Before Mom visited last month, she mentioned that she had never made yeast bread from scratch, and also that she thought the idea of a sourdough starter was kind of gross. ‘This cannot be!’ I said, and promised to force teach her to make bread when she visited in January. I had frozen a few of my sourdough English Muffins for her and dad to try, and they were a big hit, so we decided to make another batch to keep us in breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.
This time I changed things up by using a different recipe, from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary cookbook, and a different sourdough starter, the second that I activated from the set of Italian starters that Chuck gave me for my birthday. This sourdough starter is more slow-acting than the other, taking about three feedings and a day and a half out of the refrigerator before it becomes fully active. Since the other one is much faster, this one tends to make me nervous that it won’t properly activate, but it’s come through every time so far.
This recipe also used some baking powder for a little extra leavening power, and I was hoping that helped develop some better nooks and crannies than the first recipe.
Since this recipe used the baking powder, it didn’t require an additional rise time after cutting out the muffins, we got to cook them immediately. The instructions were to cook the muffins in a skillet on ten minutes per side, and I decided to use two skillets instead of just one to move the process along more quickly.
There were two things about these English Muffins that I didn’t like as much as the previous version: we floured the counter a little too much while rolling them out and didn’t let them sit to rise for very long afterward, so the cornmeal didn’t stick to the bottom very well, and I really liked the cornmeal crunch on the first version. The other thing I didn’t like was that the baking powder caused the muffins to dome a little bit during the first part of cooking, and so some of the muffins were a bit pointy-headed, where the previous batch had been more evenly shaped.
Other than those minor quibbles, these muffins also turned out really well. They were more sour than the previous batch, which is a characteristic of the slower sourdough starter, and the baking powder method did seem to improve the nooks-and-crannies factor. The other key to getting good nooks and crannies seems to be fork-splitting the muffins (poke a fork into the side of the muffin, then rotate slightly and poke again, continuing around the muffin until the top and bottom halves have separated).