Monday, February 16, 2015

Sourdough English Muffins

The temperatures are dropping and the cold wind blows!  It’s a good excuse to heat the kitchen up with bread baking.  I used to have sourdough going most of the time, but I haven’t done that for a few years.  Fruit flies love sourdough, and they invaded my house.  I lost that war, so the sourdough went out the door, followed by the fruit flies.  Lately, I've been making Artisan breads and they begin to sour naturally as they sit overnight, so I got the idea of keeping about a half cup of the soured dough in the bowl, and just adding to it for the next loaf.  After a week or more, the dough is nice and sour and makes a delicious, crusty bread with a tender, moist center. My late husband, Ted, used to be especially fond of the sourdough breadsticks, and when we were dating, he had a habit of sticking a few in his shirt pocket when he stopped by my house on his way to work, which prompted little sister Sherri to quip her version of Mae West’s classic remark, "Is that a breadstick in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?”  My shy guy giggled and blushed for many years after that when I made breadsticks, remembering her remark!!!  Sourdough has been around for thousands of years, and was once the only method people used to leaven their bread.  Ted told me that the old prospectors always made their bread with sourdough starter, and that's why they were referred to as "Sourdoughs".  I read online (and we ALL know everything we read online is true, don't we?) that San Francisco Sourdough is world famous and claims to be the best made... but in blind taste tests, another city in California made the best San Francisco sourdough bread.  San Francisco demanded a re-test, and the second tasting revealed the same results!  Now you will have the means to create your own masterpieces of sourdough baking.

When using sourdough, do not use metal containers or spoons... glass or even plastic bowls and wooden spoons are fine.  The dough has to be "fed" once a week, and if it isn't used weekly, store it in the refrigerator.  Whole grained breads contain more "wild yeast" than refined flour, so you might add a bit of rye or whole wheat flour to your starter to make it more active.  If desired, you can add a bit of extra yeast when making your recipes, to make a lighter dough that still has a good "sour" flavor.  We like light breads, so I usually add a bit of yeast to my recipes, although the hard-core Sourdoughs would cringe at the thought.  Starter will last forever if you continue to use it and renew it regularly.

To make a simple starter:
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, 110 degrees
Soak yeast in water for 7 minutes  OR  add 2 Tablespoons Instant yeast (do not soak) to the flour.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk, not hot
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix with wooden or plastic spoon.  Keep it in crockery, glass or plastic... no metal!!!  Let starter sit for 3 or 4 days before using.  The lid should be loose over the starter… a cotton tea towel works fine as a cover.  Keep it in a nice, warm place.  Stir at least once daily.  Every 5 days or so, feed the starter with 1 cup water, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar.  Mix well, and let sit at room temperature until it bubbles and raises a bit.  If you use the starter twice a week, you can leave it at room temperature, otherwise refrigerate it so it doesn't spoil.  The starter can also be frozen. 

Because I have the soured Artisan bread dough, I will use that as my starter instead of making this starter, but used the same recipes for making the breads.  I added 2 cups of warm milk to about 2 cups of my soured Artisan bread dough, 2 cups of bread flour, ½ cup Rye flour, 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast, and 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar.  I mixed it well and covered it with a clean tea towel and let it sit overnight.  Sourdough before sitting overnight is shown above,

Sourdough English Muffins:
1 cup starter
1 cup warm milk
1 to 2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
Mix well, adding only a cup of flour at first to make a soft, wet dough, and adding more flour as necessary.  I find my flour is very dry this time of year and a bit over one cup was enough.  Let stand at room temperature until bubbly, from an hour or two to overnight, if you wish.
Add to dough mixture:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
Up to 1 cup all-purpose flour
Blend until smooth.  Knead in additional flour to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.  Let rest a few minutes.  
Roll out about 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds.  (photo at right)
Place on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.  Turn over to get a bit of cornmeal on both sides.  Let rise until doubled. (photo above left)

Bake on dry griddle (I like electric best, set at about 350 degrees) until golden on each side.  Turn the muffins about 3 or 4 minutes after they begin to cook so that both sides are flat.  If they bake too long on the first side, they will rise and get round on top instead of being flat.  They can be turned again, after they begin to brown, to cook evenly on both sides.  Refrigerate muffins that you don't eat that day.  Makes about 1 dozen English Muffins.  Breakfast tip:  Slice muffin and toast lightly; fry an egg (yolk broken), and a couple of slices of crisp bacon or a sausage patty, topped with a slice of cheese for your own breakfast sandwich!  Also delicious toasted or plain, with the jam of your choice or honey.

Speaking of honey, yesterday was Valentine’s Day… my sweetheart has been gone for eight years, but my dear friend stopped by yesterday with a gorgeous floral bouquet and a box of chocolate mints!  She is also a widow, so I am her sweetheart this year!  It brightened my day, for certain.

The weather might be colder, but I’m rejoicing as the days get longer!  Now there is about an hour more daylight in the evening, and that makes me happy.  I don't know how much earlier daylight arrives, because I don't get up that early! The winter has been mild here in Cincinnati, with our biggest snowfall having come before Thanksgiving, which is early here.  My daughter told me we may still get a blizzard or two before we can claim it’s spring… and I think she jinxed us!  We are in the midst of a winter storm warning… about 3” on the ground so far, and it’s supposed to continue until tomorrow morning.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to go out and trudge through the snow!  I can enjoy it from my family room window, wrapped in a cozy quilt. I'm hoping you have a warm place you can watch it, too!


  1. Alaena, You are a master of so many things! Your English muffin recipe makes my mouth water, and I am copying it down immediately! Thanks for such a terrific blog. ~Therese

  2. Thanks, Therese! I wish we lived closer and I could share some starter with you... you could have your muffins tomorrow! I forgot to mention this, but I used my Artisan Bread, featured on a prior blog, to make my sourdough starter this time... I did say I used my soured dough but forgot to give the link to the blog it appeared on. I think you can use the search function for Artisan Bread, and find it. You can make Artisan Bread tonight and save some of the dough to sour for a few days, feeding it as stated.

  3. Just fed my starter this morning. I am using your recipe for the artisan bread, as the picture on your blog made me hungry for such a delicious looking bread.