English muffins

As if honey isn't good enough...

The other day, I fed up my sourdough starter so much that it expanded out of the glass container it was housed in and spilled down the sides and onto the counter.  For some reason, that generous morning surprise cued my need to make English muffins.  The recipe I most like for English muffins comes from Northwest Sourdough, and uses a whopping 453 g. of well fed starter.  I've made it a number of times, and it is reliably good.  What I haven't done before is form it into a loaf and bake it:

sourdough english muffin bread

I did that with the scraps after I cut a dozen traditional muffins, and it was a marvelously good idea.  I thought I might have added too much additional flour as I struggled to get it to form a round of dough that was dry enough to handle.  I didn't proof in the fridge, just let it stand for a few hours at room temperature until it seemed to pass the finger-dent test.  (The dough should slowly spring back and fill in, telling you that the yeast has slowed its action enough and is fully proofed.  If it springs back quickly, the yeast still has some work to do.)  Then, I took a chance on scoring it and baking it in a cast iron pot at 475 degrees.  It was done in a mere 25 minutes, about 18 with the lid on, the remainder with it removed.

The scraps of muffins are always a challenge to re-roll, so I was glad this worked as well as it did.  I froze most of the muffins, and went to town making the best toast ever: pleasantly sour and with perfect, even texture.


Then yesterday morning, I was talking with my friend E on the phone - which by the way seems like such a refreshing thing to do as most communication is done via text or email lately.  How nice to hear a phone ring and a "good morning" in true human tones!  Anyway, we were talking about quince, which I will be getting my hands on tomorrow.  She said she found some this year in a neighborhood tree, that they are delicious poached, and she ate them all that way pretty much.  Poached and with cream, because everything is better with cream.  I had to agree.  And the English muffin bread made me think of the cream I had to use up and this recipe for "ambrosia" I had seen a few weeks ago.

Now there are things that you avoid making because you know that they are dangerous. Things that don't stand a chance due to the deliciousness of their combined components.  That is what this recipe made me think of.  Originally, it called for an amount of sugar; but why add sugar to honey?  Honey is honey and worthy of no adornment.  But if you are going to adorn it, why not with butter and cream?  Everything is better with cream.

honey butter cream

Honey Butter Cream (adapted from One Good Thing)
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. room temperature, unsalted butter
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
Place the butter in a large bowl and have an electric mixer ready.  Bring the honey and heavy cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan (make sure it is large enough to account for some boiling expansion), and boil for 1 minute.   Remove it from the heat and let it stand for a minute, then pour it over the butter.  Mix until all the butter is melted.  Add salt to taste and the vanilla and beat for another minute.  Decant into glass jars and transfer to the fridge while trying to be patient enough for it to cool.  This recipe would be easily doubled, but do that at your own dietary discretion.

honey butter cream

When tasting a spoonful of honey and butter and cream, your mind races to find suitable accommodations for it.  Granted, you could eat the whole jar(s) by the spoonful and no one would judge.  But putting it on ice cream or plain yogurt, spooning it into the black coffee I generally don't mess with (remember the buttered coffee trend?  This one-ups that for sure.), or topping a perfectly ripe pear or apple slice is so much better.  It's a good thing too, since I think the heavy cream gives this a shelf life of about a week - a week that won't be a problem with so many sweet options...

honey butter cream

Sourdough Surprises: English Muffins

This is the second time I've participated in a newly formed baking group Sourdough Surprises.  The monthly bake-along choice for September was English muffins, a baked good particularly close to my heart.  Over a year ago, I worked tirelessly trying to perfect the sourdough English muffin; I made so many English muffins in a week, that I knew I had to hit on something - and I definitely did.  (This final version I thought was the best, but all of my trials were completely edible).

When I read the challenge was going to be English muffins, I knew there could be no better time than now to test-drive another Tartine dough.  I already knew it to be wonderful, since it was one that Chad Robertson had based his famous baguettes on. That same dough was coaxed into a classic, muffiny shape... and it did not disappoint.

sourdough english muffin
Tartine english muffins
Did you notice the bright yellow exteriors on a few of the muffins?  That's because I used my cast iron skillet the day before to fry some vegetables in turmeric.  It stained the pan.

The dough is a hybrid of commercial yeast and sourdough starter.  A poolish, created by letting a small amount of active dry yeast ferment in a flour mixture for several hours, is combined with sourdough starter (in my case, the 100% hydration starter that I keep perpetually on my counter).  I altered the amounts to suit one sheet pan, but otherwise, it is the very same dough that made this thin-crusted, naturally seamed loaf named Fendu.  I loved this bread wholeheartedly, so I knew that the same dough coerced into English muffin form would also delight.


