Having now made these a couple times, I figured it was high time that I actually document my methodology for English muffin-making, lest I one day forget how, and spend the following weeks alternately cursing my poor starter and weeping bitterly into my jam jars. After all, no one wants to see perfectly good jam ruined, right? Off we go.
(Note: if you’ve no time for my jibba jabba, the whole deal is in recipe form here.)
These being sourdough muffins, the first thing you’ll need is a sourdough starter. Here’s mine; I call him Spongebob Sourdough:
Now Spongebob is a rye starter, which means he adds a little colour and depth of flavour to my otherwise wheat muffins. I’ve no doubt that a wheat-fed starter would work just as well here. It’s just that there’s a limit to the number of starters I want living in my fridge, so Spongebob is sort of my workhorse. Keep in mind however that whether wheat or rye, this will add a sour flavour to the muffins. Given the amount of butter and jam I slather on, this hasn’t been an issue for me, but if you tend to like your English muffins plainer, that’s probably an important consideration.
Anyway, so you have your starter. Take a healthy splot of it, slap it in a bowl and then throw in about half the flour and half the liquid. Peter recommends milk; I use whey. Why? Because I always have lots thanks to my yoghourt-making and I like the flavor I end up with when I use it in bread-making. Would water also work? Probably!
Important note: this set-up should be done the morning of the day before you actually make the muffins. You probably don’t actually need to let the starter sit out all day working on that flour, but I have a… bit of a rough history with sourdough starts, and like to coddle mine to give them more time to do their thing.
The mixture should have at least a little time to rest, enough that it forms a stretchy, stringy sort of sponge. At that point (for me, usually before I go to bed), stir in the rest of the flour the rest of the milk/water/whey, a splash of oil, a little honey, and some salt. Mix it all up, cover it and throw it in the fridge overnight.
The day of, give your dough a little time to come up to room temperature. While you’re waiting for that, you can get your stuff together. What will you need? Some oil (I highly recommend one of those mister things, if you’ve got one), some cornmeal, a griddle and as many crumpet rings as you can fit in it. The amount of time this next part takes is entirely proportional to the number of rings you have. (As I have only two of reasonable English muffin-ing size, it takes me forever to get this done. I keep hoping to find extras at yard sales, but no luck so far.)
Anyhow, spritz (or wipe) the insides of your rings with oil, then coat in cornmeal. Get your griddle medium hot and dust a little cornmeal there too. When you’re good to go, mix a bit of baking soda into hot water and stir it in. Peter Reinhart states to fold it in, as one would whipped egg whites, but that’s a little tough, since the dough should by now be fairly stretchy and solid. Still, you get it mixed in, get your rings set up in the pan, grab a 1/4 cup measure and start dolloping your dough into the rings.
Peter’s instructions say that each side should take about 12 minutes. Not sure if I run my pan hot or what, but it usually takes mine about 10. Once you flip them (flip with the rings), it’s usually not too hard to slip the ring off to get the next ones going, which is how I can stand to do it despite having only two rings (FOR NOW). When you take them out to cool, Peter recommends keeping them on their sides to preserve their shape. I find it also makes them less soggy.
In all, this batch made me 13 muffins.
Recipe form ingredients — the day before
- A goodly slop of starter, probably around 1/2 cup
- A generous cup, maybe 1 1/3 cup of flour
- 3/4 cup of milk (I actually use whey for this part)
Just let it hang out at room temperature for a bit. You want a good spongey texture to form.
Mix this in — the night before
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 3/4 cup milk (or whey)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
Cover, and let it rest overnight in the fridge.
Day of — right before cooking, stir in
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda dissolved in 3 tbsp warm water
Oil the crumpet rings, and dust with cornmeal. Keep your heat at medium to medium-low, and dust the griddle surface with cornmeal. Set the rings on the griddle, and put about 1/4 cup of dough in each. Cook about 12 minutes per side.