The key factors are a very wet dough, and over kneading the dough. It’s wet enough that I would be unwilling to knead by hand – super messy. I use a stand mixer. And I knead past the point of it stretching out nicely – it should break, much like it does when it’s not kneaded enough.
For about 8 English muffins
1/4 lb fed, active sourdough
1 lb all purpose or whole wheat flour (not bread flour)
1.5 tsp salt
About 11 ounces water (I seem to need more in the summer, and more water the more wheat I use). The key here is to get a wet dough that would be very messy to knead by hand.
I mix first with the mixing blade, then I knead for around 8 minutes, maybe even 10 or more if it’s all whole wheat, for a double batch, with a bread hook in the stand mixer. Stop it partway, and stretch the dough and see if it will form a smooth, translucent sheet. Once it does that then knead a minute more, until it breaks and will no longer stretch out smooth. This whole thing is harder to accomplish with all whole wheat, so it might be worth using some all purpose flour the first couple of times.
Then cover it and let it rise for 7-10 hours. It should at least double, but it’s not super critical. Even if it over proofs it’s not a problem. You can put it in the fridge then for up to 4-5 days if you’re not baking them right away.
For baking take the dough out of the fridge if it is chilled, and let it come to room temp – an hour or two I think. Dust a cookie sheet or tray with cornmeal. Using wet hands form patties. About 3-4 oz of dough makes a nice size muffin, but you can adjust the size to your liking. Roughly 1/2 inch thick discs are about right. Dust the tops with cornmeal. Cover and let them sit for 30-60 minutes. They’ll rise a little, but not much.
Heat a heavy skillet or griddle on medium (I’m using a gas stove, and I use the higher power burners on medium) until it is very hot. Using a spatula move as many muffins as will fit without touching, or barely touching, onto the dry, hot cooking surface. Cook for about 3 minutes a side. You’ll have to play with your burner and timing some. Sometimes I have trouble not blackening them, though no one seems to mind. I’m getting better at this.
Make sure you use a fork to split them all the way around, to maintain all the English muffiny holes.