Time to perfect these English muffins! Last night, around 9:30, I set the sponge to rising. I’m keen to get a good, tender English muffin this round, one that is not burnt on the outside, and is fully baked but moist on the inside.
This morning, the poolish has doubled but looks a little strange on top. When I stir it down, though, it’s fluffy beneath the surface.
I wonder if that strangeness has anything to do with the sourdough discards I used as starter for this batch.
If you’ve followed along from the git-go, you know that, while I was cultivating the starter, I saved all the discards–those big gobs of excess starter the recipe said to throw out each day. I couldn’t bear the thought of trashing all that good, fermented flour, so I saved it, fed it a bit each day to keep at least some of the organisms alive, and used it in pancakes, biscuits, banana nut muffins, a positively scrumptious apple cinnamon coffee cake and English muffins like these I’m baking today.
Last night, I used just one-half cup of that excess starter to get my sponge going. The discards looked okay–quite a bit of hooch, but lots of bubbly action. A whiff was all I needed to know it was plenty sour, but hey, that could make the muffins better, right?
So even if the sponge does look a little weird, I’ll give it a go this morning. Following the recipe, I mix the ingredients in the stand mixer, using the paddle. We like cinnamon raisin muffins, so I add a teaspoon of cinnamon and three-quarter cup raisins to the mixture, forgetting that I should hold the raisins and knead them in just before turning the dough out to shape and cut into rounds.
The mixture combines okay, but when I switch to the dough hook, the going gets tough. The raisins keep the dough from stretching and forming a ball. It takes about ten minutes to reach the stage where the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl, and several more before it begins to look smooth enough to turn onto a floured board and roll for cutting.
During kneading, I added a full one-third cup flour, a tablespoon at a time. Still, the dough is sticky and difficult to handle. My muffins turn out a little funky looking.
Covering them with a towel, I set the tray in the oven to proof. The light is on for added warmth. My two-year-old granddaughter is over, helping me bake, and together we check the muffins every hour. They take a long time to rise.
Four hours in, they’ve puffed a little, but not much. Time to bake! When I hand them onto my heated (medium-low) griddle, they feel light and fluffy.
We love the taste of these muffins. This recipe is a keeper, but I need to find the sweet spot for baking them on the stove-top griddle so they’re fully cooked on the inside–moist and tender–and not scorched on the outside.
Not this time. I bake a few slowly, over medium-low heat and still they burn. I turn the flames down under my griddle and try again, but the next group is mostly scorched by the time the insides bake.
The two-year-old, a bread lover like her granny, keeps asking, “When will they be done, YayYay?” Finally we fork one open, steaming hot, but done inside, and slather it with butter. Calories? Whose counting. We’ve waited all day for this..
I’m disappointed with the crumb. I was hoping for lots of big airy holes, after all that slow rising. Even more disappointing? The taste! These muffins are so bitter neither of us can finish our half.
The little one trots off to the living room to play with her dolls. I toss the failed muffins in the compost bucket, along with an almost-full, quart jar of starter discards. Blech! Done with that.
The good news? Next time I make these muffins, I get to use bona fide starter, not this excess I nursed along with bits of flour and water. That may be my big mistake. I probably encouraged all kinds of bacteria to grow but not the yeast. Lesson learned.