm place until light and puffy, about 1 hour.

Carefully transfer the rounds (as many as a time that will fit without crowding) right-side up to a large ungreased frying pan that has been preheated over medium heat. Cook them for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190°F. Remove them from the pan and cool on a rack. If you find you’re having trouble getting the muffins to cook all the way through in the pan, cook on both sides as directed, then finish in a 350°F oven.

Yield: twenty-five 3-inch English muffins.

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