Sourdough English muffins

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A toasted English muffin is a delight to eat. They are also quite easy to make either as a sourdough version or with commercial yeast.

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This recipe is for plain (but by no means dull!) English muffins, but as I suggested in my earlier English muffins post (here), you can flavour the dough in many ways: cheese and onion is a great combination…..as is tomato and basil

The starter

Depending on how you maintain your starter and what fits in with you, you can either use a very active starter that was fed several hours previously or you can use a starter that hasn’t been fed in a while: the latter will take longer but if time is not an issue….

I often make these muffins with what is often referred to as the “discard” starter, prior to feeding my mother starter. My starter is at 100% hydration. If your starter is a much higher hydration, reduce or even omit the water from the recipe below. Little specs in the photos of the dough are because I sometimes feed my starter with a little wholemeal flour.

Either way, because the dough ferments very slowly it will have an effective fermentation and the muffins will be excellent.

Tips for working with a soft dough

The dough here is quite soft which might seem a challenge the first time you make them, but this dough is a very forgiving beast.

While you can reduce the liquid (reduce the water or just use the egg yolk without the egg white, for instance) and get very good results, the moisture in there from the whole egg, the milk and the water gives the muffins their lovely texture.

But a few top tips:

I just go for it as in the recipe but if you are finding it harder to work with the soft dough:

  • you can chill the dough for an hour or so before rolling/patting it out: this will firm it up a bit. I tend not to with muffins as I often want to get straight into making them as soon as I can!
  • your cutter should be sharp and clean of debris and sharp
  • you can dip the cutter in flour before cutting to guard against the dough sticking/tearing
  • dust the dough generously with rice flour/ semolina before cutting out

However, if you do get misshapen cut-outs the muffins will still turn out excellently.

I’ve even made a few batches with no rolling out and no cutting: just a couple of spoonfuls of dough dolloped onto the tray to prove before transferring to the griddle. They might not be perfectly cylindrical, but they taste the same and it makes these very easy indeed!

Instavideo of the muffins cooking

The link to a very short video of the muffins finishing off on the griddle is here.

Recipe: sourdough English muffins – makes about 6 large ones

  • 300g strong plain flour
  • 100g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 7g fine salt
  • 40g melted unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g milk
  • 50-70g cold water

you will ideally need some rice flour or fine semolina for dusting, but extra flour will work

(1) Put the ingredients into a bowl, using 50g of water to begin with. Mix well to give a soft dough, adding more water if there are any dry bits.

(2) Knead for 5-10 mins either by hand or using the dough hook in an electric mixer. For these sourdough muffins, you don’t need to develop the gluten fully here.

(3) Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave overnight at room temp. You can chill it if you want but because of the egg and butter in there, it makes the fermentation even slower.

(4) The following day, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out gently to about 1cm thick.

NB: you will knock out a lot of the air in the dough but there will be a lot that remains. Sometimes I don’t bother using a rolling pin and just pat the dough down with the palm of my hands…oh what a rebel!

(5) Cut out circles using a cutter (I go for a large one about 9cm diameter) and place carefully on a baking tray or baking sheet that has been generously scattered with rice flour or fine semolina. Sprinkle some rice flour or semolina on top of the dough, too.

NB 1: if there is any dough tearing (eg: if you added too much liquid of your starter is a higher hydration) just use a floured or semolina-d finger to tidy things up.

NB 2: the dough is very soft but that gives you a lovely texture inside. You can chill the dough before rolling out if you don’t have rice flour or semolina, use flour.

NB 3: The rice flour/semolina prevent the dough from sticking as well as making it easier to lift them to the griddle.

(6) Leave uncovered for about an hour or two at room temperature: they won’t rise much but when they get cooked they will rise significantly.

(7) Heat a griddle or a large frying pan (without oil) on a low heat for about 5 minutes to get warm, but not smoking hot ie) you don’t want the pan so hot that it starts to smoke. With the heat on low, carefully place a few of the dough circles onto the griddle: a large palette knife or fish slice is invaluable here.

(8) Cook gently for 7-8 minutes on one side before carefully flipping them over and cooking about 7 or so minutes: don’t be tempted to flip them over too too early as if they will not have set enough underneath and it will be harder to turn them over. Honestly, leave them alone (and I am one of the world’s worst for that!)

They should be a deep golden-brown on each side when ready. Then leave them to cool down somewhat (they keep on cooking once they are off the heat) before tucking in.

Related links:

Making sourdough loaves

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

14 thoughts on “Sourdough English muffins”

      1. I’ve tried it a few times now – Thank you for adding to my culinary toolbox. A couple of points though: I find the starter does need to be vigorous for best results. And something I am wondering: If instead of melting the butter, what would happen if cold butter is cut into the flour as one would for scones or a pie crust. I’ll try that next time ….

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        1. Yes a recently fed, vigouous starter will make things quicker. I’ve done the rubbing in method with the butter and it works well. The melted butter gives full distribution throughout the dough and a softer crumb. But like so many things I think it’s personal choice 😀😀

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  1. This is my go-to English muffin recipe. Btw, it works just as with Greek yogurt substituting the milk, just need to use the max water. Thank you!

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