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. Katherine

    Just wondering as I live in the country so no easy access to stores, I have milk but not dry..can I sub some fresh milk for the dry and in place of some of the water? say 1/4 cup milk for 1/4 water?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Katherine, you might replace all the water in the recipe with fresh milk.~Jaydl@KAF

  2. Kimberly

    I’ve made these a couple of times and they are great. I would prefer a version that includes whole grain flour though. Could you offer guidance? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Kimberly, substitute our white whole wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour, as a start. If you like the result, gradually increase the percentage of whole wheat. Good luck – PJH

  3. greenapplegirl

    I tried these once before, with a mix of white whole wheat and classic AP. They were good, but I felt I could produce better. Do you think subbing out a bit of the AP with bread flour and adding some vital wheat gluten might make for bigger nooks and crannies??

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      It might; or another thing you can try is making a slightly slacker (softer, more wet) dough, which is really where you get those nooks and crannies. The softer the dough (to a point), the more easily steam can push its way around inside and create fissures. Good luck – PJH

  4. Janet D

    I’ve made these several times and I can never leave them on the griddle as long as the recipe says. They almost burn. I can only leave them a few minutes on each side and must finish them in the oven, which is no big deal but just can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I’ve checked the temp on the griddle and its ok. I’ve turned it down to a lower temp but I can still never leave the muffins on for the amount of time listed. Great taste though!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Janet. That may be a matter of the materials in your griddle and how close the heating element is to its surface. Have you tried making one or two muffins in a heavy frying pan (cast iron is great for this) on the stove to compare? Susan

    1. Susan Reid

      Andrea, was the dough on the firm, or wet, sloppy side? As a general rule, wetter dough and a long enough wait translate into those bubbles you need for nooks…Susan

  5. ResGar

    I like this recipe and plan on trying it again. The mufins looked and tasted great, but when I cut them open the holes were more like sandwich bread: small and uniform. I suspect I handled the dough too roughly when deflating. Would appreciate hearing your thoughts.

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      I would say it’s probably a factor. Also, be sure the dough is nice and wet and sticky. I’m sure with practice you’ll get it just right. ~ MJ

  6. Ann

    They were delicious…! Not so many nooks and crannies, but very tasty nonetheless! Thanks for all the help, KAF folks!

    Reply
  7. Ann

    Uh oh – well, I used it as a replacement (all of it, not just one cup), which maybe explains why there is SO MUCH DOUGH! 🙂 It was a good consistency, it is rising in the refrigerator, but there is a lot of it. WIll this just make a lot more muffins, or will the consistency be off?
    Uh oh! Not a terrible problem to have, Ann. You will have more muffins, they will be tangier and the consistency may be little off. Enjoy! Elisabeth

    Reply
  8. Ann

    I am confused – does this
    “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…”

    replace this:

    “1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed; fed will give you a more vigorous rise”

    thanks!

    Sorry for the confusion, Ann. No, it’s not a replacement. The first sentence you quote above is directions for feeding your sourdough starter before using it, if that’s the route you’re going to take. Once it’s fed, you scoop out 1 cup, which is the “1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed; fed will give you a more vigorous rise.” Bottom line: You can feed your starter (as directed in first the quote above); or you can use it unfed. I hope I’ve cleared things up! PJH

    Reply
  9. Brenda

    My husband and I like the sourdough English muffin recipe. I use my husband’s adjustable hamburger press set to 1/2 inch and a piece of wax paper top and bottom to flatten my balls of dough for the muffins.

    Reply

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