Tuesday, November 06, 2007

favorite english muffins

I talk a lot about english muffins around here. I guess it's fine and dandy and all, but really I'm just full of hot air (as my cousin Ro so delicately pointed out) if I never reveal my sources. Apparently I've never given you the recipe I'm working with. So, contained here you will find my own current favorite version, of the one that my sis sent me an email about after discussing my early sourdough attempts, that started the whole obsession with the totally addictive muffin, that, has now morphed into a thing of deliciousness and beauty. So, besides the issues of transparency and full disclosure of sources, I wanted to write this version down for myself too because no matter how simple a recipe, the "details" will get lost.

If you can get your hands on fresh corn meal, you will be wanting to make these, and soon. Provided you have a sourdough starter. If you don't and live around the bay area, maybe we can talk and I'll give you some. I'm thinking of a sometime in the future, kind of english muffin workshop thingamagig. Otherwise if you want to forge ahead without starter it's up to you, because I've never attempted these with dry yeast, nor do I have any confidence that they will taste the same, so if you do, please tell me about it. And now, for the treats from this year's trick:

My friend Chilebrown, besides being a true bacon aficionado is also a bread fiend, who gifted me some bread flour from his recent trip north. The coolness of this particular flour is that it's from the mill that was first started by Bob, before he moved across the border and took up shop in Oregon, and called it by a different name, starting with his first instead of his last. It is a lovely light and fluffy bread flour that claims to be especially good for sourdough, so I fed mine with it and then did up some muffins the next day. I used a ratio of about 1/4 corn meal that was just fantastic.

In case you have not heard, the time is now for fresh cornmeal, so do yourself a favor and go get some and go home and use it. Now. It tastes the best right now. If you love muffins and cornmeal just go do it.

For halloween this year I made a double batch and did some pumpkin shaped ones and some big rounds. The pumpkins were fun, but unless you saw the cutter with it, you might not immediately think pumpkin. I almost put something in to make them orange, but after having discussions with my friend K, decided that the brain might not be able to get over them not tasting orange colored while consuming. Folks at the market seemed to appreciate them as treats, as I gave some out to my favorite vendors, making sure to get some to the source of the cornmeal, Full Belly.

They had to be tested before giving out and as with any muffin in this house, it is subject to a sweet or savory treatment depending on the mood. This time I wanted both to see how the corn flavor stood up. Two eggs over medium, homemade plum chutney on half, butter on the other, real strong and sweetened coffee (not pictured) to complete the round. I think I had two rounds of coffee, one of egg and four of muffins. This type of muffin munching made me tally what I figure in the last week, must be about 1/4 of my sustenance, I like them that much. Like I said, if you dig muffins and cornmeal, go do yourself a favor and make some of these if you are at all inclined.

And now for the secrets and methods, the "meat" of the method, with some pictures from the last year of making different versions:

adapted from sourdough english muffins recipe found at Baking Bites.
Hi Nicole! Really, this muffin obsession is all your fault.....

Note: from the point of initially taking the starter out of the fridge and feeding it, until eating the end product is at least 20 hours, maybe more. Remember this is sourdough and that despite this, the actual time you spend doing something is anywhere between one or two hours. More like one once you get the hang of it.

Uhhh, (clears throat) like, the recipe......

Take one cup bread flour and one cup room temperature water and whisk together in a glass, ceramic or plastic bowl. Remove starter from fridge and stir into the flour and water mixture. Use a plastic or wooden spoon for this. Cover with a tight lid or plastic wrap and allow to sit out on the counter in ambient temperatures between the high fifties and the low seventies, wherever that may be in your home.

The next day (8-12 hours later) scoop out 1&1/2 cups of starter and add to a clean, large bowl. Add an equal portion of non-fat milk and stir. (I usually use the same measuring cup from the starter as to get it all from inside and out while pouring the milk into it.) Add 1 cup corn meal and two cups of all purpose flour and stir. The result should be a soupy dough somewhat like pancake/waffle batter. Cover this and let sit out overnight (or 8-12 hours).

The next day (did I say 20 hours?) it should look as pictured here, a white and a whole wheat version of the muffin mix at this point in the process, sitting near some waffle mix ready for cooking. To this bubbly and frothy bowl, add 1 cup all purpose flour, 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix until it is time to use your hands. Then add a few more tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough is just hardly unsticky enough to turn out onto a well floured cutting board. I turn the edges of the dough inward and press flat, rotating and repeating a few times until the dough is no longer a sticky mess and is ready for a few minutes of kneading.

