Sourdough English Muffins Recipe

Due to my ever-widening enthusiasm for breadmaking, I have become a close follower of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, wherein a group of bakers bakes its way through Peter Reinhart’s revered opus and blogs about the results, with numerous details and step-by-step photos. This makes for fascinating posts if you’re into that sort of thing, and reading about others’ well-documented hurdles and triumphs is most helpful if you want to bake from the book.

And this is how I was inspired to try Reinhart’s recipe for English muffins, with a view to adjusting it later and make use of my sourdough starter.

If you’ve never really stopped to consider how English muffins are made — and I wouldn’t hold it against you — you may be interested to learn that they simply grow on English muffin trees. No, really, however easily I could picture that to be true*, English muffins are in fact little loaves of bread dough that are cooked on the stove like pancakes, rather than baked in the oven, which explains (aha!) the two flattened, browned faces.

English muffins are in fact little loaves of bread dough that are cooked on the stove like pancakes, rather than baked in the oven, which explains (aha!) the two flattened, browned faces.

The difficulty of this method is that you need to time the cooking precisely: long enough that the muffins are cooked all the way through to the center (to preclude any gumminess of crumb), but not so long that the surface of the muffins get too dark. Peter Reinhart offers a simple solution: he has you brown the muffins on a griddle or skillet first, and then finish them in the oven, where they will continue to bake through without coloring any further.

My first attempt was a qualified success: the dough came together nicely, but I got a little carried away when preheating my dear cast-iron skillet** — c’mon, let’s fire up that baby! — and I burned a good half of the muffins. We still ate them, slicing off the offending charcoal layer, and they were pretty good, but I felt the taste of the yeast came through a bit too strongly.

For my second attempt, I modified the recipe to incorporate some of my natural starter (have you met Philémon?) for a more complex flavor. Although my preference would be to use my starter as the only leavener, I used both starter and commercial yeast here (albeit in a smaller amount than in the original recipe), a necessary compromise when working with an enriched dough: the starter would not be quite strong enough to lift it on its own in a reasonable amount of time.

Take two of the English muffin project turned out fantastically well: the flavor was better developed, thanks to the longer fermentation and the use of the starter, and I cooked them more gently this time, making the cornmeal-dotted surfaces golden brown and crusty just so.

You can certainly eat the muffins when freshly baked, but I personally prefer them toasted, and I have found that the texture and flavor improves over time, so that you can absolutely bake them the day before you want to eat them (for breakfast or tea), and continue to enjoy them over the next few days. I’m sure they’d freeze perfectly, too.

The final thing you need to know about homemade muffins is that they should be fork-split to achieve optimal texture. Just prick the muffin all around its girth with the tines of a fork, then pull the two halves apart gently; you’ll get a nicely craggy surface that will take splendidly to toasting and liberal buttering. (Of course, there’s also a gadget for that.)

* If there is such a thing as a breadfruit, why not an English muffin tree?

