One of the enjoyable things about retirement is that I have more time to learn new stuff. Last weekend, I made sourdough English muffins for the first time. I will talk more about making and using sourdough starter in a later post. Today it’s all about muffins.
An English Muffin is defined as a flat round muffin made from yeast dough that’s been baked on a griddle and is usually split and toasted before being eaten. That’s a perfect definition of what they are and how best to eat them.
I’ll share the recipe I used at the end of my how to. I love this recipe, because it’s simple to make, the kneading was done by my stand mixer, and the dough rises in the fridge. Best yet, the dough may stay in the fridge a day or two before you make the muffins.
This is my dough just out of the fridge. The dough is very chilly at this point and at the perfect relaxed consistency for rolling out and cutting. The dough doubled while in the fridge.
I dumped the dough onto my workspace and cut the dough in half. I worked with one half of the dough at a time.
I rolled out my dough to a one-half inch thickness using as little flour as necessary to prevent the dough sticking to the board. Because the dough was so cold, it rolled out easily and didn’t require excessive flour. You want to keep this dough soft so all those nooks and crannies that we English muffin eaters expect in our muffins develop during the cooking process. The recipe cautions that the dough should be rolled out to a half-inch thickness. Too much thicker and they will burn on the griddle before the insides cook, too much thinner and they won’t rise to perfection.
I cut out the muffins. I didn’t have a cookie cutter the correct size for muffins. The correct size, per the recipe I used, for an English muffin is about 3 1/2″, or about the the size of a tuna can. I used an empty, impecably clean and dry, water chestnut can as a cutter; same size as a tuna can, just taller. I dipped the can in flour from time to time. This dough is soft and sticky as it warms up and it will stick to your cutter if you don’t flour the cutter every so often.
I put a light sprinkling of corn meal on silicon pan liners and placed the cut out muffins on the liner. If you don’t have pan liners, use parchment paper or wax paper and remember to sprinkle with corn meal. The dough is soft and it will stick like glue to a bare metal pan. I sprinkled the tops of the cut out muffins with a little corn meal then covered them with plastic wrap. Why corn meal? Because it sticks to the dough and toasts as it cooks on the grill. This adds a yummy toasted corn flavor to the finished muffins. You can use Semolina flour instead of corn meal if Semolina is all you have available.
I continued to roll out the dough, cutting out muffins, and placing them on lined pans sprinkled with cornmeal until all the dough was gone. I kneaded together the scraps of dough and rerolled them. I let my muffins rise for about 20-30 minutes before cooking them. You don’t have to wait for the cut muffins to double in size. They will rise quite nicely while cooking on the griddle.
I got out my Wolfgang Puck electric grill and preheated it for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. One of my favorite kitchen tools is this grill. It is so well made. It’s reversible; one side a grill and the other a griddle. It maintains even heat across the entire grilling surface, and is easy to clean. I use it almost daily. If you are shopping for an electric grill/griddle, I recommend this one. It’s super awesome.
I placed the first pan of muffins on the griddle. Every 2-3 minutes, I turned them using a pancake turner so that the outsides of the muffins don’t overly brown before their centers are cooked. It took between 10-15 minutes to cook each tray of muffins.
To make sure my muffins were cooked throughout, I used a dough thermometer to check the internal temperature of the muffins after they had been on the griddle for ten minutes. The muffins are thoroughly cooked when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F. Notice how the muffins doubled in size while baking on the griddle. This is why I rolled out the dough to only 1/2 inch thickness. Any thicker than that and the outsides of the muffins would burn before the insides were cooked. (I mentioned this, already; however, it’s an important step to remember.)
As with the first batch of muffins, I kept turning them over with a spatula every two to three minutes so they wouldn’t over brown. This method of cooking the muffins worked for me as the muffins were able to fully cook on the griddle and didn’t need to go into the oven to complete cooking.
I removed the fully cooked muffins to a rack to cool, and then put the next pan on the griddle. While the next batch was cooking, I fork split the cooked muffins.
To split an English muffin using a fork, simply poke a dinner fork all around the sides of the muffin. The fork’s tines should go into the muffin about 1/2 their length. After you have poked around the entire muffin you can easily pull it apart.
This is what the inside of a fork split English muffin should look like. Lots of nooks and crannies that toast up crispy and hold onto whatever you choose to top them with.
The finished product! The recipe made 20 muffins. I wrapped the muffins in plastic wrap, two muffins in each wrap, and then stored them in freezer bags. They freeze perfectly. With just Dave and me at home, 20 muffins is a lot. I stored some in the freezer and some in the fridge. OMG they are so good toasted. They have the classic English muffin flavor and texture with a light sour dough tang. Wayyyyy better than store bought.
This is the recipe that I used. I adapted it from a recipe listed on the King Arthur flour website. I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients that recipe called for, so I improvised with ingredients from my pantry.
Sourdough English Muffins
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup (16 ounces) warm water, 105° to 110° F
1 cup (16 ounces) homogenized milk, 105° to 110° F
1 cup sourdough starter
7-8 cups (1 pound, 13 3/4 ounces to 2 pounds 2 ounces) All-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon salt (yes tablespoon is the correct measure)
Approximately 2 tablespoons cornmeal
In a large mixing bowl using the dough attachment, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. 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. (This took about twelve minutes.)
Add the butter, salt, and a second cup of flour, and beat well. Add 5 to 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form dough that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Make sure you thoroughly incorporate each cup you add before adding the next cup. I ended up only adding about 61/2 cups total of flour the day I made these.)
At medium speed, knead the dough until its smooth and springy, but slightly on the slack side, about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a 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, cover the finished dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it sit overnight, or up to 24 hours, in a cool place. (My dough was in the fridge two days before I had time to make muffins and it still worked perfectly.)
* 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-sprinkled baking sheets (12 or 13 rounds per sheet), sprinkle them with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise 30-40 minutes.
Carefully transfer the rounds (as many as a time that will fit without crowding) right-side up to a large electric griddle preheated to 350°F, or to an 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 griddle and cool on a rack. Note: If you find you’re having trouble getting the muffins to cook all the way through on a griddle, cook on both sides as directed, then finish in a 350°F oven. (Note from Rennie: right side up means that the side sitting on the cookie sheet is the wrong side. There is a reason why you place that side on the grill first, but I have forgotten it.)
(Rennie note: I purchased a 4 1/2-inch round cutter so that I can produce a larger, pop up toaster-sized muffin.)