If you want to make fresh sourdough bread every day, consider the English muffin. I think this is the right food for the home baker to get cozy with sourdough since most of us are comfortable with rolling out dough, and stovetop cooking is simple. All you need is a sourdough starter, which you can make yourself of procure from an obliging friend.
Griddle and a Starter
Stovetop breads like English muffins make it possible to whip up a fresh batch of bread every day or so. Just shape the muffins before you go to bed and cook them in a trusted griddle or a cast iron pan until they are puffed up and full of the requisite nooks and crannies.
Sourdough English Muffins
1 tablespoon sourdough starter (see Recipe Notes)
2/3 cup milk or water
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (preferably stone-ground), divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Cornmeal for dusting
Stir the sourdough starter, milk or water, 1 cup of the whole-wheat flour, and the all-purpose flour together in a large bowl. Cover with a plate, and let rest on the counter for 8 to 12 hours.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. The mixture will be a little stiff, but knead it together for 2 minutes in the bowl, or on a lightly floured cloth or board.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough to 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 3-inch biscuit cutter or glass. Keep re-forming and cutting the dough until you've got 8 muffins. The last one might be a tiny ball you roll in your palm.
Place these rounds on a flour or cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
Heat a griddle or a cast iron pan slowly, over low heat. Wait until the surface is thoroughly warm, and put the muffin onto the pan — no fat necessary. Add the muffins and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the muffins, then tent the griddle with a baking sheet to create a type of oven and help dry the muffins out. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more.
Turn off the heat and let the muffins sit on the griddle under the tent for about 5 to 10 minutes more. This will keep your nooks and crannies from being too gummy. (If using a cast iron pan, put a lid on top but don't make a tight fit. Keep a little part uncovered to let some heat and steam escape.)
- Sourdough starter: Get some starter from a friend or the mail or a class, or follow instructions on starting a starter from scratch. I keep a very small amount going all the time so I can use the active material that other bakers might consider discard. Twice a day I skim and feed: remove a tablespoon for baking, or storing in the refrigerator for future projects. Then I feed the jar I keep on the counter a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and a tablespoon of water, stir it with a knife and place a lid on top of the jar, not screwing it in place.
- For the weekend baker: You can stow your sourdough starter in the fridge all week and take out the jar Thursday night. Feed it a tablespoon each of flour and water. Friday morning, discard half the starter, which should be bubbling and coming back to life. Feed another tablespoon of flour and water, and by Friday evening, you can start the recipe.
- Flour: While I'm a whole-grain enthusiast, sourdough likes to eat endosperm, the starches that make up a grain kernel, more than bran. So I use sifted flour to keep a lively leavener.
- Storage: The cooled English muffins can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.