I have been looking for a commercially produced English muffin that is not full of crap. By crap, in this case I mean high fructose corn syrup, but I'd also be pretty happy to find one that is made with only good ingredients (instead of chemical "dough conditioners" and preservatives), and in particular one that is made with real sourdough culture. Alas, they do not appear to be on the shelves of my local markets. I can get bread made from rice, gluten-free bread, and most recently bagels made without refined (or any) flour (thank you Silver Hills!), but the English muffin appears to still be under the stranglehold of Big Bakeries.
So, I dusted off my copy of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and discovered that, not only does it have a recipe for English muffins, it also is one of the few recipes that takes less than an entire day (or two, or three) to make. It calls for buttermilk, which in this case would be an acceptable exchange for sourdough, since sourdough and I have an uneasy baking relationship.
They look pretty good, I think, but they're definitely a work in progress. For one thing, they were a bit tall in the saddle - I had made the dough a little too stiff, I think, so they sat up nice and tall rather than expanding outwards as well as upwards when they rose. They also didn't have the characteristic bubbly texture in the centre, which I also attribute to the overly-stiff dough, as I've noticed with my pizza dough that if I make it too tight the bubbles don't form in the crust.
Finally, I think that my lovely cast iron pan was perhaps a shad hotter than strictly necessary, as they seemed to brown faster than I wanted. Perhaps I should have made a batch of pancakes first, since by the end of a batch I seem to have that perfectly seasoned skillet at just the right temperature, and then simply slid the muffins onto it then.
I will definitely have another whack at this recipe. I'm longing to make my own breakfast sandwiches, and I have some lovely merguez patties in the freezer to give it a go... I've been experimenting with adding semolina flour to my pizza dough lately, and since the recipe for the English muffins is very similar (VERY similar), and it makes it easier to make a good, tacky, soft dough, that may be the way to go.
If that doesn't work out, I may have to start a petition to one of the local bakeries to start making them.