Jack. How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon. Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them
Jack. I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.
— from Act II of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Like Algernon Moncrieff, I am particularly fond of muffins. The trouble is that sourdough English muffins are not generally available. However, a brief internet search turned up this delightful recipe by Erin on GNOWFGLIS. I doubled the recipe and changed it very slightly, and came up with this:
• 5-1/2 cup of whole grain flour (I use mainly wheat with some kamut, spelt, and oat groats.)
• 2 cups of milk (I have also used 1 cup milk with 1 cup whey — to use up the whey from making cream cheese from yoghurt — and that worked just as well.)
• 1 cup of sourdough starter
• 2 tablespoons of raw honey
• 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt
• 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
makes about 24 muffins
Don’t forget that you cannot use metal bowls, measuring spoons, &c. — metal kills sourdough!
The first day…
Combine 5-1/2 cups flour, 2 cups milk (or other liquid), and 1 cup starter and mix well.
Cover and let sit overnight, or for 12 to 24 hours.
The next day…
Add 2 tablespoons honey, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda to dough.
Pour a bit of olive oil on whatever surface you choose to use and spread it around a bit. In the pictures, I used a baking sheet for this step, as it reduces cleanup later. The last time I made muffins, however, I used cutting boards instead, because they aren’t metal. You can also just do this directly on your table or counter.
Scrape dough onto olive oil. Knead the dough a bit with your fingers.
Use a dough scraper or similar utensil and divide the dough into half. Roughly divide the first half into twelve parts (you will separate them one by one as you form the muffins).
Use the dough scraper to drop one muffin’s worth of dough onto a small pile of flour. Cornmeal is more traditional, but, as one of the members of my family is allergic to corn, I always use flour, and it works just as well. Coat the muffin with flour and place it on a surface to rest. Pat it slightly to form the muffin.
Repeat with the remaining dough. You should end up with 24 or so muffins. Cover with a towel and let rest for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat a griddle to a medium heat — on the griddle I use, I heat to 300 degrees F. Use a flipper and carefully transfer as many muffins as the griddle will hold to that surface.
Cook for 5 minutes and then carefully (so as not to deflate them) turn muffins over. Cook for another 5 minutes and then remove from heat and let cool. Repeat with remaining muffins.
These muffins are great warm or cool, with butter, cream cheese, &c. We had ours with poached eggs, bacon, and hollandaise sauce — Eggs Benedict! Absolutely delicious!
Our cat approved. We let him lick off the bacon plate and the bowl from the hollandaise sauce. It made him very happy!
The screencap at the beginning of this post is from the 2002 adaptation of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett.