You may never buy them again!
I have been on a sourdough journey since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. I created a starter (I named mine Herman) and have been pampering it for over two years now. For the sourdough expert, that is nothing. I’ve heard people still hand down their four-times great grandmother’s 100 year old mixture. Still, I have enjoyed learning how to make all kinds of things with it.
Including my most recent concoction — Sourdough English Muffins!
Okay, I know they’ve been around forever. Samuel Thomas immigrated to the US and made them popular here around 1880. Of course they were already popular in England long before that. They just call them muffins, though, and were sold door-to-door. Do you remember singing “Oh, do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man?”
Why didn’t I just buy them?
I recently made a poolish mixture for a loaf of white sandwich bread, but I only used half. I wanted to use the other half and had been trying to work up the courage to make English muffins. The price had gone up to $4.00 in my store for a package of six. We used to be able to get them for under $2.00.
I thought they were complicated to make and I would need special equipment. I didn’t want to buy, nor did I have room to store, 12–24 muffin rings. Many of the recipes listed special ingredients like seminola, and I hate buying something only to take up space. Several recipes had you toast each side in a cast iron skillet (which I didn’t have) and then bake them.
I decided that I could afford to experiment a bit. What follows is the recipe I used to make the English muffins in the picture. My intention was to make this as simple and fool-proof as possible. The muffins turned out beautifully and so tasty. Much better than any store-bought brands.
Sourdough English Muffins Recipe
½ c. (113 g.) fresh sourdough starter from a poolish mixture
1 tbsp. (21 g.) honey
1 c. (250 g.) milk (I used 2%)
2 tbsp. (28 g.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 c. (360 g.) bread flour, or 3 ⅓ c. (400 g.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. (5 g.) kosher salt
⅓ c. corn meal
2 tsp. vegetable or canola oil (for coating the pan)
Tools you need
kitchen scale (for dividing the dough evenly)
10-inch x 15-inch cookie sheet
Heavy bottomed 12-inch skillet with a lid (at least 3-inches deep)
Wire cooling rack
Instant read kitchen thermometer
This recipe evolves over a 12 to18-hour time span, but doesn’t require much effort. It’s easy to create a schedule that works for you. Here is what I do.
Day 1 — Total time working with this is about 30 minutes.
Morning — between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM, I complete a discard and feed of my sourdough starter. Feeding only takes a couple of minutes.
Early afternoon — after my starter has doubled in volume, I create a poolish mixture. I usually do this between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM. This step takes less than 5 minutes.
After dinner — I mix up the dough using the directions below. This usually happens between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM. This takes less than 15 minutes.
Kneading the dough — I let the dough rest before kneading using my stand mixer. You can also hand knead the dough.
Bulk proof the dough — I let my dough rise overnight.
Day 2 — Total time working with the dough is about an hour.
Form the muffins —I divided my dough into 12 equal parts and shaped each part into a ball. I placed them on my prepared baking sheet.
Proof the muffins — It took my muffins about 2 hours to double in size.
Cook the muffins — I cooked mine in two batches of six each. It took about 15 minutes to cook one batch of muffins.
How to mix sourdough English muffins.
Cut the butter into small pieces. Put the milk and butter in a 2-cup measuring cup. Warm it in the microwave for one minute. Add the honey and stir to combine. Check to be sure the temperature of the mixture is between 105 F and 110 F before adding the poolish starter mix.
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, the mixture should feel slightly warm when you immerse you finger completely into the liquid.
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. If you plan to hand-knead the dough, reduce the amount of flour you put in the bowl by ⅓ cup (30 g). Set aside the ⅓ cup to spread on your counter while kneading.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Make sure you have no dry pockets of flour remaining in the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the liquid, making it easier to work with.
How to knead the Sourdough English Muffin dough
After the dough has rested, use the lowest speed on your stand mixer with its dough hook to knead the dough for 5 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, sprinkle some of the reserved flour onto your countertop and turn the dough out onto it. Dust the top of the dough with the flour and knead it for 10 minutes. Add additional flour from the reserved flour until it is all incorporated but don’t add more than that.
Clean the mixing bowl and coat it generously with vegetable shortening or oil. Place the kneaded dough into the bowl and press down to coat the bottom. Flip it bottom-side-up. Lightly coat some plastic wrap with shortening or vegetable oil and cover the bowl.
Allow the dough to proof in a warm, draft-free place for at least 8 to 10 hours, or overnight. The dough will rise to double or triple in volume.
How to shape sourdough English muffins.
After your dough doubles in volume, it’s time to make the individual muffins. I uncover the bowl and put the plastic wrap, oiled side up, on my kitchen scale. Then I turn the dough out of the bowl and weigh it. Finally, I divide the total weight by 12. That yielded a 63-gram ball of dough for each muffin.
Pull the edges of one piece of the dough toward the center and pinch them together to form a ball. Tuck any loose scraps into the center of the ball. I prefer this method because you don’t need a biscuit cutter or muffin rings.
You can also roll the dough to a ¾- inch thickness and use a 3 ½-inch biscuit cutter to cut 12 muffins. Gather any scraps and re-roll them to get 12 muffins. You will need muffin rings to contain the dough as it spreads. You can make them with parchment paper and heat resistant tape or staple-less stapler.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously sprinkle corn meal across it. Place the muffins on it about two inches apart and sprinkle additional cornmeal on the top of each one. Cover them lightly with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow them to rise for about two hours before cooking.
I place mine in my cold oven with just the interior light on to let them rise. That creates just the right temperature for them to puff up to the perfect size. They will spread out to about a 3 ½-inch diameter and 1-inch thickness.
How to cook sourdough English muffins.
So many of the recipes I found said to brown each muffin on both sides and then finish cooking them in the oven. I wanted to simplify it to use only one pan and knew that cooking my sourdough bread with the lid on created steam that gave the bread a delicious crunch.
I decided to try just using a skillet to cook my muffins. My12-inch stainless steel skillet 12-inch has a heavy bottom and is 3-inches deep It also has a lid. I added a small amount of oil to my skillet and turned it on to a very low setting. I set my ceramic cooktop on my range to 2.4. A low temp prevents the outside from burning before the inside is cooked.
Many of the recipes said to use a cast iron skillet or a heavy non-stick skillet, but I don’t have one, and mine worked well.
Put a teaspoon of oil in the skillet and turn it on to a low setting. Put the lid on and allow it to heat up for 5 minutes. Before placing the muffins in the pan, make sure the oil is spread completely over the surface to prevent sticking. If you cook them in batches, be sure to add oil to the pan between batches.
Evenly space six muffins around the edge of the pan and put the lid on it to allow the steam to build. Let it cook for 6–8 minutes before flipping it to the other side. Don’t move them around or lift them as they cook. I cooked mine for 7 minutes on each side. The internal temperature should be 190 F.
Remove them from the pan and let them cool slightly on a wire rack. Use a fork to split it into two halves to get those signature nooks and crannies. They are delicious warm with butter slathered on top. They taste better than Thomas’s English Muffins. At least we think so.
How to store your English muffins.
Since this recipe makes 12 muffins, I put half in a freezer bag and freeze them. They will be good for at least three weeks, if they last that long. I store the other half in my refrigerator. They will keep that way for over a week. If you keep them in a bread basket or on your counter top, you will need to eat them in 4 to 5 days.
I used bread flour in my recipe and it made the interior fluffy soft. You can use all-purpose flour, too. Bread flour absorbs more liquid, so you will need slightly more all-purpose flour. Also, all-purpose flour may make them a bit more chewy, but they will still be delicious.
Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Former Medium top writer in Food and Cooking.