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Friends, I’m pretty excited about these sourdough English muffins. I’ve futzed with English muffins on and off for a few years but nothing has quite ticked all the boxes for me. When it comes to these stovetop-griddled breads, I have two main criteria: first, NOOKS AND CRANNIES. No close-textured interiors here — I want irregular holes for soaking up all that butter or egg yolk (because, sorry bagels, English muffins are THE breakfast sandwich bread).
Second, English muffins should be super easy to pull off for breakfast. While I’m usually up early, I am not a morning baker — I’m not going to spend 2 hours before breakfast mixing and proofing to get something on the table! My English muffins need to be prepped and ready to cook as soon as I roll out of bed.
These English muffins solidly meet both these criteria; and they’re naturally leavened to boot (FLAVOR). I’ve made probably 5 batches in the last couple of weeks to ensure they hold their own toasted/untoasted, in breakfast sandwiches, and as vehicles for butter and jam. Safe to say my sourdough English muffin recipe hunt has ended. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Keys to successful English muffins
- Cut > Individually shaped: I am a bit obsessive about having evenly portioned breads and buns and no wasted dough; so my first instinct was to individually shape all my English muffins. However, I’ve come around to the roll out and cut method for this particular dough. Roll+cut involves less dough handling, which results in more nooks and crannies. Since we’re cooking these on the stovetop instead of in the oven, absolute evenness is less important– you can just pull off any muffins that may be cooking a little faster than the others. If you want zero wasted dough, you can use a bench knife to cut these into squares instead of punching out rounds. I’m partial to rounds, though; so I just punch out as many as I can, then gently smoosh the scraps together and cut that into equalish portions.
- Don’t roll too thick: Roll to a 1/2″ thick, no more. The muffins will rise in the pan and be the perfect thickness when done. If you start too thick it’s more likely you’ll end up with burnt outsides and undercooked centers.
- Oil it up: This dough is on the soft and sticky side, so don’t skimp on oiling surfaces/parchment paper/your cutter/your hands when handling.
- Low and slow heat: Finding the right temp for your stove and pan takes a little Goldilocks-ing. I use a cast iron pan and keep the heat on the low the entire time. You’re aiming to cook the muffins for about 4-5 minutes per side; so if you notice them browning too fast turn down the heat. If you cook your English muffins in multiple batches like I do, you may need to turn down the heat for the second batch.
- This recipe is adapted from Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz (her recipe version is yeasted; so I converted to sourdough and modified the mixing method slightly). Claire recommends scalding the milk but I didn’t find that necessary. I do bring the milk to room temperature before mixing the dough (a couple short pulses in the microwave does the trick) to speed up fermentation.
- Because this dough is loose, I love using the paddle attachment to get it started and develop the dough quickly. If you use a dough hook the entire time, the dough will take quite a bit longer to knead.
- To have these muffins ready for breakfast, I usually start mixing the dough in the afternoon the day prior.
Sourdough English Muffins
Makes 8-10 muffins | Adapted from Claire Saffitz
- 240g ripe, active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 240g milk, at room temperature (I’ve tried whole, 2%, and buttermilk and all worked fine!)
- 40g honey
- 260g bread flour
- 35g whole wheat flour (spelt or einkorn work beautifully too!)
- 6g kosher or sea salt
- 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- Neutral oil, for coating
Mix the dough (afternoon, day 1): Combine all ingredients except butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low to hydrate all the flour, then increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is strong enough to gather around the paddle, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the paddle, cover, and rest for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low, add the room temperature butter in two batches, incorporating the first addition completely before adding the next. Once the butter is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny, and stretchy, about 3 minutes. This is a fairly soft and sticky dough, but it should be strong enough to hold together and be easily picked up in one piece. If not, beat in additional bread flour a teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together.
Bulk fermentation: Transfer dough to a clean, well-oiled container. Let rise at warm room temperature until roughly doubled. With a dough temperature of 77F, this takes me about 3.5 hours; actual time will vary depending on the strength of your starter and dough temperature.
Shape and cold-proof the dough: When the dough has doubled, line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or oiled parchment paper. Dust generously with cornmeal. Turn the dough carefully onto the prepared pan, doing your best not to degas it too much. (Minimal handling will yield the best nooks and crannies!) Oil the top of the dough and your fingers, and gently press the dough out to a rectangle 1/2″ thick. (I aim for dimensions just over 7″ x 12″; this way I can get about seven 3.5″ English muffins from my first pass.) Grease another piece of parchment and set it over the dough. Cover the whole sheet in plastic or tuck the edges of the parchment around the edges of the dough so it won’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight (8-16 hours).
Cut and cook the English muffins (morning, day 2): Heat a large ungreased cast iron or non-stick skillet (two, if you have them) over low heat. Use an oiled 3.5″ oiled round cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough (it’s ok to twist the cutter to make sure the whole edge is cut). I find it easiest to retain a round shape if I transfer the muffins to the skillet as I cut them; so if you’re cooking in batches just cut as many rounds as you can fit in your pan at once. Once you’ve cut as many rounds as you can out of the dough, gently press the scraps together and cut more, or just use a bench scraper to cut the dough into equal-ish pieces (I do this to minimize waste!).
Cook the muffins until puffed and the tops are starting to turn matte at the edges, about 4-5 minutes; flip and cook another 4-5 minutes or until both sides are golden brown and the center registers 200F. The trick is to find and maintain your sweet spot temperature so that the muffins cook completely and brown, but don’t scorch. This takes some practice! In general, low and slow is better. (If you find your muffins are scorching before the centers can cook through, you can pop them in a 350F oven for a few minutes to finish cooking. For future batches, lower the stovetop heat.)
Transfer cooked muffins to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature before fork-splitting and devouring (I like these best untoasted when fresh). Store any leftovers in a plastic bag for up to 2 days; split and toast before enjoying!