** I have now acquired a spiffy laser thermometer that should preclude that sort of problem in the future.

~~~

On another note, today is the sixth anniversary of Chocolate & Zucchini! I will organize a get-together in Paris, as I do every year, and the details will be announced soon. You may also sign up for the newsletter to be notified.

English muffins, fork split.

Sourdough English Muffins Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 7 hours

Makes 6 English muffins; the recipe can be doubled.

Sourdough English Muffins Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces) bread flour (I used the French farine bise T80, which is about halfway between white and whole wheat)
  • 70 grams (2.5 ounces) ripe natural starter (fed 6 to 8 hours before; the idea is to use it when it's almost at its peak)*
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (levure boulangère déshydratée in French)
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) butter, softened
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) milk, plus a little more if necessary (you can also use buttermilk)
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling

Instructions

    1. Make the dough
  1. Place the ingredients from flour to milk in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir until the dough comes together into a ball. If it seems too dry for all the flour to get incorporated, add just a little more milk until it does. Knead by hand on a floured surface for 10 minutes, or with the dough hook of your stand mixer for 8 minutes. The resulting dough should be smooth and pleasantly tacky. (Peter Reinhart says it should register 25° to 27°C, or 77° to 81°F, but I didn't check the temperature myself.)
  2. 2. First rise (bulk fermentation)
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 4 hours. (After the first rise, you may place the dough in the fridge for a few hours or overnight; let rest at room temperature for an hour before you continue as described below.)
  4. 3. Divide the dough
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or an unfloured silicon baking mat; the dough will naturally deflate a little as you do so, but don't punch it.
  6. Using a bench/bowl scraper or a simple knife, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Each should weigh about 85 grams (3 ounces).
  7. Shape them into rolls as demonstrated in this video.
  8. 4. Second rise (proofing)
  9. If you've been using a silicon mat, this is where you will leave the muffins to rise again: space the balls of dough out on the mat, sprinkling cornmeal under each of them (be generous, or you'll have trouble lifting the balls of dough later; you can always pour the unused cornmeal back into the container when you're all done). If you don't have a silicon mat, do the same thing on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  10. English muffins before second rise
  11. Sprinkle the tops of the balls of dough with more cornmeal (the dough should be tacky enough for the cornmeal to adhere, but if it isn't, spray or brush lightly with olive oil first) and cover loosely with the kitchen towel. Let rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, until puffy and nicely expanded. Try not to let them overproof: the trick is to cook them while still on the rise.
  12. English muffins after second rise
    5. Cook the muffins in the skillet
  13. Heat a lightly greased skillet or griddle on medium heat; if your griddle has a thermostat, set it to 175°C (350°F). If not, it is best to err on the side of too little than too much heat. I have had good success heating my cast-iron skillet on my electric stovetop on setting 3 out of 6.
  14. Also, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and have ready a baking sheet. (After cooking on the stovetop to create the flat top and bottom, the muffins will go into the oven to finish baking to ensure they're cooked right down to the center.)
  15. Use a thin spatula to lift the muffins carefully, one by one, transferring them to the skillet without deflating. The muffins need a little elbow room as they cook, so work in batches if necessary, keeping the uncooked muffins covered. (I cooked two batches of three.)
  16. English muffins in the skillet
  17. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes on the first side, until the bottom is lightly browned (peek carefully underneath to check how they're doing), rotating the pan every few minutes if it has hot spots. The muffins should rise and expand a tiny bit more; it's lovely to watch. Flip the muffins carefully using the spatula, working gently to avoid deflating them, and cook 5 to 7 minutes on the other side, until lightly browned. Avoid overbrowning the muffins: you're going to toast them before eating, and they will brown a little further in the toaster.
  18. English muffins in the skillet (side 2)
    6. Finish the muffins in the oven
  19. Transfer the cooked muffins to the prepared baking sheet, and place in the oven to bake for 6 minutes; they shouldn't brown any further. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  20. If you're working in batches, you can start cooking the second batch as soon as the first batch is in the oven; you'll just need to be a reasonably good multi-tasker and keep track of the cooking times for each batch.
  21. The muffins keep well for four days, well wrapped (I haven't tried keeping them longer than that), and should freeze well, too.