What I loved about this recipe, is that the bulk of the work is done the day before.  When you bake the muffins, you have only to cut them out with a circle cutter, and fry them in some butter - clarified if you follow the Tartine instruction.  I cut some of the leftover spaces into tiny, bite-sized muffins, but I don't think the scraps would rise much if re-rolled.  There was a small lump of dough that was sacrificed. 


Since I keep my starter well fed and ready to go, I do not mix Robertson's "leaven" as directed for this particular recipe.  I instead substitute the same amount of starter. and make sure that I feed it just a little bit before building the poolish.  (Since the poolish is mature and ready in about 4 hours, and my starter is most active 4-6 hours after feeding, I mix the poolish about an hour after feeding my starter for the day.)  

Tartine-Method Sourdough English Muffins (adapted for starter and quantity from Chad Robertson)
yield 1 dozen 3-inch muffins, plus a few bite-sized

  •  100 g. ap flour
  •  100 g. water
  •  1 1/2 g. active dry yeast
to build dough:
  • 200 g. well fed starter (a teaspoon should float in a glass of water)
  • 250 g. water
  • 200 g. poolish (it should be all of the above)
  • 325 g. ap flour
  • 175 g. bread flour
  • 12 g. salt (but I feel this is too salty.  I actually salt to taste - I add 1 1/2 t. kosher salt, and taste the dough to correct.)
 To make the poolish, mix everything in a small bowl, and let ferment 3-4 hours at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge, but I haven't done that).  

(Both the poolish and the starter should pass the "float test" as described above; a teaspoon should float in a glass of water.)

To mix the dough, pour the water into a large bowl.  Add the poolish and starter and stir to blend well.  Add the ap and bread flours, and use your hands to mix well until no floury bits remain.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  I didn't forget about the salt:  we won't add it just yet.

Transfer the dough to a large, clean, clear container for the bulk fermentation.  Bulk ferment should take about 4 hours, and every 40 minutes, fold the dough.  The salt should be added with the first turn (or 40 minutes after transferring to the clean bowl.

When the bulk fermentation is complete, turn the dough out onto a well-floured towel (use flour that is 1/2 regular ap flour and 1/2 rice flour - it prevents sticking really well) that is spread flat over a sheet pan.  Let it rest for 10 minutes in a mound, then dust the top with rice flour/ap flour mix and ease the dough into a rectangle of even thickness.  Dough should be about 1 inch thick; aim for uniform thickness overall.  Cover with a clean, lint-free towel, and place in the fridge to rise overnight or 8 hours.  (I worried that it would dry out, so I placed some plastic bags loosely over the top of the towel.)

Take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking them.  Ready a heavy cast iron skillet, and clarify some butter if you like.  Do not cut the muffins until ready to place them in the skillet.

Brush the skillet with butter, cut a 3-inch round of dough and immediately place it in the hot pan.  Pick up each carefully, and hopefully you used enough flour and nothing sticks!  (In a number 8 skillet, I could fit 3 muffins at a time easily.) Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until brownish - or as brownish as sourdough can get.  Carefully flip, and continue cooking 2-3 minutes more until they appear done.  Try to let them cool somewhat before slicing, they continue to cook for a minute or two after removing them from the heat.

(Robertson says they'll keep well in a covered container at room temp for a day or two, but I prefer to freeze what I can't eat in a day.  Let them come to room temperature before splitting them open and toasting them, but that can take up to 2 hours.  An impatient bread fiend can dangerously wiggle a paring knife around enough to split a mostly frozen puck enough to get it into the toaster oven.  But that does involve a stabbing hazard.  You have been warned.)

Tartine english muffin 

I really liked these muffins, but I can't say that I liked them any more than the ones I've made in the past.  I think because I first used this dough as a loaf bread, that flavor of bread lingered in my mind, the craggy holes of English muffin-dom seemed imbued with regular bread flavor.  Because other recipes I've made had a bit of whole wheat flour and a small amount of milk and/or sweetener, the texture of the middles seemed more akin to what I think of as a true English muffin.  But that is all just particulars, since this is a perfectly respectable muffin in all ways. 

And, since they rest overnight - it feels like there is no mess the next day when you go to bake them.

muffin sandwich
Fried egg, cilantro-raisin chutney, and hot sauce on a fresh sourdough English muffin.

Do you love to use sourdough and want to bake along?  You don't need to have a blog, you can find out more on the Sourdough Surprises website.  With the busy Summer behind me, I'm definitely looking forward to the coming months of bakery! 

