Crunchy, tangy, and so easy to make…these Sourdough English Muffins will bring a smile to your face and another use for your sourdough starter discard!
The discard conundrum
Question…what happens when you’re maintaining a sourdough starter each week, but don’t do anything with the 1 cup of sourdough starter discard because it’s been too hot and you don’t want to turn on the oven? Answer…if you’re like me and refuse to throw it away, you start to build up a quantity of discard that becomes alarming if you don’t use it soon. What to do? How about Sourdough English Muffins, those gloriously versatile breakfast treats that can go from a vehicle to transport melted butter to your mouth with crunchy, tangy ease to a wonderful base for Eggs Benedict or English Muffin Pizza? And the best part is that they cook on the stove so no oven needed! A hearty breakfast can be had, even in the summer. Bliss.
Before we get to the whys and wherefores of making Sourdough English Muffins, a nagging question needs to be addressed…are they really English? Turns out, well, yes and no…English Muffins are related to the English crumpet. But while crumpets are made by pouring batter into ring molds on a hot griddle which then puffs up with holes on top (not unlike a pancake before you flip it over), English Muffins are a dough that’s cooked on a griddle, turned over, and cooked on the other side so the holes form on the inside. Also, an English ex-pat named Samuel Bath Thomas invented what he called “English toaster crumpets” in his New York City bakery after emigrating in 1874. According to The History of English Muffins from Just a Pinch, Thomas’ English Muffins “were thinner than a traditional English crumpet and pre-cut (or fork-split) so they could be pulled apart easier…” giving “…the inside a rougher surface” (aka the “nooks & crannies” we know and love today). Thanks, Mr. Thomas!
Now on to our regularly scheduled recipe…
Sourdough English Muffins
- kitchen scale
- quarter sheet pan
- half sheet baking pan
- 2 Tbsp sugar (25g)
- 2 cups milk (16oz, 454g), scalded to 110°F-115°F (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 Tbsp yeast
- 1 cup sourdough starter discard (8 oz, 227g), unfed, at room temperature (see Recipe Notes)
- 7 cups flour, all-purpose (30oz, 843g)
- 1/4 cup butter (4 Tbsp, 57g), at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp salt
- cornmeal or semolina, for coating
Make the dough
- Combine all the dough ingredients (except for the cornmeal or semolina) in a stand mixer bowl. Using the dough hook, knead to form a smooth dough (you can also knead the dough in a bread machine or by hand). The dough should be soft and elastic, but not particularly sticky, so add additional flour if needed (use 1 Tbsp increments until you get the desired consistency…this is especially necessary if you’re baking on a humid day).
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and immediately place it in the refrigerator (this is called retarding the dough…it allows the sourdough to ferment slowly and develop a more pronounced sour flavor). Let the dough chill for 8 hours (or up to 2 days). If you don’t want to cook the muffins on a separate day, just set the covered bowl aside to rise for about 1-1/2 hours, or until it's noticeably puffy.
Shape the muffins
- Gently deflate the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, cover it, and let it sit for a few minutes to relax the gluten. If you’ve retarded the dough in the refrigerator, allow the dough to rest for about an hour on the counter to warm to room temperature.
- Option 1: Divide the dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, roll ½-inch thick, and cut in 3-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter. Re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
- Option 2: Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces (I weighed the dough using a kitchen scale and divided by 24, then cut pieces to that weight). Shape each piece into a round ball, then flatten each ball into a 3-inch round. For a somewhat more even rise as the muffins cook, flatten each ball slightly larger than 3 inches, and trim edges with a 3-inch biscuit cutter (or trim all around the edge with a pair of scissors). Muffins with cut (rather than flattened) sides will rise more evenly, and I used the trimmings to get 4 extra pieces. Win!
- Place the rounds, evenly spaced, onto a cornmeal- or semolina-sprinkled half sheet pan (12 per sheet). Sprinkle them with additional cornmeal or semolina, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise on the counter until light and puffy, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the dough has been refrigerated overnight and you didn’t let it come to room temperature first, the rise time will be about 2 hours.
Cook the muffins
- Carefully transfer the rounds (as many as a time that will fit without crowding) to a large electric griddle preheated to 350°F, or to an ungreased griddle or frying pan that has been preheated over medium-low heat.
- Cook the muffins for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side. For the best shape, cook muffins for about 5 minutes on their first side; then lay a quarter sheet pan, or similar flat (though not overly heavy) object atop them. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes or so; then remove the pan, turn muffins over, and finish cooking without the pan on top. This helps keep muffins flat across the top (rather than domed). They’re done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190°F. The edges may feel a bit soft; that's OK.
- Remove the muffins from the griddle, and cool on a rack. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for 4 or 5 days; freeze for longer storage.
If at first you don’t succeed…turn down the heat
My first batch of Sourdough English Muffins burned on one side because I had heated the griddle too hot. I quickly reduced the heat and the rest turned out fine. I salvaged that batch by cutting off the burnt edge…they still toasted up nicely, so crisis averted. Another mishap was that the final batch only had a single muffin on the griddle, and when I put the quarter sheet pan on top, it squished it flat (silly me…I should have used a smaller pan!). Again, no harm, no foul because it still toasted up well (if not a little skinny).
Sourdough English Muffins are easy to make and freeze well, and having yet another way to use sourdough starter discard is definitely a plus. The next time your starter discard container runneth over, I urge you to whip up a batch…crunchy, buttery, fork-split glory awaits!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!