Sourdough English Muffins: from starter to beautiful finish

Do you want to know how to make ridiculously decadent and delicious eggs Benedict, start(er) to finish?

Read on.

Eggs Benedict, for any of you unfamiliar with this fancy breakfast favorite, is an English muffin half, toasted and topped with a slice of ham, a poached egg, and hollandaise – a rich butter/egg/lemon sauce.

Now, that’s the classic version. But go to any restaurant higher up the dollar scale than, say, Mickey D’s, and you’ll find eggs Benedict in a surprising number of incarnations.

The traditional slice of ham can give way to Canadian bacon, smoked salmon, corned beef hash, or asparagus (for a vegetarian take). The egg might be fried, or even scrambled; the sauce often morphs into cheese sauce.

But every version starts on an English muffin. Which is what we’re going to make today.

Really? When it’s so easy to buy good English muffins?

Yes, really. Because A) Making English muffins isn’t nearly as challenging as you might think; B) Homemade English muffins are DA BOMB; and C) Sourdough English Muffins aren’t generally available at your local supermarket.

While this recipe doesn’t require your sourdough starter to be fed, I like the vigor of a fed starter; it helps the muffins rise.

Beginning with 4 ounces of dormant starter, I add 4 ounces each King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (scant cup) and lukewarm water (1/2 cup), stirring to combine.

Depending on how dormant my starter is, it will begin to bubble vigorously within several hours; or it will take a few days of feeding to get it going. Your goal is a happily bubbling starter (bottom right).

Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups warm water (110°F-115°F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed; fed will give you a more vigorous rise
7 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid), optional; for enhanced sour flavor

Mix and knead — by hand or electric mixer — to form a smooth dough. The dough should be soft and elastic, but not particularly sticky; add additional flour if necessary.

Want to use your bread machine to mix and knead the dough? Go for it. You’ll want to let it rise in a larger container, though.

By the way, if you don’t want to make 2 dozen muffins, this recipe is easily halved. Simply halve all of the ingredients; for a slightly faster rise, reduce the yeast to 2 teaspoons, rather than 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, or an 8-cup measure, as I’ve done here. Cover the container.

For most pronounced sour flavor, immediately place the dough in the refrigerator. Let it chill for 24 hours; the dough will rise, and the long rest will develop its flavor.

If you’re in a hurry, or don’t particularly care about strong sourdough flavor, don’t chill the dough. Simply set it aside to rise at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s noticeably puffy.

An advantage of using the measuring cup is that I can quickly see just how much the dough has risen. It’s more than doubled in bulk – going from 3 to 7 cups.

Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes, to relax their gluten.

Flatten each ball into a 3″ round.

For a somewhat more even rise as the muffins cook, flatten each ball slightly larger than 3″, and trim edges with a 3″ cutter (or trim all around the edge with a pair of scissors).

Muffins with cut (rather than flattened) sides will rise more evenly.

Place the rounds, evenly spaced, onto cornmeal- or semolina-sprinkled baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise until light and puffy, about 45 to 60 minutes. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal or semolina.

If the dough has been refrigerated overnight, the rise time will be about 2 hours.

Carefully transfer the rounds (as many as a time that will fit without crowding) to a large electric griddle preheated to 350°F, or to an ungreased frying pan or griddle that’s been preheated over medium-low heat.

Cook the muffins for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190°F. The edges may feel a bit soft; that’s OK.

To shorten cooking time, instead of an open griddle use a lidded electric fry pan heated to 325°F.

For best shape, cook the muffins for about 5 minutes on their first side. Then lay a cake pan, cookie sheet, or similar flat (though not overly heavy) object atop them; this helps keep muffins flat across the top (rather than domed).

Continue cooking for 7 minutes or so; then remove the pan, and turn the muffins over. Place the lid on the pan, but don’t set it on tight; leave a small opening for any steam to escape. Cook the muffins for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until their bottom sides are browned.

I guess these are done. LOVE my digital thermometer… it really takes the guesswork out of so many baking projects.

Remove the muffins from the griddle, and cool on a rack.

Don’t split until they’re completely cool! Pretty nice nooks and crannies, eh?

Now, on to the eggs Benedict.

