Starter Bread & English Muffins

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Starter Bread & English Muffins

My pregnancy came with a bread addiction that has persisted 3 years post-partum. It's a pretty nice addiction to have, Atkins-Smatkins. So I bake 4 or 5 times a week, small loaves that can be devoured by our small family in short order. Then last summer I finally indulged my curiosity and tried my hand at a starter.

I had tried to make a natural sourdough starter before with nothing but flour, water and air, but hadn't gotten very far. So this time I followed the method in Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett which uses a bit of yeast to get things going. At first, it was a little disappointing:

I don't know if my baking method was suspect, or if it just was going to take time to get going, but for the first few months I had to add some extra yeast if I wanted anything more exuberant than a rather dense flat bread. But finally, after a couple of months, I started turning out the good stuff. Maybe not as sour as true sour dough, but a slight tang and most importantly soft and lofty and so tasty that it's hard to resist even before you spread anything on it. This is why I make small loaves!

Meanwhile, those big old jars of yeast are lasting a lot longer than they used to. And it's just plain old fun to know I have my own personal pet yeast culture waiting in my fridge for its next feeding.

I make a lot of mini-loafs for adorable little sandwiches, but my favorite thing to use the starter bread for is english muffins.

The day before, I feed my starter, and then in the afternoon or evening add more flour, water and salt to make a dough. I let it hang out in the fridge overnight, and in the morning I divide it up into 2oz-3oz balls and let is sit while I go take a shower. Then it's time to haul out the 12" cast iron frying pan -- a nice morning resistance work-out if ever there was one -- and preheat it for a few minutes on medium high.

Plop-plop-plop, in go my dough balls, and then two or three minutes later, when the bottom is set but the top is still tacky, I flip them.

If I've been a bit lazy with my dough balls and not gotten them real smooth, they look a bit a mess on this side, but *shrug*. Do I really need more than one nice look side on a busy morning? Nope.

Then I cook 'em 5 minutes on the second side before flipping back to the first side for another 3-4 minutes. Finally I turn the heat off, put the lid on and let them finish up for another 5-10 minutes. You can skip the first flip, but then you get domed muffins instead of that classic flat-on-both-sides shape.

Little bit of butter, jam, peanut butter, cream cheese or whatever your English muffin ideal is, and mmmmmmmmm.

They freeze well too, though they don't last too long in the fridge after you defrost them. Generally not a problem!

Need help with the recipe ingredient amounts given by weight? See the Weight Equivalents page.

- Victoria, 2012-04-11

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