Category Archives: 100% Whole Wheat

Sourdough English Muffins

It’s a little more work than pancakes, but these english muffins are another great way to use up excess sourdough starter. I absolutely adore english muffins but I never buy them because in our household we just can’t go through bread fast enough to warrant options. (Though that’s changing now that we have another roommate.)

These muffins call for sourdough starter but the starter isn’t the leavening agent – baking soda is. The starter adds flavor and enough acidity to activate the baking soda. If you’re willing to get out of bed an hour early, you can whip these up on a school day. Just mix the dough the night before. It’s so much fun to watch them puff up on the griddle!

Here’s the recipe, adapted from a post on The Fresh Loaf.

Whole Wheat Sourdough English Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat starter

1 cup milk

1 Tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 & 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

cornmeal

Mix the starter, 2 cups of flour, and milk in a large bowl.  Stir to combine, cover, and leave out for 8 hours or overnight.

In the morning, add remaining flour, sugar, salt and baking soda and mix well.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes.  Roll out to 3/4 inches and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter (or water glass).  Roll out the scraps and cut more muffins from them.  Dust a sheet pan or silpat mat with cornmeal, place muffins on the pan using a spatula, dust the tops with cornmeal and let rest for 45 minutes.

Very lightly oil or butter a pancake griddle. Heat to medium-low and cook muffins for about 6-8 minutes on each side, or until browned on the top and bottom and cooked through.

Notes: An over-greased griddle creates a crispy crust, which just isn’t quite right for an english muffin. This recipe should work with white flour, but you may need to adjust the amount of flour. Like store-bought muffins, these really must be toasted.

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Research makes perfect?

After rock #2 I turned to the internet (where else?) and found this amazing site! Farmgirl Fare: Ten Tips for Better Bread Farmgirl Susan lays out techniques that make the type of breads that are only distant cousins to supermarket sandwich loaves. Most of these techniques were a bit too advanced for my amateur skills but I took her advice and ordered the Bread Alone cookbook (or bakebook?). When it arrived I read and re-read the first chapter, which doesn’t even contain recipes. It’s all about flour textures, time, temperature and fermentation. It turns out that jump-starting the yeast with luke-warm water is actually a bad idea. Ideally you should create a long, slow rising period which helps the dough develop more flavor through fermentation, and also prevent your yeast from getting tuckered out too quickly. The science of baking is fascinating – when you knead your dough it’s temperature actually rises due to the friction! Dan Leader (the author) recommends that you calculate your individual “Friction Factor” and use that to balance the temperatures of your flour and water.

Reading about kneading dough I had the ah-ha moment: The 15-17 minute rule is important. If the dough is under-kneaded, the gluten will not be developed enough to allow the dough to rise during fermentation. It turns out that the kneading process changes the very structure of the gluten (wheat protein strands) to be longer and more elastic, which traps the air created by the yeast. SCIENCE!

Just a few days later my friend Emily invited me to take a class on sourdough bread at Brooklyn Kitchen. Though I now had a good handle on the concepts thanks to Bread Alone, the class gave me the opportunity to poke and prod properly kneaded dough at several stages. Thanks to my friend Tom I had a tiny tupperware of his sourdough starter waiting in my fridge. And so that weekend I baked bread – and it rose! (mostly)

Real Sourdough Bread...served with my favorite food.

Real Sourdough Bread...served with my favorite food.