The smell of bread baking is always a welcome treat, it’s a comforting smell that never fails to make my home smell cozy. Now that I am trying to set our school-time rhythms for the year, once again I have gotten into the habit of preparing bread once or twice per week. I always prepare large batches so that I am making more than what we need, I freeze dough for pizzas or pizza pockets, I freeze English muffins by the dozen, I make Sunday supper rolls or sandwich breads, basically I am always trying to get ahead always making more than what we need immediately. It can be hard at times, it feels like they inevitably eat food faster than I can prepare it, which can be particularly discouraging because slow food is . . . well . . . slow. Whole foods, prepared correctly can take time, it’s not always true but soaked breads, beans and grains take a little extra planning ahead.
I like to ask the boys to help me make bread as often as possible but truthfully, sometimes I sneak away to do it by myself because it’s second nature for me at this point, and I can do it mindlessly. Baking bread can be a necessity when you are feeding a family (of boys!) organic food on a budget, and even though I so enjoy watching them have fun shaping fun rolls or pretzels with this dough, when they are helping with English Muffins, I am especially grateful because we really can tear through English Muffins pretty quickly. I cannot imagine what I would spend if I still bought frozen organic muffins!
Teaching the boys practical skills has always been important to me and while bread is just bread to some folks, to us it isn’t. We no longer buy bread for various reasons, so to us there is a sacred attachment to the process. There is also a sense of satisfaction and pride that they get to experience that you don’t get when you open a sleeve of bread from the market. Cooking with the boys is truly a treat at times, and sure it can be a nuisance to deal with their awkward chaos, but preparing food is a fantastic way for children to engage and build confidence. It’s great connecting with my kids, and watching them connect with something that is so much greater than just another task.
From wheat kernels to English Muffins that we savor throughout the week, I am really appreciating teaching the boys the significance of working for our food. I’m trying very hard to slow down and limit and share my work load, and with this I am sharing the tradition of bread baking. We might not have some golden field of wheat to harvest our own grains from, but we have these important foundation foods that we buy whole and prepare from scratch, together.
Whole-Wheat Sourdough English Muffins
If you do not have sourdough starter, learn how to prepare it here. If you don’t want a sourdough starter you can simply use an additional 2/3 cup of milk or water in place of the sourdough. If your sourdough starter is livened and ready for usage you really do not need to add the yeast, I use it from time to time when I intend on using this dough for something other than English Muffins. It has a great rise for English Muffins but can make for slightly denser rolls.
Makes Approximately 1 1/2 Dozen English Muffins
- 1 Cup Sourdough Starter
- 2 Cups Warm Water or Whole Milk
- 1 Package of Organic Yeast (optional)
- 2-3 Tablespoons Honey or Maple Syrup
- 6 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (fresh if possible)
- 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
-Cinnamon and raisins, dried onions and poppy seeds or any other bagel-esque goodies you might like. (dried cranberries, blueberries, flaked garlic etc.)
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of your electric stand mixer, combine sourdough starter, water/milk, yeast if using and honey or maple syrup.
- Allow this mixture to rest and get bubbly for a few moments. (this is when I would grind my grains into flour)
- Combine 4 cups of flour and stir to combine.
- Add salt and 1 cup of the remaining flour.
- Using a bread hook or hand knead additional flour into the dough. Add only enough flour as needed to form a smooth ball. (When I am baking bread with my kids, I knead the dough with the dough hook most of the way and then let them finish it off. This works out especially well since I do not have an extra large mixer and trying to mix the dough with the machine burns it up.)
Allow the dough to rest at least 8 hours. Once the dough has soaked and risen it is ready for use. You can use this dough for baked soft pretzels, dinner rolls or of course, the best ever English Muffins.
– Making The Muffins –
Divide dough into 2 1/2 to 3 ounce portions. (I always weigh the dough and hand it off to be rolled into balls.) Take each piece of dough and roll it into a a ball. Place the ball on a baking sheet that is lined with masa harina (or corn meal) and flatten into discs. Once the tray is filled, sprinkle the rolls with more masa and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes or until puffy.
Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-low heat and pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Fry each side of the English Muffin on the dry skillet. The heat can take a bit of tinkering to perfect. For my stove top I always start at setting five, but I end up switching between 4 and 5 to prevent scorching. Each muffin will take approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The muffins are ready to be placed onto a tray when they are toasted and golden brown, and no longer wet looking on the sides. Once the muffins have finished place the sheet of English Muffins into the oven for about 10 minutes, this just insures that they have finished cooking in the middle.
Split the muffins in two with a fork by creating a “dotted line” across the muffin until they break apart. You can also just slice them with a knife but that does not have the same old-timey charm. Be sure to split or slice muffins before freezing.
Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or Freeze as long as they will last.