Recently I’ve got back into the rhythm of baking real sourdough bread at home. One of the reasons I had stopped making sourdough was that I hated throwing away half of my starter each time I fed it. It seemed a huge waste of flour. This time, I’ve been working through a stack of recipes for what to do with the discarded starter. Popular picks so far have been waffles and pancakes from The Perfect Loaf and King Arthur Flour.
But this recipe for English muffins is my absolute favourite use for leftover sourdough, it’s based on this King Arthur Flour recipe. I’ve adjusted it to make it dairy free and vegan (because I’m lactose intolerant) and it happily passed my family’s taste test. In fact they didn’t notice at all that I had switched out the butter and powdered milk, so I’ll count that as a win. Not having read the original recipe carefully enough I accidentally made two dozen muffins, but that wasn’t a disaster and the whole lot had been devoured within two days and I’m onto a second batch already. Here, I’ve adjusted the quantities to suit less greedy folks, although these keep very well in the freezer. Just remember to slice them before freezing so you can pop them straight into the toaster without bothering to defrost them for an instant tasty snack.
Recipe for English muffins using left over sourdough starter - makes one dozen
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
115g discarded sourdough starter
425g plain white flour
1/2 tbsp salt
225ml almond milk or other plant based milk (coconut also works well)
30g dairy-free spread (I like Flora dairy free, it does contain palm oil which is hard to avoid in these spreads, but apparently “Unilever is committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil” whatever that means.) Do let me know if you find a palm-oil free alternative
Some semolina, instant polenta or fine cornmeal, for coating
Measure the almond milk into a microwavable jug, then weigh the vegetable margarine into the same jug. Gently warm this mixture in the microwave until it is around body temperature. If you have a setting for reheating tea and coffee, this works well. Next weigh all the other ingredients except the cornmeal into a large bowl, pour in the milk mixture and mix with a spatula.
When it has come together, tip the dough out onto a floured work surface. Flour your hands too and knead for 10 minutes or use a mixer with a dough hook. It will be a sticky mess to begin with, so you may need to keep on flouring the worktop, but don’t add too much or you’ll dry it out. It quickly turns into a silky smooth and elastic dough. Once a finger poked into the dough leaves an impression that springs back, place it in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel (no need for clingfilm). Leave it somewhere warm until it has doubled in size, an hour to hour and a half (two hours in my chilly Scottish kitchen). If you won’t be baking until later, at this point you can put the dough in the fridge and leave it covered to rise overnight instead.
Next, gently knock back the dough and roll it out 1.5cm thick on a floured worktop. I did get a ruler out at this point. You really need to get an even thickness as the dough will rise a lot more at this stage so if they are uneven it will be magnified as they rise and give you wonky muffins. Line an oven tray with baking parchment and then coat it with an even layer of the fine cornmeal. Next cut out the rounds. I used a 78mm cutter which gives 12 rounds. Roll up the leftover dough and carry on cutting out rounds until all the dough is used up. Carefully lift the rounds with a spatula onto the tray. They will rise and also spread out so leave room or they will stick together. Sprinkle more cornmeal over the tops, then cover again with a damp tea towel and leave for another hour or so to rise.
Heat a large frying pan or griddle on a medium heat and carefully transfer the rounds onto the pan. Cook in batches, they will need 7-10 minutes on each side. Once they are done the sides will still be soft but not sticky. Brush the leftover cornmeal out of the pan between batches or it will scorch. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight tin if you aren’t going to eat them straight away.
I like to tear (not cut) the halves apart and eat them toasted with jam, but they also make an excellent base for avocado toast, or for eggs Benedict if you are feeling like a really fancy weekend brunch. Do you have a favourite way to serve muffins?
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This delicious background surface is Mosu by Woodrow Studios
The mugs are from a local cafe, Lovecrumbs, and the wire rack, pewter plate and butter knife are charity shop finds. These other items you can find on Amazon, probably even with free delivery if you have Prime: