I have been after a good English Muffin since I started baking breads 2 years ago. I tried the BBA recipe, too bread like, crumb is even and soft, good for a dinner roll, not an English muffin. I tried Alton Brown's recipe. Simple, and gives lots of holes. However the crumb is more like a crumpt. In addition, with a very short rise, AB's EM lacks a little flavor.
Recently I tried Wild Yeast's Sourdough English Muffin (here), jackpot! Not only it gives the "PERFECT" crumb (for me), but also complex whole wheat flavor. On top of that, it was easy to make too! I have read that the nooks and crannies in English Muffin crumb can be achieved by a very wet dough, which is ALMOST overkneaded. Sounds odd, but I do think the rough crumb struture of a EM is indeed similar to a dough whose gluten is on the verge of breaking down. "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" advices to knead a wet dough to pass windownpane, then KEEP KNEADING until it's over kneaded. I trust her results, but dont' want to spend all the effort to "over knead" a dough. I think Wild Yeast formula accompolishes the same goal with a much easier method: creat a sourdough spong, let it fermentate for a long time until the gluten almost breaking down, add a little bit of flour so that it can take shape, proof for a bit, cook and done!
However I did modify the procedure: the original formula wants me to knead well after adding the flour, then pat the dough out flat and cut out rounds of dough. That is hard to do if the dough is very wet - and the dough simply has to be wet for good results. What I did was to skip kneading all together, we are not after gluten formation here anyway. Simply mix with a spoon, then scoop chunks of dough(I use a scale to make sure of their sizes) on a baking sheet, use WELL OILED hands to shape these little puddles of wet dough into flat disks, let proof, then cook them in English Muffin rings. Easy and prefect. Since I don't have to knead/pat/cut, I can affort to up the hydration even more.
Sourdough English Muffing (Adapted from Wild Yeast)
100% starter, 55g
AP flour, 80g
WW flour, 50g
1. Mix and let rise for 12 hours. (I let it go longer than the original instruction since I want the gluten to almost break)
AP flour, 35g
baking soda, 1/2tsp
agave nectar (or honey, but agave nectar tastes so great), 1t
all of sponge
2. Mix with a spong, then scoop chunks of wet dough onto a baking sheet (wiht bakign mat or parchment paper), each chunk is about 73g, 5 chunks in total. The size matters here, if the dough chunks is too large, it won't cook through/rise well. Well oil/water your hands and nudge the dough chunks into rough disks.
3, cover and let rise for 45min (73F), until very light
4 I don't have a griddle, so I cooked them in a cast iron pan. Preheat for 5min on medium low heat, with muffin rings inside. The pan and rings were all lightly oiled. Lift the parchment paper/baking mat, and flip the dough onto your oiled/watered hand, drop into the ring. Don't pick up the dough, do the lift and flip, it's much less sticky this way, and you can preserve most of the air bubbles.
5. Cook on medium low heat for about 5min before flipping, during that time, the dough would rise to the rim, or even over the rim a bit. Flip and keep cooking until done, about 15min in total, flipping every few minutes.
Let's look at the crumb, it'd my idea of a perfect EM
But of course, I only cut one for the picture, the rest I did the proper way: fork split, look at all that nooks and crannies!
Butter and jam has no way to escape!
Perfect for a breakfast sandwich too, with a lot of sauce of course
Sending this to Yeastspotting.