A classic serving of eggs Benedict includes two English muffin halves, with toppings. I prefer to eat just one.

Toast an English muffin half; butter it, if you want to totally gild the lily.

Top with a thick slice of warmed or fried ham.

Top with a poached egg. If you don’t like poaching eggs, fry it; or scramble it, even. Poached is classic, but there’s no need to stand on ceremony here.

Top with hollandaise sauce.

Now, I’m sure many of you use hollandaise sauce mix. But it’s really quite easy to make it from scratch, especially if you have a blender, or small food processor with an opening in the top to add ingredients on the fly.

The following amount of ingredients makes enough hollandaise for 4 generous servings.

Place 2 large egg yolks, 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste), 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a dash of Tabasco into a small blender or food processor.

Heat 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter until very hot, either in a saucepan, or the microwave. The butter should be sizzling/popping hot, not just melted.

With the motor running, pour the butter gradually over the egg yolks/lemon juice, blending/processing until the sauce is thick.

If, for whatever reason, the sauce doesn’t thicken for you, transfer it to a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes thick.

This sauce isn’t quite as thick as I like it; I was in a hurry, and didn’t heat the butter hot enough.

Still, I had no trouble finishing off this decadent dish, once I’d taken the photo.

Just to make doubly sure of the picture, however, I made another one – and my husband enjoyed an unexpectedly tasty breakfast, too!

Please read, make, and review our recipe for Sourdough English Muffins.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Kristin

    Due to scheduling issues my English Muffin dough sat in the refrigerator for about 48 hours. I finally got around to making them today and OH MY GOODNESS they are delicious. Extra sour just how I like my sourdough. My starter’s name is Fred. I refer to it as Fred when speaking to people who are not obsessed with baking and they often think I’ve lost touch with reality. Ah well! At least you all get me! Thanks for the great recipe.

    Reply
  2. Sally in Miami

    If you like to have the kind of English muffin that pulls apart you can roll out the dough, let it rest a few minutes, then fold it in half and roll out again until it’s the desired thickness. I had a little trouble getting the cooking time right, but in the process discovered that I actually like a really dark crust. These are great with some whole wheat flour, too.

    Reply
  3. TDeal4

    I left out the yeast and halved all of the ingredients except the sourdough starter. I left the dough covered in the refrigerator for 2 days, then rolled it and cut with a 3.5″ ring. I allowed the muffins to rise overnight before cooking. The result was thick muffins with a wonderful sourdough flavor and all of the prized nooks and crannies!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Norma- Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good substitute for that quantity of dry milk, and leaving it our will significantly change this product. If you need to be dairy-free, then I would recommend using another English Muffin recipe that either calls for no diary initially, or one which only has liquid milk which you could use water in place of. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      It’s the steam from a very wet dough, Patti. I suspect perhaps your dough wasn’t sticky enough. Also, you may need to manage your expectations; these probably won’t look exactly like Thomas’. But give them another try, with stickier dough, and see what happens, OK? Good luck – PJH

  4. horto

    when is fed starter, fed ready?
    Like how much time needs to pass for it to be active and considered fed?
    By look or time?
    Hours? Yesterday?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It generally is recommended that you use your starter about 4-8 hours after you feed it. It should be nice and active and bubbly, ballooning up a bit and looking puffy. The way you know it has gone too far is that it starts to decrease in volume and you see “crags” forming like crevasses in the dough where it has sunk in on itself. This usually doesn’t happen until after eight hours or longer under normal conditions. But generally the 4-8 hour window after sitting at room temperature from the time of feeding is a safe bet for usable “fed starter.”

      I hope that helps and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253 (Monday-Friday 8:00am-9:00pm EST, Saturday & Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm) and we’d be happy to provide you with further assistance at that time. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  5. member-flyv651

    Any suggestions on how to apply the baking aspect with the sourdough recipe? I tried using the oven at 400 for 10 minutes, then flipping the pans and removing the top one for another 5 minutes, but it seems that it takes another 15 minutes or so after that to get a better color on the muffins. Perhaps bump the temp to 425? Use the convection option on my oven? They taste great although the “nooks and crannies” weren’t as craggy as I hoped for. Any tips would be appreciated.

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *