May 112014

Towering tangy English muffins

I adore a good English muffin. And like all things bread, they are infinitely better when made at home. The good news here is that they are ridiculously easy to make. This came as especially good news to my Dad, who adores these little disks of nooks and crannies. Since I discovered they he loves them so much, they’ve become A Thing, something we can make together. You see, he doesn’t ask for much (I’m way more demanding when it comes to “Hey Dad! Make me that delicious thing you make! And this! And that! PUT IT ALL ON THE GRILL!”), so I’m thrilled to have something in my back pocket that I can make when we’re together and I know he’ll genuinely appreciate it and love it (though I have to admit that the making of English muffins often gets usurped by our shared quest for the perfect nacho and guac).

Towering tangy English muffins

I first dipped my toes into the English muffin pond back in my BBAC days and it was pretty apparent to me then that these were something special, something fun, and (I know I already mentioned it before, but it bears repeating) so easy. Griddle-bread is something special and fun — kind of like a mating between the processes for tortillas and sandwich breads. And they are an ideal vehicle for so many things that are good to put in your mouth that I have a hard time resisting them.

Towering tangy English muffins

One of the best things about home-made English muffins is the sheer scale of these things. These suckers are tall. Whether it’s because you can give them a long time to cook and set their internal structure before flipping them (that perhaps a factory-bakery can’t) or the fact that you don’t have to be stingy with the dough (the way a factory-bakery would), I can’t say. Just think about all the jam you could pile on to a split muffin! All the clotted cream! (Which, by the way, I’ve never had, but that does sound scrumptious.) All the almond-butter and bananas! All the poached eggs! (And yes, of course, Hollandaise and bacon too.) People, these are English muffins as you’ve never had them before. So please, if you are an English muffin-phile, go forth and remedy that situation!

Towering tangy English muffins

Towering tangy sourdough English muffins
Makes 6 muffins
Adapted from Susan at Wild Yeast

You will need:

  • For the sponge:
    • 120 g flour
    • 75 g whole wheat flour
    • 207 g plain yogurt (regular or Greek, any milk-fat level will do)
    • 82 g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • For the final dough:
    • 30 g flour
    • 30 g whole rye flour
    • generous 1/2 t. salt
    • 3/4 t. baking soda
    • 1 T. honey
    • 2 T. water
    • All of the sponge

To prepare:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the sponge ingredients with your hands until just combined. Cover and let rest for 8 hours or overnight (I’ve gone as long as 16 hours).
  2. Add the final dough ingredients to the sponge and mix to roughly combine. Turn the dough out onto the counter and hand mix for about 7 or 8 minutes, or until the surface becomes quite smooth. The dough will be very soft and sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour; it will become somewhat less sticky with mixing.
  3. If you prefer traditional round shapes: divide the dough into 6 roughly-equal parts. Form each into a ball. If you prefer more rustic shapes: flour the counter and your hands well, and pat the dough into a 6 x 9-inch rectangle about one-half inch thick. Cut the dough into six squares using either a bench-scraper or a biscuit-cutter.
  4. Place the dough on a flour-dusted surface, cover, and let proof for an hour.
  5. Heat a griddle to 350F and preheat your oven to 350F. Gently transfer the dough with a metal spatula and cook the muffins until very deeply browned on the griddle-side (they will brown quickly but will not burn for a long time), about 5-8 minutes. Do not flip them too early or they will fall and not be as towering as they could be. Flip them and cook as for the other side. Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet and immediately bake for another 5-8 minutes (do not wait for any uncooked dough to go to the griddle and then have its turn in the oven — the muffins need to go into the oven very hot). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before eating. Repeat with any remaining dough pieces until all are baked.
  6. Split the muffins with a fork instead of a knife, slather with your favorite jam, butter, or honey, and enjoy!

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