Oh, and be sure to check out the other participants:

This post has also been Yeastspotted.

Three batches of sourdough English muffins later...

About 6:00 last night, I finally got the English muffins I was looking for: a bit thicker and a little more uniform. I posted my crazy muffins addiction pictures here on flickr. But, a huge thank you to Teresa at Northwest Sourdough for commenting on my post. This is her recipe that I eventually followed exactly, and had stellar results. If you have extra starter fed and ready for action, why not give these a go over the weekend? You won't be sorry!

Sourdough English Muffins Redux

I was just so excited about the professionalism of these muffins that I had do a proper update. I think this is the 4th batch of sourdough English muffins that I've made since the discovery. The ingredient list is exactly the same, but I've been playing around with the method to make it something I didn't make a mess of the whole kitchen to prepare. In about the same time it takes to bake off a batch of pancakes, you can be serving homemade sourdough English muffins. And, they freeze great too.

Yesterday, I decided to try using the egg rings I bought a while back to coax out perfectly round muffins and it worked beautifully. The only downside, is that egg rings are maybe a bit on the small side. I may break down and order a set of proper English muffin rings which I have been putting off for a long time. Some say that you can clean out tuna cans and use them as molds, but personally, I don't see the fishy smell ever leaving the can - and the bottom edge is usually rounded, making a clean cut almost impossible.

As sticky as sourdough is, it is easily tricked into non-stickiness by the simplest of things: water. I had already been applying the damp fingers method to smooth out the tops of the craggy, homemade looking English muffins. It turns out, that that is also a key step even when scooping the batter into a mold to griddle - otherwise they bake up lopsided like the photo above.

As I worked through this latest batch, I determined that if you fill the mold just under half full (and my rings are 7/8 in. deep) the batter rises just to the top. I also tried greasing the rings with coconut oil at first, which strangely led to sticking. Butter worked better. I'm sure I'll have to grease them a bit better if I do graduate to the proper English muffin rings, since they are not non-stick like the egg fry rings I currently have.

All that said, even if you have no rings, you can still make a stellar muffin like the ones in the top of this photo:

Sourdough English Muffins - Improved Method (via GNOWFGLINS)
  • 1/2 c. sourdough starter
  • 1 c. liquid (pretty much anything, but I used water... could use whey, milk, yogurt, coconut milk . . .)
  • 2 c. flour, any kind or combination (I used half AP flour and half wheat)
  • 1 T. honey
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
12-24 hours before you want to make the muffins, mix the starter, liquid, and flour. The batter will be very wet, but it will depend on the hydration of your starter.

An hour before you want to make the muffins, sprinkle the honey, salt and baking soda over the top and stir in. The batter will gently rise and look puffy.

When ready to griddle, heat a cast iron skillet (I also think investing in a double burner, cast iron comal may be in my future) over medium-low heat until hot. Fill a pint glass with water and dip a disher (I use 1/2 c. size) in it. (Water prevents the sticky dough from collecting on the disher.) Just before scooping out the batter, brush the skillet with butter. It shouldn't be hot enough to scorch the butter, just melt it and sizzle a little.

Then, scoop up a scoop of dough and deposit it into the rings on the hot griddle, filling only about half full. Quickly dip your fingertips in the water, and briefly flatten the muffin into a nice round shape. Griddle on medium to medium-low heat. I found that I had to keep decreasing the temperature as I griddled, since cast iron holds the heat so well. (I have well-seasoned pans, so I didn't need to grease them with butter every time I added a new batch of muffins). Griddle side one for 5 minutes.

At the 4 minute mark (give or take) try lifting up the ring gently to see if the muffin will drop out. If it seems like it may be sticking just a little, you can try poking the center carefully with a toothpick and it should drop right out. (If it seems really stuck, remember to use more butter to grease them on the next go, and use a thin, sharp knife to loose the edges.) Free of their rings, you can then flip and griddle 5 minutes on the other side. Moderate the temperature so that the interior will bake fully and the exterior doesn't burn in the time allotted each side. After 2 or 3 muffins, you'll have it down. Depending on the thickness of the muffin, they may need slightly more time, but don't worry about it too much if you plan on toasting them anyway.

As with most things, the more you do something the better the results. I actually think the interiors of these muffins were better than my other attempts because of their uniform depth. Even using a portion disher and my new method, my English muffins still looked a little homemade and imperfect - which is just fine with me. This is one recipe that is going to be used for years to come, and I'm sure it will keep getting easier and easier. If you don't make your own sourdough starter and you know someone who does, beg them for a half a cup so you can make English muffins... you'll be so happy you did.

This post has been Yeastspotted.