previous monthly muffins:
Mine’s Herbert. He smells funny, but he’s so damn cute.
He’s fluffy, bubbly, and off-white. Not white…off-white. I play with him a lot, but I only have to feed him once or twice a week!
Oh, you thought I was talking about my cat. No, my cats eat ten times a day and there are three of them and none of them are off-white…not even in the slightest.
No, I was talking about my starter.
I made my first (and I hope only) sourdough starter on March 13 of this year, four months ago, and named him Herbert. I keep him in a plastic quart container in a fridge and try to feed him twice a week (but really if I only feed him once a week, it’s no big deal.)
I created my starter after watching Michael Pollan’s Netflix series, “Cooked,” based on his book, “Cooked” (I did not see that naming coming, how clever.)
Since birthing Herbert, I’ve been working on sourdough English muffins, pretzels, croissants, and even brioche. I used to be in love with active dry baker’s yeast (Red Star was the love of my life), but now I have a young child who takes up all my time, energy, and love (not really; sourdough doesn’t take any time or energy, but requires all of the love. every bit of it.)
This isn’t about the paste, though. This is about what I made with it: English muffins.
Fluffy, rich, buttery, and crusty. Not like the flat, flaccid pucks you buy at the grocery store.
The ones I make aren’t vegan, but the vegan substitutions are easy. Fortunately, most bread by default is vegan, so it’s not like trying to make vegan chocolate mousse (which only works if you have a Vitamix, by the way.) In fact, the first few times I attempted English muffins, they were vegan…until I fried them in butter like the shameless Southerner that I am.
As with most breads or doughs, you can make the dough for these muffins in advance and either freeze or refrigerate them, provided you allow them to proof at some point.
(sourdough) english muffins
makes 12 muffins
Note: if you don’t have a starter but want to make these, it’s an easy substitution. The standard amount of dry yeast is 7 grams or 1 packet, and the amount of added liquid and flour will be half of the weight of the starter. For example, for a recipe with 200 grams of starter, add an extra 100 g each of the liquid and flour. A starter is 1 part water and 1 part flour, so if you wanted to substitute in reverse (using a starter INSTEAD of dry yeast), cut out the yeast, take an equal amount away from the flour and liquid in the recipe, and add twice that amount of the starter (100 grams x 2 = 200 grams starter.)
200 g sourdough starter
350 g all-purpose flour
150 g warm milk or water
1 oz softened butter or vegetable oil
dash of salt
10 g sugar
cornmeal and butter for frying (you don’t need the butter if you’re doing vegan muffins, and if you’re using a non-stick/anodized aluminum pan, you don’t even need oil. you can also use bare cast iron, seasoned with vegan oils.)
In a large bowl using an electric mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour, milk/water, butter, salt, and sugar.
Add the starter and mix with the dough hook for ~5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and it cleans up the bowl as it moves around.
Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let proof for a few hours (either at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.) You can freeze the dough at this point, as well, as long as you thaw it overnight in the fridge and let it proof at least once before moving on.
When the dough is doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. The best way to do this is measure the weight of the dough. I end up with approximately 775 grams, so 64 grams per piece for one dozen. You can do any size and any number you want (like ten muffins at 77.5 grams each, or twenty muffins at 40 grams each.)
Roll the dough into balls. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and arrange the balls on top of the cornmeal. Flatten the dough into discs with the palm of your hand, cover the pan loosely, and let proof one more time for at least half an hour at room temperature.
While the muffins are proofing, preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
Heat a large skillet or griddle (aluminum or cast iron are great, but any material works) on high/medium-high, and add about a tablespoon of unsalted butter. When butter is melted and hot, panfry the muffins, 3 – 4 at a time, until bronze on each side (it’ll be 2 – 5 minutes per side, depending on how hot the pan is.)
Once the muffins are browned on each side, return them to the baking sheet and continue with the rest. After all of the muffins are fried, put them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until plump and firm, taking them out before they brown any more.
Let cool in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack and continue to cool. Muffins last about a week in a sealed container at room temperature, and are best eaten toasted. When splitting muffins, use a fork so you get all the nooks and crannies.
Cheerio and all that,