Sourdough bread king Bryan Ford actually started his baking pursuits far away from the world of fermentation. At the time, he was stationed in New Orleans shaping rainbow king cakes and other traditional yeasted goods, but when he moved out of the city, he was looking for a bit of change.
Related Reading: 11 Amazing Ways to Use Your Sourdough Discard
“I wanted to continue my pursuit of baking,” Bryan explains, “to branch out into using a natural way to make my breads rise.”
He grew his first starter with rye flour, experimenting by baking a slew of different European styles, before settling on culling breads from his own Latin American background. These days, those inspired sourdough recipes can be found on his blog, Artisan Bryan, and his debut cookbook, “New World Sourdough,” Bryan’s space for basic breads and inventive sourdough creations.
New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads, $25.19 on Amazon
In this bread-baking tome, Bryan proffers plenty of advice on the basic sourdough boule, coupled with step-by-step visuals to guide you throughout the whole process. But the baker also carves out space for a slew of ways to use starter in other leavened breads. Wield that growing starter into pan de agua, a Puerto Rican water bread; seedy sourdough boules studded with hunks of plantains; soft flour tortillas; and semitas de yema, a dense brioche-style bread that Bryan grew up eating in Honduras.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with sourdough bread baking, “New World Sourdough” is a great place for beginners to learn techniques and tips from Bryan. His recipes are refreshingly straightforward—eschewing complicated jargon for easy-to-follow instructions—and once you’ve mastered the simplest of breads, you can level up to breads you may have previously thought were not possible to make at home.
“I encourage first-time bakers to lose their expectations of bread, and the concept of what they think bread is supposed to look like,” Bryan advises. “I want first-time bakers to cherish and appreciate the things they make and share them with their friends and family.”
Below, Bryan shares a recipe for sourdough English muffins. Bryan lived on the store-bought English muffins as a kid, but he felt motivated to try to recreate something better: a bread that could be a winning vessel for both sweet and savory toppings.
“It all starts with good dough and fermentation,” Bryan says. “From there, you want to make sure you get your dough flat enough before cutting them into disks, because if they are too thick they won’t cook well in the middle.”
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, $28.68 on Amazon
Bryan calls for cooking the pucks of dough in a cast iron skillet—the better to get the muffins a luxurious golden brown—and highly suggests dusting them in semolina and cornmeal for that classic English muffin crunch. Slice them up and spread immediately with butter, or fry up an egg and some bacon and make your own DIY breakfast sandwich.
English Muffins Recipe
My mom went through a phase of always having store-bought English muffins in the fridge. She would eat them plain, or for breakfast as a sandwich. To be quite honest, I was not fond of these at all and, naturally, this sparked the curiosity in me to figure out a way to create an enjoyable English muffin. The priority is to be able to create the nooks and crannies that make them a perfect vessel for sweet and savory spreads. Second to getting the texture right is flavor. I want the comforting flavor of an English muffin with a touch of whole grains and strong hints of proper fermentation. When they don’t taste like they’ve been sitting in a plastic bag for a long time, English muffins are actually quite phenomenal. A must-make item for any home that needs quick and delicious breakfast bread.
- LEVAIN BUILD: 50 g mature sourdough starter
- 50 g bread flour
- 50 g whole-wheat flour
- 100 g warm water
- FINAL DOUGH MIX: 250 g bread flour
- 100 g all-purpose flour
- 50 g semolina flour, plus more for dusting
- 50 g whole-wheat flour
- 50 g spelt flour
- 310 g water
- 100 g levain
- 20 g salt
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- To build the levain: In a tall jar or medium bowl, mix the mature starter, flours, and warm water until incorporated. Cover with a lid or clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 3 to 4 hours, or until doubled in size. You can use your levain immediately, or refrigerate it for 12 hours to use later or the next day.
- To make the final dough mix: In a large bowl, mix the flours, water, levain, and salt as instructed using Mixing Dough: Method 2 (page 27) until incorporated.
- Cover the dough and let ferment at room temperature for 6 hours. Refrigerate the dough for 15 hours more.
- To shape and proof the dough: Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and stretch the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and dust it liberally with semolina and cornmeal.
- Using about a 3- or 4-inch (7.5 or 10 cm) round baking ring or a cup, cut out about 10 circles from the dough. Place each dough circle on the prepared baking sheet. Dust the tops with a bit more cornmeal.
- Cover the English muffins and let proof at room temperature for 1 hour.
- To cook the muffins: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
- Dust the skillet with cornmeal and semolina.
- Place the muffins in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side until golden brown on the top and bottom and lighter on the sides, with darker bits of cornmeal or semolina on top. The time may vary depending on your stove.
- Let rest for about 20 minutes to ensure the inside is fully cooked before cutting.
Header image courtesy of "New World Sourdough."