Holey Hi-Fiber English Muffins: :A custom-made recipe for a King Arthur customer

The relationships we have with our customers are the coolest thing about working here. I get lots of mail, both electronic and snail, from Baking Sheet subscribers. They send me requests, ideas, thank yous, and recipes. Lots of recipes.

We received an email from Cynthia Holle that was forwarded to me. Here’s what it said:

“A few weeks ago in a blog thread you gave me some advice for making English muffins (add baking soda to get the “holey” consistency I was looking for). I experimented with a dough-type recipe that was baked in the oven, and a batter-type recipe that gets baked on a skillet. The batter/skillet type is working out best for me. I’ve been tinkering with the recipe and now I think I’ve got something fairly good.

“My goal was a homemade high-fiber English muffin – the FiberOne English muffins cost $4 for a 6-pack. This recipe makes 7 that pretty well rise to the height of the KA English muffin rings. If you get a chance, let me know if you have any other ideas for perfecting this. I’ve been using them every morning to make my husband and daughter an egg sandwich on their way to work and school (with turkey bacon, low-fat cheese, and egg whites with just a bit of yolk.”

Now, I was originally going to tell you about Valerie Gardner and the Strawberry Cake story, but then I realized I’ve done nothing but cakes lately in blogland. Since Cynthia’s quest for a good, high-fiber English muffin was one that I shared, and included a great way to make use of sourdough starter, I figured I’d take her up on her suggestion.

Don’t worry, the Strawberry Cake story is in the Summer issue of The Baking Sheet. So is a Recipe Makeover for the Carrot Raisin Bread that Mimi’s Restaurant chain serves.  It’ll be in mailboxes mid-June. You can catch  it there if you decide to subscribe. For the rest of you, here’s a taste of what goes through my head when I do a Makeover. Let’s start with Cynthia’s recipe:

I tried Cynthia’s recipe as written, but didn’t have as much success as she seems to. My version was a bit on the heavy side, and didn’t have very big holes. I wondered if there was a typo, because there was no baking soda in the recipe Cynthia sent, after she mentioned it in her note. Happens to the best of us. I scratched my head and had to set the project aside to go to Colorado to bake and teach. And hold up the Balance Rock in the Garden of the Gods for a few minutes.

When I got back and took up the project again, I started thinking there may be a better way to get the nutrition from the milk without having it sit on a counter for 8 hours in the starter. I did a little tweaking and rearranging, using water for the starter, cutting down the number of ingredients a bit, and adding some honey for flavor. I used water in the starter and buttermilk in the batter, in tandem with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to get the bubbles I was after.

Every once in awhile, the recipe-writing gods smile on you and you get it right on the first pass. This was one of those times. As the muffins were baking, and rising, and showing off some nice bubbles before being turned, I got the same sense of wonder and excitement as I did as a kid, when I dissolved one of those capsules with the sponge dinosaur in it, and something delightful appeared as if out of nowhere.

Let’s get to it, and make a batch of Hi-Fiber English Muffins.

We’ll begin with the starter. Lucky for me, the test kitchen’s batch had been fed the night before to test an artisan loaf, and there was plenty left over for me to work with. Here’s how it looked when I nabbed the remaining stash from Frank.

See the bubbles? This guy is awake. He was just fed a few minutes before, or you’d see even more bubbles. Into a large bowl it goes. I’m going to bulk it up and get the batter going by adding water, white whole wheat flour, a teaspoon of instant yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar.

Mix it up. Here’s what the consistency looks like. Cover the bowl and let it go to work on the counter for awhile: several hours, or overnight.

After 4 hours in our warm and cozy test kitchen, here’s how the starter looks. It’s risen and bubbly; ready for the next step.

Next I’ll add a mixture of buttermilk and honey. When building a dough or batter like this, it’s always best to add wet ingredients first. The honey on my station is pretty crystallized.

Mixing it with the buttermilk gives it a chance to dissolve so there aren’t clumps of honey hanging out in the dough.

I give this container a 3o-second visit to the microwave, to warm it up and get the honey to dissolve.

Next, I’ll put all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Clockwise from the top, there’s oat bran and Hi-Maize for fiber, salt for flavor, flax flour for Omega 3s, and some bread flour for structure.

Oops, almost forgot the baking soda for the holes!

Whisk all this together to combine.

Add the buttermilk/honey mixture to the batter bowl and reach for the dough whisk.

Add the flour mixture next.

When the batter is mixed, it looks like this. Thicker than a pancake, but not really pourable.

Cover the bowl while you get your griddle set up. While it sits, the baking soda and buttermilk will start to react, creating more bubbles to team up with the ones the yeast is creating.

