So, remember how I stated that I don’t really eat jam, because I’m not a toast person? I never said I wasn’t an English muffin person. (Side-note: what exactly is the difference between an English muffin and a crumpet? I always think of crumpets as being butterier, but given the amount of butter I’m likely to slather on a warm English muffin… are they the same thing? Help.) It’s looking like I won’t need to feel guilty about making more jam this summer, because at this point, any jams or curds that I have lying around don’t have very good life expectancies…
I don’t know why, but I never seem to buy English muffins. It’s not snobbery; although I cringe every time I reach for a Villagio loaf for The Boy, I don’t have any particular problem with the store-bought crumpets, I just… don’t seem to buy them. I’ve read a couple different recipes for them over the years but for some reason never felt moved to actually make them. It’s not that hard: stir up the dough, set up little moulds on a griddle, give ‘er. Nothing complicated. And yet… none of the recipes ever seemed quite right to me.
Last week, I picked up Peter Reinhart‘s book Artisan Breads Every Day from the library. Now Peter is well-known as being the bread-making god of our time, so I was definitely overdue to read some of his books. I chose that one because it seemed less hardcore and theory-based; I’ll freely admit that I’m shallow and that if I can’t slog through the wordier parts of a cookbook, I’ll toss it to the side.
That actually almost happened with Artisan Breads. I got fed up about 10 pages into the intro, and started flipping through the recipes instead and stumbled upon… English muffins. The recipe was nothing earth-shattering, but the detail with which he explained the stages for the dough and the pan-frying were somehow comforting. I got out of the chair, pulled out the flour and… decided to disregard his instructions to use active yeast. Spongebob (my pet sourdough starter) was getting a little crowded in his tub, after all, and shouldn’t I be using him for something? Why not crumpets? So that’s what I did.
At this point, warning bells should have been going off. With one notable exception, my sourdough baking experiments have been fairly reliable failures. (Why do I keep trying? No idea. I suppose the idea of a jar of living starter in my fridge appeals to my romantic Little House on the Prairie sensibilities, or something. I should maybe get around to reading one of those books one of these days.) Still, I kept on. I looked online for some substitution guidance, got a myriad different answers, and then decided to just wing it. I slopped a healthy scoop of Spongebob into a bowl, threw in about half the flour called for along with a little less than half the liquid (I used whey), and left it out for the day before tucking it into the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I got to making…
…and soon had a little tower o’ muffins going on. They are delicious. All my usual issues with underbaking and insufficient rise, of gross gummy insides or chewy, dense crumb? Not present in these muffins. Despite all the whole wheat flour. Despite not having used any active yeast. Despite the fact that I barely followed a recipe (a major downfall in my bread-baking, to be sure). I could scarcely believe it. Maybe it was a fluke; Science demanded that I try a second one to be sure.
I may have found a new bi-weekly ritual.