I knew the word long before I knew the food. English muffins were not an uncommon thing, but I don't really remember having crumpets at all as a child. And when I bought them in the store one time, the just looked, well, weird. Holes on one side...do you slice it in half, like an English muffin? No...you just toast them and butter them and eat them. Oh, okay. And they were good. And that was that. Years ago.
Much more recently, Jen of Alien Spouse asked me if I'd ever tried making crumpets.
Well, no, I hadn't. But I knew right then that I would be doing so in the very near future.
I had a lovely morning of baking this past Sunday - two different batches of crumpets (from two different recipes) and the Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie post. So much fun.
Why two different batches of crumpets? Oh, because I'm just silly that way. Having never made them, I really didn't have one I could vouch for, and instead of just trying one, and maybe not liking it, and then wondering if it was the recipe or just me, I figured if I tried two of them, then I'd really KNOW. If that makes any sense.
I pulled recipes from two books - cookbooks that had sat on my mother's mother's bookshelves when she was alive, and had moved to my mom's shelves, and now reside on mine, since my mother downsized. Recipes are marked with narrow strips of paper or thin cardboard; words written in my grandmother's hand - "Pease Pudding" and "Rock Cakes" and so on....
First version comes from the book Great British Cooking: A Well-Kept Secret by Jane Garmey, originally published in hardcover in 1984, and in paperback in 1992.
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup water
1/4 oz active dry yeast (1 pkg)
1 tsp sugar
2 T oil
Note - In order to make crumpets you will need 3 or 4 circular cookie cutters. If you don't own any, a good substitute would be to remove both ends from an empty can that is approximately 3 inches wide and 2 inches deep. (I used 4 cookie cutters ranging from around 3 1/4 to 4" in diameter.)
Sift the flour into a bowl and stand it on top of the stove.
Heat the water in a saucepan over low heat until it is lukewarm. (I just used lukewarm water from the tap.) Take out 3 T of water and mix with the yeast and sugar in a cup.
Make a well in the flour and pour in first the yeast mixture and then the remaining water and a pinch of salt.
Beat hard for 3 minutes, cover the bowl and stand it in a warm place
until the dough is well risen. (This should take about 45 minutes.)
Beat the dough down and add a little warm water to turn the dough to a batter consistency.
(Eventually, I added a real lot of water in order to get it to what I considered a batter consistency. And just so you know (if you don't already) it's not easy to incorporate water into a yeast dough. The yeast dough behaves like a junior high school clique and it's really hard for the outsider (the water) to become a real member of the group. It can be done - it just takes determination.)
Grease a pancake giddle or a large frying pan with a little of the oil. Place the cookie cutters on the griddle or frying pan and when the oil is hot, pour in enough dough to reach about 3/4 inch high.
(It's me again. At this point in my crumpet-making, the batter was still on the thick and doughy side. It was too thick to cook properly (in my opinion) and it also cooked up too big, as you will see.)
Cook them for a few minutes until the bottoms are brown, the tops have become solid and holes have appeared all over the surface. (If your batter isn't thinned enough, you won't get the holes like you're supposed to. You'll get some around the edges, but not all through like you should.)
(I saw those holes and was all excited. But my excitement was premature, as the holes never appeared in the center area - just around the edges.)
(If the batter is too thick this will not happen and you should add more water to it.) (Yes. I can vouch for that.)
Remove the rings,
turn the crumpets (crumpets? They look more like English Muffins to my silly American eyes.)
and cook them for about 2 more minutes before removing them from the heat and draining on a paper towel.
(See what I mean? Um...London, we have a problem. These look like damn good English muffins. Thomas would be proud. But they ain't crumpets. See how the tops browned like that? And flattened? That's not what they're supposed to look like. There should still be visible holes that run all the way to the other side and stop there only because that was where the batter first hit the pan.)
Repeat this process until you have used up all the dough.
(I didn't repeat the process EXACTLY. Like I said, I finally thinned the batter so that it really was a batter and not just a loose dough...and I used less of it in the rings...but even when I got more holes appearing on top, they still flattened out when I flipped them over. Finally, with the last two rings, I just didn't flip them at all. Because I was irritated, and I wanted there to be crumpet holes!)
Anyway, here's the whole batch.
They still look like English muffins to me, except for the pale half-cooked two on top there.
We sampled them, and, as I expected, they were rather disappointing. But I believe some of that had more to do with my inexperience in making them than it did with the recipe.
Here's one of the
English Muffins crumpets, after I split it open with a fork.
Okay, yeah, we've got some nooks and crannies, all right. But that wasn't the plan. And look at all the gummy dougy part that just stuck to the fork. I realize it's not been toasted yet, but still.
It's still not all that appealing, is it?
Toast the crumpets and serve with lots of butter.
Makes 12-15. (I got 10, but I was using some larger cutters, too.)
I even took a "pretty" shot of a toasted one (one of the thinner ones), just...well...because.
(Okay, and we don't have a toaster at the moment, so I've been using the oven as a sort of palatial toaster when needed. It works just fine. But this batch of crumpets did NOT. Look how blah and gummy they are inside. Well, if you can't tell, trust me - they were. Even my daughter, who loves bread products more than she loves her pink sparkly shoes, handed her half of the greasy blob back to me and shook her head with a look of polite disgust. "I don't like it."
