every little nook and cranny

Today was one of those days that didn't quite turn out as planned. I was looking forward to two things: getting out in the garden so I can plant the damned tomatoes (all 28 of them? maybe not) that are threatening to topple over, and going to the last Met Live in HD opera broadcast of the season. Neither one happened. I had to bag the opera–one I was really looking forward to because it stars one of my favorite performers, Joyce DiDonato–because work intervened. Boo. I freelance in addition to my day job because I've got to do SOMEthing to support my gadget habit and I prefer that it be legal. So no grow ops or meth labs in the basement for me, just a bit of graphic design work on the side. A few of my freelance clients have monthly newsletters and every couple of months or so they dogpile on one another. This was one of those months (Sure. Pick THIS weekend to be on time.) So there was no way I'd make the opera and still get it all done (not to mention my laundry which has been piling up for weeks–I'm kind of a guy when it comes to laundry. Out of underwear? BUY MORE!) I figured I'd take breaks along the way out in the garden, but nooooo. It rained. A LOT. I was one huffy puppy.

So what did I do when life handed me lemons this weekend? MADE ENGLISH MUFFINS, of course! I love English muffins but never though to bake my own until today when I was procrastinating. Why not though? Especially since I just HAPPENED to stumble on a recipe  (okay, I googled on purpose). I was missing English muffin rings (not really necessary but you can be sure I'll be getting a leetle box with a smiley arrow on it VERY soon. And an English muffin splitter too, of course. Because a fork just won't do, silly person), but I did have everything else on hand, plus I had some newly fed starter that was just begging to be used. Ta da! The muffins were calling me. How could I refuse?

Whenever I bake something new, I usually gather up a few recipes and decide to try 3 or 4 of them to see which ones I like best. Then I cobble together my own recipe based on my notes. It's a good way to get a feel for something new. The first muffin recipe I decided to try was from King Arthur. I'm generally VERY happy with their recipes and as I said, I had that starter bubbling away… Sourdough English muffins it is.

It made a nice dough, this one. And a LOT of it too, which you might expect with a yield of 24 muffins. Big dough. BIG dough. Climbing out of the Kitchen Aid big. (I really need train myself to grab the Assistent for big doughs, but do I remember? No, I do not. I also need to keep pounding the concept of mise en place into my tiny brain, because I suck at it–hence my scrambling to find ingredients at the last minute…and many last-minute trips to the store.) I did need to add a couple of tablespoons of flour because it was a bit sticky, but otherwise, it was a smooth, elastic dough. I set it out to rise and boy, did it ever!

I may have let it go just a hair too long because I was a little distracted by work (I was really, really trying to work. Really.) It's also getting warmer in my not-climate-controlled kitchen so I've got to keep a sharper eyeball on rise times in order to avoid the embarrassment of the-big-poofy-dough-that-collapses-to-a-pancake-in-the-oven. Not too bad though. The dough was nice and bubbly, I de-gassed it, weighed out the 24 portions, flattened the balls and used a 3" biscuit cutter to make them all uniform, because I'm anal about stuff like that. The second rise was a quick one, probably about 40 minutes until they were ready to go. Great excuse to break out the double-burner cast iron griddle, which I nearly dropped on my foot. The muffins were soft and pillowy and puffed up nicely as they cooked. I weighted them with a sheet pan after the first turn to keep them flat(ish). It did take me a bit of trial and error to regulate the heat of the griddle (and we won't talk about how I couldn't understand why the four muffins on the back of the griddle weren't cooking until I realized that I hadn't turned on that burner. Because the magical muffin fairies are supposed to do it, OKAY?) A couple almost burned so we had to eat them right away to hide the evidence, but the rest were just perfect. The cooking part is a bit of a time suck, because each batch takes about 18-20 minutes and I did four batches, but was it worth it? You betcha.

I was very happy with the texture and flavor--just slightly sour since I chose to go the instant gratification route and not refrigerate the dough overnight. Nooks and crannies? Oh yeah. And I'll be darned, they looked just like English muffins are supposed to look so A+ for presentation. They're even husband-approved and husband almost NEVER offers an opinion, he just eats. So these could definitely go on repeat. At least after we make our way through the remaining 23 muffins (that's a lotta muffins). And try a couple of other recipes. Because I can never leave well enough alone.