Monday, April 1, 2013

Sourdough English Muffins

Currently I am sitting in my office/bedroom, and really don't want to look out of the window on my right because it is snowing, again. I feel like an old lady for talking about the weather, but when it just starts snowing again and again after I thought we were finally over it, I can't really think about anything else. But while this still goes on, I spend my free days inside, painting, reading, cooking and baking. A week or so ago I started a sourdough starter, following the instruction in Peter Reinhart's book, Crust and Crumb.

Experimenting with sourdough is fascinating, within 4 or 5 days you go from water and flour, plus a little honey and raisins, to a dough that can actually leaven a bread. I was sceptical at first, still unsure whether the sourdough would actually work, but then I made the firm starter for the San Francisco Sourdough bread in Crust and Crumb, and it rose beautifully. The recipe does make a lot of dough, though, and while I looked at all that dough, rising on the counter, I decided to use half of it and make English Muffins out of it. I had made English Muffins before, and I really liked them and thought it was great to be able to make bread without having to turn on the oven and heating up the kitchen that much (and to actually save some cash, apparently the gas bill for our apartment has doubled or tripled since I moved in [oops]). The resulting English Muffins are not that different from the standart English Muffins that I made before, they are not really sour, but they are so delicious and a great way to experiment with sourdough or use some of it up if you happen to have way too much starter after feeding it daily those first days.

Sourdough English Muffins
Note: I decided not to include the recipe for the barm sponge starter from Peter Reinhart's book Crust and Crumb here. It feels kind of wrong to publish it as it is, but if you want to give it a try and don't want to buy the book, I think I could send you the complete recipe via Email. Also, if you have a sourdough starter, but yours has a different water:flour ratio than the Barm Sponge starter, you need to adjust the flour:water ratio in this recipe, too. 
(The recipe here is actually the recipe for the San Francisco Sourdough from the Crumb and Crust book, so if you want to make these English Muffins, you can double the recipe and let the other half of the final dough rise for 4 hours, refrigerate overnight and let come to room temperature for an hour before baking. Bake for 40 minutes or so at 450°C.)

Firm Starter
1 cup bread flour
1 cup barm sponge starter
room temperature water as needed

Mix the flour and the starter together in a bowl, stir using a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together and then using your hands mix until it comes together and forms a ball. Add a little water if the dough seems too dry.
Knead the firm starter for about 4 minutes until it is smooth, it will still be a bit sticky.
Let this firm starter rise at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or until the dough nearly doubles in size. Then refrigerate over night, or 6-8 hours, well covered.
The next time, remove the starter from the fridge 1 hour before using it.

3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup water

After letting the starter warm up, cut it into a few pieces, add the flour, salt and sugar and stir in the water. Stir until the dough comes together, then dump the dough on a flat surface and knead for 10 minutes, until it is smooth. Place the dough in a bowl, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.
Sprinkle flour on your working surface, dump your dough on the work surface and flatten it out with the palms of your hands. Cut the dough into circles, using a glass, or a large round cookie cutter, bring the dough leftovers together and repeat with the remaining dough. Place the rounds on a well floured surface, sprinkle some flour over them and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest and rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place 3-4 of the dough rounds at a time in the skillet and let brown on one side for a minute or two. Turn the heat down if  they seem to brown too quickly and leave the center of the muffins still soft and uncooked with the surface already brown or blackened. Turn the muffins and cook on the other side for a minute or two.
Serve with butter and jam.

Makes about 12 muffins.


  1. Lena, I loved looking at the projects you've been taking on in the past few posts. These english muffins look especially great. Waylon's mom has a sourdough starter that she uses to make sourdough waffles -- not sure if you've tried them, but they make the best waffles (or pancakes) I've ever had. I love seeing english muffins pop up around the blog world, and I hope by the time I graduate and finally get my hands on a cast iron skillet that I'll be able to try some version of them out.

    1. I never had sourdough waffles before, and I dont own a waffle iron. I have been thinking about getting one, though. There is a recipe for sourdough pancakes in Peter Reinhart's book, so maybe I need to give them a try.
      I have my cast iron skillet from a thrift shop, or do you just not have enough space to justify buying one earlier? And I did see recipe for baked English Muffins before, which is, admittedly, a bit strange since most of the appeal of English Muffins for me is that I can prepare them in the skillet and dont have to use the oven.

  2. Lena, if you ever get a little bored with Crust and Crumb, you should check out Tartine Bread. There aren't quite as many bread recipes in it as the Peter Reinhart books, and you do need some sort of cast-iron pot to make the country loaves (same sort of technique as Jim Lahey's no-knead bread), but I almost never bake from any other book. And for the Tartine loaves, you use very little starter, so you don't end up using a lot of flour for feeding and then discarding, which is nice.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Katie. I do have to bring Crust and Crumb back to the library anyway, so I am already checking out Tartine Bread on Amazon right now. Having less starter sounds great, too. I really do not want to discard that much flour.

    2. I forgot to say: the standard Tartine recipe makes 2 loaves, but I usually only make one, since that's all the two of us can eat in a reasonable amount of time. So I find that with the starter leftover from each batch of dough, once I discard about 80% of it, I can just feed the remaining with about 50 g each of flour and water the day before I plan to make more bread and then make only half of the levain called for in the book (so 100 g of flour) that goes directly into the dough. That's hardly any flour at all!