Notes

  • My version of the recipe is even longer than Peter Reinhart's, which I didn't think was possible, but the process really isn't difficult at all. I simply tried, as I always do, to go into as much detail as I thought would be helpful. If you'd like to make the muffins without starter, see note at the foot of the recipe.
  • To make this without starter, up the flour to 280 g (10 oz), the instant yeast to 4 g (1 1/4 tsp), and the milk to 170 ml (3/4 cup). The rising times for the bulk fermentation and the proofing will be shorter (approximately by half).
  • Adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/bread-brioche/sourdough-english-muffins-recipe/

  • http://irishherault.wordpress.com The Evening Hérault

    Happy birthday! We’ve been big fans since we first came across your blog about a year ago – keep up the fantastic work.

  • LB

    Fantastic, I must try these.

  • http://www.phoo-d.com Phoo-D

    Clotilde- These are beautiful! I am participating in the BBA challenge and really enjoyed Peter’s recipe for these muffins. It has been in my mind to make a sourdough version for some time now, and am glad to hear that it worked out for you!

  • http://el-alfeizar-de-dedalus.blogspot.com/ Dédalus

    Mmmm! Doivent être réellement délicieux ces muffins!

    Salut!

  • http://twitter.com/3wordTweets 3wordTweets(laura)

    Ah, an english muffin tree…I’d like that right next to a hot latte fountain please.

    Thanks for another wonderful post.

  • Barbara

    First of all, Happy Anniversary!
    And yes, I knew how English muffins were made- but have never done it. I know homemade is always better but I can get such perfect ones at Wolfermans online. But I loved hearing and seeing how well yours turned out!

  • http://amusebouchefortwo.blogspot.com Amuse-bouche for Two

    So many variables with bread making. I find it addictive, though.

  • http://www.areweinparisyet.blogspot.com Shelli

    Dear Clotilde,
    Welcome back. I can’t believe it’s been five years since the first anniversaire party! And can’t wait for this year’s version, which we happily will be in town for. Félicitations!

    Shelli

  • http://croquecamille.wordpress.com Camille

    Sounds fabulous! What a great weekend project. And happy blog birthday!

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha @ From Single to Married

    mmm… I’m so hungry suddenly and these look fantastic! Thanks for the great recipe, will have to try them soon, they’ll be perfect for the colder evenings we’re having!

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachel

    Happy Birthday C&Z!
    Your muffins came out beautifully.
    Now there is really no excuse for me not to make my own sourdough bread! I just successfully made a beautiful white bread dough (for cinnamon rolls) this Saturday getting over my fear of yeast…AND I live in Berkeley, and the Bay Area’s air and water is perfect for sourdough, the favorite in my house. Why haven’t I done this yet?
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • terri

    happy blogiversary!

    thanks for another great recipe!

  • http://peanutbutterjenny.blogspot.com Jenny

    this is the first time i’ve seen them not need to be poured onto the skillet — i’ve always been intimidated by that, but i may need to try them now.

    could you simply put your cast-iron in the 350* oven to preheat it and then put it back on the stove and cook them? i know it wouldn’t hold the heat, but over a very low burner, i think it might do the trick.

  • Joan

    spiffy…I LOVE the word! And as for “liberal buttering” ~ those words take me to the skies…

    Clotilde, as for a muffin tree, see this film.

    I know I know, wrong muffins…however close as I could find :-)

  • Alix

    Bonne anniversaire, Clotilde! Those are the cutest (and yummiest-looking) English muffins I’ve ever seen!

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com Sara

    I would love an English muffin tree…

  • Rachel

    Congrats on six years!! Sadly I’m going to miss the celebrations again, but I’ll raise a glass in Los Angeles. Along with an English muffin, of course…

  • Steven

    I’m wondering — since I don’t yet have a starter — how might I alter the recipe if I only have a dry yeast powder? Thanks!

  • crystal_siyi

    It’s fantastic.
    I really love these muffins.
    By the way,I am a big fan of you.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Steven – At the foot of the recipe, I’ve given the measurements for those who want to make them without a starter.

  • http://www.beckygrant.net becky grant

    Oh my gosh, my mother use to make English muffins all the time for school in the morning. Thanks for this recipe, I’ll definitely toss it her way and see what she thinks :)

  • http://www.theceliachusband.blogspot.com The Celiac Husband

    Now THAT’S a challenge for a GF version….

  • http://casualkitchen.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    Clotilde,
    Congrats on another year of great blogging–and here’s to many more. I often come here for ideas and inspiration, and you never disappoint.

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  • http://www.marionboyars.co.uk Catheryn Kilgarriff

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Clotilde

    I hope you get lots of little food gifts at your 6th anniversary and wish I could be in Paris.