When the dough just begins to tighten up a bit (this will vary on your gluten content and how much whole grain product you use), roll it into a large sheet, rectangular or otherwise until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. With the cutter of choice, cut as many shapes as possible with the first go round. Gather the remaining bits and while kneading as little as you can, roll it out again and repeat the cutting process.

Take the cut shapes from the board and arrange onto a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled generously with cornmeal. After all the muffins are transferred, sprinkle the tops with ever more cornmeal and then cover loosely with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let these rise for anywhere between 30-60 minutes. If you are cooking the muffins on an iron griddle as I do, you will want to put it in the oven and pre-heat it at 500 degrees while the muffins do some rising.

Over medium heat, transfer the muffins one at a time onto the hot, seasoned but not buttered griddle. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then take a peak. When the muffins are beginning to brown on the bottom and show signs of bubbling through like pancakes, flip them. To compensate for differences in the griddle, I rotate my muffins during cooking and flipping to even their cooking times. If you can do pancakes, you can do muffins. Different end product, but the same basic cooking method.

Using a four inch round cutter, this recipe can yield 18 muffins, this and a smaller round makes easily twenty, using the pumpkin more like thirty, so if you're worried about disaster and don't quite want the commitment to wasting so much flour, halve the recipe and go from there. But if you do, be warned, as you'll probably wind up eating them all in a day whether they're great or not because they'll be hot and now. Then think, it will be another day (at least) from satisfying the craving for more. They are like crack. Especially served with smear of crack sauce or the like.

As for an english muffin workshop, I'll wait to see what kind of response I get to the idea. If any of my fellow bay area foodies are interested in this let me know. I'm thinking about 4-6 folks over to my home where there will be a co-created muffin batch with everyone getting some time to practice their hand at kneading dough, flipping muffins at the griddle, stuffing your face with muffins and copious quantities of jam, and then to top it all off leaving with some starter so that you can forge ahead at home and start feeding your own addiction.


Mimi said...

Thanks for sharing. I do have one question. In the odd event that you have leftover muffins to store, how are you storing them? Mine seem to flatten out after about a day. If I leave them on the counter in a ziploc bag, they get moldy pretty quickly. (We love 'em but there are only two of us so they don't get consumed very quickly)

K & S said...

Growing up we used to make "pizza" from english muffins with ketchup and cheese, conoisseurs we were! Satoshi would love eggs benedict made from these english muffins :) Thanks for sharing this!

Celia Fae said...

I want to come to the part of the party that includes eating. Do I qualify?

chilebrown said...

I was wondering about your class. Will you be serving your home made cider and beer?

Schweitz said...

I would totally come to your workshop - if I lived in the Bay area - alas I do not, but I am intrigued by these sourdough English muffins that you have rhapsodized about.

I used to bake sourdough all the time, but then I moved and a small portion of my starter got spirited into the freezer. It's still there, waiting for the mythical time when I have more time. Oh well...

Callipygia said...

Great idea, you count me in as interested 'cept I can't be there either. However if bacon is thrown into the mix...

Monkey Wrangler said...

Mimi: Split them in half with the tines of a fork and then put in a bag in the freezer. They will stay great this way for weeks!

Kat: I made those too, in pre-school was my first introduction. Somewhere in the back of my mind for sure is that memory when I eat muffins.

Celia: Sure do. Should some english muffin workshop take shape, I'll keep you in the loop. We could fire up your hot chocolate maker to go with the toasted-buttered-then-slathered-in-jammy-goodness muffins.

Chile: Cider and Beer will be free since I don't have a liquor license.....seriously though, would you want to come?

Schweitz: When the holidays come around and you have a few days at home, pull the beast from trhe freezer and get to work. Besides, you'll need a fresh baguette to go with that red pepper spread of yours.

Callipygia: One of the muffins I'm conceptually working on is a bacon and cheese version where there are pieces embedded in the dough much like a pupusa. All hail to the mighty swine!

Kevin said...

Did you see this recipe? http://ayearinbread.earthandhearth.com/2007/04/kevin-no-knead-muffins.html

Aileen said...

Would you accept Alaskans at your workshop? If so, I'd be doing cartwheels of glee. If you agreed to include the version embedded with bacon and cheese, I'm pretty sure my significant would also be cartwheeling. Indeed, as further persuasion to attend, I bet he'd even volunteer to walk the dogs while I'm gone.

Chilebrown said...

Free Beer!! I will bring bacon.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kevin: I did. I stopped reading at "muffin rings." They sounded like too much hassle. In the past I tried something like this and all that sticking drove me nuts.

Aileen: Hell, I'd plan the workshop around you being here if you went through all the trouble of flying so damn far! There must be a cheaper way......

Chile: You like stout? Cuz' I sure loves me some piggie!