Sourdough English Muffins with butter and honey on the table

Sourdough English Muffins

By Hannah Dela Cruz, blogger and cookbook author

English muffins are flat yeasted buns that are slowly fried instead of baked. The result is a delightfully crispy crust and a soft-but-crunchy crumb with lots of nooks and crannies. Although most English muffin recipes already call for an overnight rest, we go a step further by making ours using a sourdough starter. Sourdough imparts a deeper flavor, and the long, slow fermentation makes the resulting bread much easier to digest. So not only are these English muffins more flavorful, they are better for you too!

How to Make Sourdough English Muffins

For tender, moist, and fluffy sourdough English muffins, we incorporated a lot of milk and water in our recipe. Although this results in a wet and sticky dough, you can still make this recipe completely by hand. We recommend letting the dough rest for an hour immediately after lightly mixing the ingredients, then using the “slap and fold” method to create strength in the dough.

Letting the dough rest for an hour after mixing the ingredients allows the flour to fully hydrate and the gluten to form strong bonds without over-oxidizing from excessive mixing. The dough will be stretchy and extensible after this long rest period, and feel almost impossible to knead. Using the slap and fold method (also known as the French fold) will allow you to work with this extremely wet dough until it is smooth, supple, and cohesive. 

Practice Patience

Patience is the number one ingredient when frying sourdough English muffins. Cook them slowly over low heat, otherwise the outside of the English muffin may scorch before the inside is fully cooked, resulting in a gummy interior and a burnt, bitter crust.

Don’t forget to toast before serving! Despite their long cooking time, English muffins are not fully baked when they come off the griddle and need to be finished in a toaster. They are traditionally split using a fork—not a knife—to expose their wonderfully uneven interior then finished by toasting and serving with butter and jam or in eggs Benedict. 

Sourdough English Muffins Recipe

This recipe calls for a lot of milk and butter, which makes these sourdough English muffins more tender, but can drastically slow down fermentation. To ensure that your sourdough starter can stand up to the challenge, feed it two to three times the day before using it in this bake and store it inside your Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer at 79 °F / 26 °C. This ensures fermentation occurs at an optimal level so you can stick to the time cues, which goes a long way in guaranteeing the success of this recipe.

Yield

8 to 10 sourdough English muffins

Timing

Start this bread about 18 hours before serving. The 8 hour cold proof is convenient to do overnight. You can start the recipe in the early evening, cold proof overnight, then finish early the next morning for a brunch with fresh English muffins.

Sourdough English Muffins timing chart, Active: 1 hour; Inactive: 14 hours; Total: 15 hours

Ingredients

Dough:

U.S. VolumeGrams U.S. Weight
Whole milk1.25 C300 10.6 oz
Whole wheat flour¾ C plus 2 T*100 3.5 oz
Bread flour3 C*400 14.1 oz
Salt1 tsp0.4 oz
Unsalted butter, softened4.5 T65 2.3 oz
Water⅓ C75 2.7 oz
Active sourdough starter (100% hydration)½ C125 4.4 oz
Honey or brown sugar2.5 T or 4 T50 1.8 oz

*We always recommend weighing flour for bread recipes. If you must measure by volume, dip the cup into a container of flour, then gently level off with a straight-edge such as the back of a butter knife without packing the flour.

Topping:

U.S. Volume
GramsU.S. Weight
Semolina or cornmeal                             ¼ C301 oz

Equipment:

  • 18 x 13” / 46 x 33 cm baking sheet
  • 2 - 9 x 13” / 23 x 33 cm baking sheets 
  • 3" / 7.75 cm biscuit cutter
  • Brod & Taylor Accessory Shelf
  • Frying pan or griddle
  • Spatula

Getting ready:

Set the proofer to 79 °F / 26 °C and place the water tray in the middle of the warming plate on the base. Pour ¼ C / 60 ml water into the tray and place the rack on top of the tray.

Instructions

Scald the milk: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat until bubbles form on the edges of the milk and a skin begins to form on the surface. The temperature should register between 180–185 °F / 82–85 °C. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Do not let the milk come to a boil.

Let the milk cool completely before adding it to the rest of the ingredients or it may kill the yeast in the starter. 

Mix the dough: Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and salt until no lumps remain. Combine the softened butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together the cooled milk, active sourdough starter, water, and honey until no traces of starter remain.

Add the flour mixture into the milk mixture a third at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. This will prevent lumps from forming and will ensure all of the flour becomes hydrated.

The dough will feel extremely wet and sticky at this point. Place the bowl inside the Folding Proofer. Let rest for 1 hour. 

Slap and fold: Turn the dough out on a clean work surface. Working with slightly wet hands gently pick the dough up and slap it on the work surface and fold it onto itself. Repeat 5 to 10 times, or until the dough begins to feel less sticky and the surface looks smooth. Gather the dough into a tight ball. 

First rise: Place the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and return it to the proofer. Allow the dough to rise untouched for 3 hours or until the dough feels bubbly and has doubled in volume. 

Slap and Fold

Overnight cold proof: Line a 18 x 13” / 46 x 33 cm baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper. Brush the surface of the parchment with oil and dust with an even coating of semolina or cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto the parchment and lightly flatten it to a ½" / 1 cm thick rectangle. Dust the surface of the dough with an even layer of semolina or cornmeal, place another piece of parchment paper on top, and lightly flatten the dough to make sure that it’s even in thickness throughout. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 12 hours. 

Overnight cold proof

Shape the dough: Sprinkle an even layer of semolina or cornmeal on two small 9 x 13” / 23 x 33 cm baking sheets. Using a 3" / 7.75 cm biscuit cutter cut out as many circles as you can manage from the dough (about 8 to 10). Place the circles on the prepared baking sheets and dust with more semolina or cornmeal on top.

Second rise: Set the folding proofer to 79 °F / 26 °C, fill the water tray and place the accessory shelf and baking sheets inside. (You will need the accessory shelf to hold two baking sheets in the proofer). Let the dough rise untouched for 2 hours. 

Shaping

Cook the English muffins: When the dough is close to being ready, preheat a cast iron pan or skillet on the stove over low heat. Brush a light layer of oil on the pan. Cook the muffins for approximately 7 to 10 minutes on each side, or until the surface is an even golden brown and the internal temperature registers at 200 °F / 93.3 °C. Place cooked English muffins on a wire rack to cool and repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

Make sure the pan is not too hot so you don’t scorch the surface of the dough before the interior is baked. Avoid overcrowding the pan.

Cooking

Finish in the toaster oven: Use a fork to split the sourdough English muffins. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with butter and jam or your favorite topping!

Store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. 

Overall Bread Formula:

IngredientGramsBaker’s %
Whole milk30060%
Whole wheat flour10020%
Bread flour40080%
Salt61.2%
Unsalted butter, softened6513%
Water7515%
Active sourdough starter (100% hydration)12525%
Honey or brown sugar5010%
Overall hydration (milk + water)78%

Note: We follow the convention of using the sourdough starter as a single ingredient in the baker's percentage calculations. This is the simplest method and provides for easy scaling of this recipe. Separately, we also compute the overall hydration using the total flour and total milk and water including the starter ingredients. 

Sourdough English Muffins with butter and blueberry jam