I’ve set the griddle to 325°F. This temperature is hot enough to bake the muffins through without going too fast, burning the bottoms, or setting the dough before the leaveners have a chance to create the nooks and crannies we’re hoping for.

Eight English muffin rings go on the griddle. Spray the griddle and inside edges of the rings; I used Everbake, which works likes a champion.

Sprinkle the insides of the rings, including the sides, with semolina or Cream of Wheat (farina). The reason for this is to create a teeny bit of space between the dough and the heat source. By doing this, the tops and bottoms of the muffins get a little more crisp.

Sprinkling also allows the muffins to cook more slowly, allowing the leaveners to create bigger bubbles before the batter sets, without burning the bottoms. I know a lot of recipes call for cornmeal in this situation, but I’ve never liked the texture; it also burns more easily that semolina or farina.

Grease the inside of a muffin scoop

…and use it to drop the batter into each of the rings.

If you grease your finger, you can tease the dough out to the edge of the rings for a round muffin.

Cook the muffins for 10 minutes. As they’re going, you’ll see bubbles come up to the top of the batter.

After 10 minutes, sneak a peek at the underside of the muffin, to be sure it’s not cooking too fast.

Everything looks fine; this muffin can go another 4 or 5 minutes without burning, at this rate.

When the edges begin to look dry (it could be as long as 15 minutes), sprinkle the top with more semolina and flip the muffin over. Reset your timer for 10 more minutes.

When the time is up, remove the rings. Some rings may come right off; others may have a sticky spot. If that happens, take a dull knife or small spatula and loosen the muffin from the ring.

Use tongs to pick up the rings.

See the gorgeous bubbles? Things are looking good.

We’re close to glory here, but it’s important that the muffins be cooked all the way through. Use an instant-read thermometer to check. Poke the muffin from the side. When the temperature in the center is between 195°F and 200°F, the muffins are ready.

This batch had some raw-looking edges, so I put them all up on their sides to color them up a bit, rotating them an inch or so every couple of minutes.

Every time I make these muffins, I do a double batch, because my colleagues start to swarm. I also have a habit of cooking them around 11:45 a.m., when people are ready for lunch.

We have a terrific handy tool for the piece de resistance here: it’s our English muffin splitter. MJ says it’s been a tremendous boon to her parents, because her dad used to curse every English muffin he handled for breaking into bits. She gave one to them, and reports her mother’s quality of life at breakfast has been much enhanced.

Push the splitter into the muffin from the side in 3 or 4 places.

Squeeze gently until the two halves come apart.

Holey Hi-Fiber English Muffin! Eh voilà, time to eat!

Thank you so much, Cynthia, for setting me on this path. Another recipe born of your ideas and our elbow grease. We hope you’ll bake, enjoy, and rate our recipe for Hi-Fiber English Muffins.

Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.


  1. Victoria

    I noticed the top of the blog says, “Norwich, VT” but are you in CO? Do I need to make any adjustments to your recipe, or can I try it as is? (I’m at 7,000 feet) Thanks!

    For high altitude baking guidelines, visit http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes2008/high-altitude-baking.html
    I hope you enjoy the recipe. ~Amy

    Hi, Victoria. For this recipe, at 7,000 feet, use 3/4 cup of water in the starter section of the recipe, and cut the yeast back to 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon. Susan

  2. "Joni M from St. Louis"

    Oh my, my mouth is absolutely watering over these! I haven’t made english muffins in years but these look fantastic! Ohhhh, peanut butter slathered over a piping hot home-made english muffin, where it gets real soft and gooey…then a dob of grape jelly and I’m in heaven with that first bite…whoa, gonna have to make these soon! Again, thank you so much for all you all do–great site and wonderful people! Hugs!

    Back atcha :-)! Susan

  3. catieartist

    Ooooh, yum! I have missed English muffins even more than bread I think! I had to give up wheat, but not gluten. As this recipe is less than 2″ high (a good height to aim for that you have mentioned in GF baking), and structured with a starter, do you think I could use the Sustagrain barley flour instead of the wheat bread flour and make these successfully?

    I have a stainless steel electric skillet, or a Scanpan [ceramic baked on] nonstick. Which might yield better results do you think?

    All of the fabulous recipes you get! It must be so fun to work in the test kitchens. Maybe a cookbook to publish one day would be the collection of all the recipes sent into KAF over the years 😉 !

    All the best,
    Hi, Catie! I think this recipe is definitely worth trying with barley flour. Give it a spin and let us know how it goes! Susan

  4. "sandra Alicante"

    Mmmmm, tasty! Marks and Spencer used to sell some in the UK that had raisins in, made a very nice breakfast. I learned to make my own as I lived too far from a store to bother with them.

