I recently was looking back into this blog for my English Muffin recipe, and discovered I had never actually gone into detail about it and the posts were some of the oldest in the blog. I decided then and there that I would make another round of muffins and do a better job of documenting it. The original inspiration an much of the hard grafting for this recipe came from Chad Robertson and his excellent book, Tartine Bread.
I live in the UK and English Muffins are just muffins here. Unfortunately they are also nothing like the ones I remember from the US. The best there are the Thomas’ brand and what makes them stand out is the fact that when you open them (with a fork please, no knives!), the inside is full of various-sized holes. When they are then toasted, the bits that stick up are slightly charred and spreading butter on them lets it melt into little puddles in the various holes. Together with the crunch from the corn meal on the bottom of each half of the muffin, the taste is simply heavenly. Muffins in the UK are just round pieces of slightly denser bread, with few redeeming features and consistent and small holes.
Still, to make this recipe requires a bit of preparation. My approach generally takes me a day and a bit to make. The night before I want to prepare them, I take about 30g or so of starter from my starter jar, mix with the flour and water (details below), and then the next morning fairly early, I prepare the yeast-based mixture and after about 3 hours everything is ready to go. I then prepare the dough, and eventually it is spread across an oven tray lined with a tea towel and covered by the same and set in the refrigerator until the next morning. That is when they actually get cooked on an iron pan on the stove.
Anyway, now to the details:
This recipe uses a sourdough leaven and a poolish, which is a type of starter or pre-ferment made with yeast. The recipe components start below:
- About 30g of starter
- 200g of all-purpose or plain white flour
- 200g of water
- 200g of all-purpose or plain white flour
- 200g water
- 3g active dry or instant yeast
As mentioned above, I prepared the leaven the night before using 30g from my default starter (which is 50% white and 50% whole wheat). The next morning fairly early and before the starter was fully ready, I then prepared the poolish (just mix the ingredients together with a whisk, then cover and set aside). After another 3 hours, both the leaven and the poolish were ready as can be seen in the image below.
Once both were ready (they have sufficient air to pass the float test, where the mixture will float on water), I mixed the main dough.
- 500g Water
- 400g Leaven
- 400g Poolish
- 650g of All-purpose or plain white flour
- 350g Strong white bread flour
- 24g Salt
Pour the water into a large mixing bowl, add the leaven and the poolish and using a whisk stir them briskly to break up the leaven and poolish and distribute evenly with the water (the whisk will also add some aeration to the mixture). Then add the flour and the salt. Using your hands or a mixer with dough hook(s), mix together to form a dough. This will not be as wet as many of the doughs that are found among my recipes, but it will still be one to use the pulling technique rather than kneading. Allow the dough to rest for 40 mins after it is thoroughly mixed (you can transfer to a new clean bowl if you wish, I find it not necessary really). Do two very easy pulls at the 40 minute and 70 minute mark then allow to rise for 3-4 hours.
Prepare a good-sized baking tray by spreading a fresh tea towel in it and then dust well with flour or a mixture of white and rice flour. Then dust liberally with coarse corn meal or coarse semolina. Empty the dough into the baking tray and gently spread it out so that it is of a fairly even thickness. Dust the top with more flour or mixed flour and rice flour followed by the coarse corn meal or semolina. Fold up the sides of the tea towel over the top of the dough and if necessary place another tea towel over an gap in the top then place on a shelf in the refrigerator.
The next morning, take out the tray and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Cut out circles using a dough cutter at around 3 inches in diameter.
Warm a steel or cast iron pan to medium-low heat on the stove and using either clarified butter, ghee, or sunflower oil, cook the muffins first on one side, and after they have risen quite a bit the other side will be ready, so flip them over and cook on the other side to finish, probably around 3 mins or so per side. Cool them on a wire rack and continue until all have been cooked.
Open them with a fork (not a knife!) and toast them (I toast them twice using the same setting as for normal toast bread to get a better crunch), spread liberally with butter and enjoy!