Okay, so...next batch. At least I've learned a bit about how the consistency of the batter is supposed to be, right? Maybe I'll have better luck with these next ones.
The next recipe comes from A Taste of London: World Famous Recipes With Nostalgic Photographs by Theodora Fitzgibbon. It was published in 1975 and appears to have gone out of print.
1 lb (4 cups) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 pint (2 cups) warm milk
1 heaped teaspoon dried yeast
2 tsp warm water
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Sift the flour into a basin and add the salt.
Heat the milk until tepid then dissolve the sugar in half of it, and sprinkle the yeast on top. (Do not make the milk too warm for you will kill the yeast.)
Leave for 10 minutes or until it froths up, then add to the centre of the flour with the rest of the warm milk and beat very well for 5 or 10 minutes.
(The book doesn't say how long to leave it, or how much you want the dough to rise, so I just go by the usual bread-making "until doubled in bulk" rule of thumb.)
Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the warm water
and add to the risen dough, then leave, covered, to rise again. (Sorry - no photo of that second rising. It looked a lot like the first one.)
If you have 3-4 inch plain rings (as discussed earlier, I used cookie cutters ranging in size from 3 1/4 to 4 inches in diameter), then lightly grease them, also a griddle, or a heavy frying pan, and heat them up as you would for pancakes or drop scones.
(Pancakes are the key here, at least they were to my brain at the time. I know about pancakes. I know about how the bubbles create holes all over the upper surface of the pancake while it's on the griddle, and so this kind of switched on a lightbulb in my head. Not just the fact that crumpets are supposed to have holes like that, but also - what it means in terms of the cooking status of your food. You want to cook these pretty much all the way through on the first side, and just kind of finish them off, color-wise, on the other. The thinness of the batter is key - I had to add a fair amount of water to the dough/batter after that second rise to get it to the right consistency), and associating it with pancake batter helps, mentally. At least it helps me.)
Put the rings, if using them on to the hot griddle or pan, and drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into them or into the pan.
(Okay, here we go again. I did that...)
(And here are the first bubbles forming around the edges...and I didn't fill them as full this time, either.)
(And now we've got some bubbles in the middle...)
Let it cook until the top is set and full of holes, and the bottom a pale biscuit colour.
(Isn't that lovely? Look at the CRATERS! And within them - more little holes! Yay! And - I know it's hard to tell in this shot, but if you look at the edge on the lower right, the color is more yellow than white. This is where the surface has dried during this initial phase of cooking. Most of the top is still white, but just let it sit there a little longer, and eventually the whole top of the crumpet will look kind of dry and off-white. THAT is what you're looking for.)
Remove the rings, if using, turn the crumpets over and let them dry out for 2 minutes on the other side.
Regulate the heat, especially if using electricity, so that the giddle does not become too hot and burn. (What I ended up doing, once I got the hang of the whole thing, was to lower the heat on the back burner use that half of the griddle for the finishing off. I kept the front burner at a higher heat (it's also the "power burner" on my stove) to do the initial cooking. That worked out nicely.)
Remove the crumpets with a cloth, and let them cool on a rack. When serving, toast them lightly on both sides and serve with butter on the top side (with the holes).
Makes about 12. (I think, by some strange quirk of fate, that I ended up with more than that. Hard to say - these were so much better, we all ate a bunch before I could count them. These - when toasted - were crisp on the outside, and slightly chewy inside, and deliciously buttery throughout.)
Okay then! That was actually a lot of fun for me - no, really. I like to compare recipes, for one.
(True story - years ago, some friends of my parents had a bumper crop of zucchini. I said I'd make zucchini bread. I'd never make zucchini bread before, so I didn't know which recipe to use. I looked through all my cookbooks (no internet way back then) and found, if I remember right, 17 recipes. Yes. SEVENTEEN. So I figured out how much flour and sugar and zucchini and whatever else I'd need to make one batch (which, in some cases, actually meant two or three loaves) from each recipe. I ended up with twenty-something loaves of zucchini bread. Gave some away. Froze some. Tried them all. I have no idea, now, which recipe was the best. Or which cookbook it might have come from. And I don't care. It was just a lot of fun - that insane marathon of zucchini bread baking.)
And, while I think the yuck factor in the first batch was MOSTLY my doing, I also think that, even if I'd done it all correctly, I'd still like the flavor of the second batch better. Maybe it was the milk in the dough. Or the fact that the first one only called for a pinch of salt and the second one had a whole teaspoon. Granted, the second batch had nearly twice as much flour and would need more flour, but, using that logic, the first batch should have had at least half a teaspoon of salt - not just a little pinch.
And so, if I were to recommend one version, it would be the recipe from A Taste of London.
And - if you are toying with the idea of making them at home, I say - DO IT! It's fun. They're yummy. Look on the whole thing as an adventure. One well worth the journey.
Especially slathered in butter. With a nice, hot cup of tea. Served on some of your great-grandmother's (if I remember that correctly) inexpensive china with the pretty pansy faces.
It's a fine, fine life.