    Can’t beat them fresh and warm from the griddle, either! Susan

  5. Cindy Leigh

    Argh! Can’t believe I left the baking soda off the recipe I sent you!!
    Mine look just like your finished product does.
    Can’t wait to try your version, thanks so much for pulling it together!

  6. Cindy Leigh

    Ok, I see where my error was. I typed baking powder instead of baking SODA. Duh! And so glad to see that the final baked version of yours and mine have identical appearance. Honey and buttermilk sounds so tasty, can’t wait to try!
    And I found that my starter does not to be freshly fed. It feeds during the sit on the counter and does just fine. Good news, since I hate to throw away any starter before feeding. I just use it for English muffins or sourdough waffles.

    Thanks again, Cindy, because I’m doing exactly the same thing, now! Susan

  7. bakeraunt

    I do not have the high maize flour on hand. What can I substitute in its place?
    You can use all purpose flour instead. The muffins will still come out fine, maybe just a touch heavier. ~ MaryJane

  8. Cindi

    While I love sourdough I don’t always have it handy. How would I make it without the sourdough starter?

    BTW in HOT HOUSTON, we LOVE bread you can cook on the stove. & I adore my ZO too! We wake up to fresh bread twice a week – love that I can set it the night before & it’s done before the heat of the day, because it still puts off heat into the room. Keep those ZO recipes coming please.

    Make a sponge instead. The night before, mix a pinch of yeast with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Mix it up, cover it, and let it sit on the counter overnight. Next day, use it just as you would the sourdough starter. Susan

  9. "Madam Maple"

    I’m used to buyin these muffins from the store, as I couldn’t find a recipe that worked or left out steps. My own starter uses potato water in the starter and unbleached flour. My Grandma used honey, Sorghum or maple sugar in place of sugar, when sugar was rationed, living in northern Wis. maple syrup was the easiest source to hold of. She kept it in a stoneware crock covered with cheesecloth and stirred once a day she even made her own yeast. Her wheat loaves were always tasty.Growing up in a town outside of Milwaukee we had to drive 4 hrs. and shed heat them up for us with homemade jam from her garden.talk about being spoiled! My mom taught me to bake at an early age. Now after viewing the recipes I’ll be making my own. Thanks! Madm Maple

    I’m with you, Madam Maple! We had a great sugaring season this year in Vt. Enjoy your warm and toasty muffins! Susan

  10. "mimi Ferlita"

    I’m so excited to try the English muffins and thanks so much for the sour dough starter tip as I never have it on hand.

    The flavor won’t be quite as tangy, but the night-before starter definitely works. Enjoy! Susan

  11. Lina

    Can you make these without the rings, or would they spread too much?

    These do need the rings, but only for their shape. With out them it is just a little harder to get an even thickness of muffin. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

  12. harmony2225

    I love the recipe. I don’t have an electric skillet, so I’m using a griddle. Is there any way to check the temperature of the griddle? My current method is pure guesswork.

    I think you could give it the pancake batter test – drop a couple of drops of water onto the griddle. If they sizzle and immediately evaporate, that’s good for pancakes – but too hot for English muffins. My guess is the drops should roll around for a couple of seconds before evaporating… PJH

  13. peggymowry

    Hi – I’m contemplating purchasing some ingredients to try my hand at this great-sounding (and looking – I love the blog for its detailed photos!) high fiber english muffin recipe. Since the flax flour is no longer available on your site, would the whole flax meal be a good substitute? PM
    Flax flour would typically just be a finer grind of the meal. You may certainly use the meal and process it further if you wish to have a finer texture. ~Amy

  14. susankellen

    My muffins ended up being very flat. They still have great holes in them, and they taste good, but they didn’t rise like these. They turned out more like really thick pancakes. I tripled the recipe. The batter looked like yours pictured above. However, my starter did fall a bit before I used it. I have a feeling that may be the culprit, but I’m not sure.

    I used a skillet to bake them. Could it have been too hot? Mine got very brown on both sides, even though I had the burner on the lowest setting (it is a super-burner gas).

    I’m sorry to hear of the difficulty. There may be a couple of things going on. Typically a “thick” English muffin is an indication of too dry a batter. But this could also be caused by too rapid cooking. I suggest trying a “regular” or “simmer” gas burner the next time. That may help open up the crumb. Frank @ KAF.

  15. enjhagen

    It’s been awhile since anyone commented here, but, I have just discovered this recipe and I am thrilled. First of all, I am new to sourdough and I am so glad to have found another use for it (it makes me nervous!). Second, I was given a griddle for Christmas and I recently bought the English Muffin rings! I am also a Weight Watcher member and at 3 pts each, these muffins fit right into the program. Most important of all – they taste great and are easy to make. Win – win all around!

    So glad you discovered this “win-win” recipe – enjoy! PJH


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