Wild Yeast English Muffins and The Third Plate

   The sun is very hot on the way home from the afternoon school drop. But in the shady “cut-through” the grass is still wet from the dew and my toes get a cool wash in my sandals. I remember how bare and brown this path was in May. How it seemed like nothing would ever grow there. And now it’s so green that the plants nearly block off the path. The sheer vigorousness of life here still astounds me. Each winter it seems annihilated and then each spring it comes flooding back. 

Despite the heat, in the kitchen I’ve moved on to braised meat and lentil soup. The cooler nights make me so cold in the mornings that warming food seems necessary even if it’s too warming by dinner time. Soon enough braises will be just right. 

I’m also in a frenzy to “put up” food. Unwanted apples and wild plums are on my list for the weekend. I have two jars of oven dried cherry tomatoes that I guard like gold and I’m trying to figure out how many squashes I’d need to buy to make it to March. But then a friend reminded me that I could let the farmers keep the squash fresh for me and just buy it at this winter market. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? 

The real answer is because I’m busy thinking of how to stop going to the grocery store for food. But let me explain. It all started with a book (as most things in my life do). 

I read Dan Barber’s The Third Plate slowly over the last several months.  This book has been wonderful because in it Barber points out that local food as we currently practice it is unsustainable. It does not support the whole farm/farmer and therefore won’t outlast it’s trendiness. However, he explains how it is possible to build sustainable argiculture and how creating a cuisine that uses all of the products of that system is what is necessary to make local food sustainable. I found this idea totally compelling and have been busy trying to figure out many things – like how to get the grains for rotation risotto – ever since. 

Barber focuses on chefs but to my mind it’s really home cooks who would make this change happen. So what I’m thinking is how to get the word to them?

It’s a big question, and one that I imagine I’ll work on for a while, but for now here are English Muffins. They are made with wonderful Maine Red Fife Whole Wheat flour and polenta (just regular grocery store stuff). Maybe one day they will be Rotation English Muffins with locally grown wheat, rye, polenta, and whatever else the farmer needs to grow to make great soil.

English Muffins:

Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe in The Handmade Loaf.

  • 500g red fife whole wheat flour
  • 50g whole wheat starter
  • 235g water
  • 200g boiling water
  • 50g polenta
  • 10g salt
  • 35g unsalted butter, melted

Bring water to a boil. Measure out 200g then add the polenta. Pour slowly and stir whilst you pour to avoid lumps. Let this mixture rest while you prepare the other ingredients. 

In a large bowl mix the flour and salt. 

In another large bowl mix the starter & 235g of water. Then whisk in the polenta mixture. Mix until all lumps are gone. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir. Once combined knead the dough together with your hands and shade into a ball. 

Pour the melted butter over the dough. And knead it in. Reshape the dough into a ball once the butter is combined. 

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Knead it gently. Let rest 10 minutes. Knead it gently. Let rest 10 minutes. Then left it rise for 6-12 hours. (Mine usually goes all day but I would like to try it at 6 hours to see if there is a less sourdough taste with a shorter fermentation time.) 

Knead the dough and roll out on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds – mine are 3&1/2 inches diameter. Place rounds on a well floured dish cloth and proof for 30 minutes. 

Then heat a frying pan (one you have a lid for) on medium. Do not add any oil or butter to the pan. Turn down the heat to low. Put in two or three muffins and cover. Cook 5 minutes and flip. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Take the muffins out and put on a cooling rack. Repeat the process until all muffins are cooked. You want them to be browned but not too black. 

I usually slice and then freeze them. They come straight out of the freezer and into the toaster oven. Yum. 

This is my first time doing a Sourdough Surprises recipe challenge! 

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