    I loved the story of queue rage at the butchers – in Barnes village we get this at Christmas (of course – it’s all so hectic) in the cheese shop as the man behind points at the half Stilton piece I have chosen as I was one ahead of him in the queue – always takes me back why someone should think one piece is any different to another though – cheese is, well cheese!)

  • Alisa

    Wow!!! Those are gorgeous english muffins. You should be very proud!!

    Happy Birthday! Love and kisses :)

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    I love baking and this post makes me want to try English Muffins. I love this method. I use a sour dough starter,but one made with potato flakes. Will have to experiment with one made with flour.

  • http://www.theediblelibrary.com Meg

    Happy Birthday to C&Z!
    I was just thinking about making English muffins yesterday… my guy loves them, but I’ve never tried making them before. Thanks for the detailed instructions–they look delicious!

  • http://whatilikenyc.blogspot.com Laura

    What gorgeous looking muffins! My grandmother taught me how to make them a few years ago and I have to admit that I really loved flipping them on the griddle. Genius idea to finish them in the oven though…I always end up with a gummy interior when I try them on my own.

  • http://www.snapperandthegriffin.blogspot.com Griffin

    Happy Sixth birthday!

    The English Muffin was originally picked from the tree by the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane as in the song.

    Equally, the Scots have long been great haggis hunters. The haggis is a wild and savage beast of course and is hunted by Scots to be cooked with the equally wild and savage tatties and neeps.

    I will have to have a go at these, tho’ I am slightly intimidated by the yeast part of this… what if it fizzes up and attacks?!!

  • http://www.haveninparis.com Haven in Paris

    Now I’m hungry again… Those look amazing, Clotilde!

  • http://roundthetable.net/ Janice

    Happy Anniversary!

    I am part of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, and when I made the recipe as written in the book, I realized I preferred sourdough english muffins. With all my baking for the challenge, however, I haven’t had time to experiment with adding sourdough to the recipe. You did it for me!!!
    Thank you so much. Can’t wait to make them this weekend.

  • http://www.entrepanelas.net Carla Duclos

    Congratulations! :)

  • http://www.wildyeastblog.com/ Susan/Wild Yeast

    I really like the taste of sourdough in English muffins. What gorgeous ones these are! Happy anniversary and thank you for joining YeastSpotting!

  • http://simplylifeblog.blogspot.com/ Simply Life

    On those english muffins look great!

  • http://www.cheriepicked.com Cheriepicked

    I had no idea English muffins were cooked on a stove! Aaaahh…but it all makes sense now.
    Its been a while since Ive had one- your post made me realize its been way too long.

    Cheers,
    Cherie

  • amy in nyc

    congrats clothilde! i adore your site. all of your recipes are a huge hit at the sunday dinner table with my family and friends! at the same time, they’re elegant and homey–a more wonderful combination i couldn’t imagine :)

    could you translate the 10 ounces of flour into a volume measurement (cups) for me? my food scale broke and i don’t really have the money to replace it anytime soon, but I’d love to try my hand at these english muffins!

    also, could i use polenta instead of the corn meal? they’re kind of the same thing, right? or could i substitue something else entirely?

  • http://mimicooks.wordpress.com Mimi

    Happy blogoversary!!

    The english muffins look great!!

    I’ve made english muffins with only starter before. The recipe I used starts with an overnight sponge which really gives the starter time to work it’s magic. You may want to see if you can convert Reinhardt’s recipe a bit. I always prefer to use the starter alone in my recipes as well.

  • http://www.lafromagette.blogspot.com js

    the pictures are like watching them grow! happy anniversary!

  • http://www.thenaptimechef.com Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    Happy Birthday C&Z! I love the idea of these English Muffins – how interesting that they are cooked on a stove. I always wonder why they never have homemade EM in bakeries, but maybe it is because they are hardly baked!

  • Melissa in Austin

    While my first batch of starer bread was rising, I went ahead and started the english muffins with my little starter, Fifi (she’s the correspondante americaine de Philemon) but this morning as I went to roll my muffins my batter is REALLY sticky! So my muffins are more like bloblets than balls. Do you think it will still work?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Amy – It’s about 2 cups, give or take a tablespoon, but measuring this large an amount of flour in cups is bound to yield inconsistent results, so I don’t really recommend it.

    As for the cornmeal, yes, it is sometimes sold as “polenta” and it is the same thing, as long as it’s not the precooked type.

    Melissa – The dough should be more a dough than a batter, and should feel tacky rather than sticky. What kind of flour did you use, and how much?

    In any case, now that you’ve reached this step, I suggest you go ahead and let them rise like this; you can work with lightly floured hands to transfer them to the pan, etc. Perhaps they won’t be perfect in shape, but the flavor should still be fine. Let us know, and give my best to Fifi!

  • http://thetravelingtable.com Patricia

    Having a tea shop for many years, I have attempted English muffins a few times, without much success. Thanks for the inspiration to try one more time. Looks easy enough after you have added the details. Thanks so much.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com Cynthia in the French Alps

    Yikes! I’m going to need to practice more bread making before I try these. But brava to you! And Happy 6th Anniversary! A great accomplishment coming from someone just ending her first year as a blogger. It’s a TON of work. Cynthia

  • http://lelelurvesplants.blogspot.com Lele

    Awesome! Now I won’t have to make the agonizing decision between sourdough and english muffin- I can have both!

  • http://www.eyepreferparis.com richard

    these look great. never thought of making english muffins. looks a little complicated but worth doing.

  • Mary Arrr

    The way we made English muffins growing up was with regular bread dough. Usually, half of the dough was made into a normal loaf. The other half was made into English muffins by flattened ball of dough, browning both sides on the stove and then finishing them off in the oven which was warming up for the loaf.

  • http://vanillakitchen.blogspot.com dawn

    ohhh cook the bisquits in the skillet! yes! I agree. I must try this.

  • http://bewitchingkitchen.wordpress.com SallyBR

    Felicitations pour le 6eme anniversaire! :-)

    Ever since I made the muffins for the challenge, I’ve been thinking of trying a sourdough version. But, the challenge goes on, other breads take higher priority, I guess I’ll have to save that for later….

    Good to know it worked so well for you, the English muffins from the BBA were a bit disappointing to me. Not enough holes :-)

  • Claudine

    Brava! Ces muffins sont parfaits! I have made this recipe a few times now and the results are outstanding. A few changes though:
    (1) i seem to need to add a bit more liquid perhaps about 30 ml – for part of which i use canola oil.
    (2) I use part farine bise and part bread white flour (about 1/4); I will continue to test different types of flour.
    (3) I omit the sugar and replace the butter by cheese,usually a combination of parmesan and either blue cheese (roquefort or dolcelatte for example) or cheddar – well worked into a cream before adding.
    This recipe makes fantastic cheese muffins. Thank you.

  • Danielle

    These are so precious! I made them yesterday and finished them last night. I used all-purpose flour and they came out great. Definitely will be a standard around our house along with your fabulous recipe for Pain au Levain. More recipes please – yours are the best I’ve found anywhere in my search. Thank you!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      So pleased you had good success with these, as I love them too. Must bake a new batch!

  • kristen

    Thanks for the great recipe! Made a double batch and they were perfect.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Delighted to hear it, Kristen, thanks for reporting back!

  • http://www.eveparis.com/ Mark Richard

    Thanks for this wonderful post!! Those look amazing.

  • http://www.willbuckingham.com Will Buckingham

    Thanks for the recipe — these are superb. I make them in large batches and freeze them (they freeze brilliantly).

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m so pleased, Will, thanks for reporting back!

  • dr_bombay

    this is the first i’ve heard about the BBA challenge, and i kind of want to join in. i don’t blog, but it still sounds fun. it looks like it’s been going for months already, though — when is it scheduled to end? can we just jump in wherever everyone is at, or do we have to start at the beginning and play catch-up somehow? also, your english muffins look incredible, Clotilde!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Although the challenge went on for years (this post was originally written in 2009) my feeling is that it is dormant now. If you’re looking to join an active group of bread baking enthusiasts, though, I recommend the Fresh Loaf site and forums. Very helpful and supportive community.

      • dr_bombay

        ha! the joke is on me: i didn’t even notice the year of the post.

        i’m familiar with the Fresh Loaf site… perhaps i’ll just start a “challenge” among my group of bread enthusiast friends and borrow the original idea… : )

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

          That’s a great idea — let me know how it turns out!

          • dr_bombay

            i will! thanks : )

  • Toni

    There’s a recipe from Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen for an English muffin loaf bread that I wanted to share with you. Now I have the choice of making beautiful sourdough muffins or a little bit quicker loaf version. Looking forward to trying both.

    http://www.aflockinthecity.com/2012/04/02/english-muffin-bread-a-recipe-from-cooks-country-magazine-made-and-reviewed/

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Now that you mention it, I remember reading about something like this a while ago. Thanks so much for the link and recipe! Have you ever tried making it with your sourdough starter? If you’re interested, I’ve written a post on how to convert yeasted recipes to sourdough.

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.