There is something genuinely fascinating about any afternoon tea related object, image, note, type of food, drink… (you name it!) that instantly attracts my absolute attention and deepest interest. And this time it has been English crumpets’ turn.
One could say that nowadays crumpets stand between a pancake and a type of bread. These so called griddle cakes are made from a thickish, yeasty batter, poured into rings and then cooked in a flat griddle or the like on the stove top. Their soft, spongy texture and the myriad of little, crisp, toasted holes on the top surface (so perfect for soaking up the butter that melts wonderfully into them) are just their letter of introduction.
But for those of you who haven’t heard about of these lovely little holey creatures before, let me tell you something: crumpets, together with scones, are the quintessential, afternoon tea treat. As we know them today, these captivating treats come from the Victorian era, as any good afternoon tea treat worthy of the name can be. However, primitive crumpets were harder and flatter, for no yeast was used.
But as it turns out, English crumpets have a serious rival when it comes to breakfast and/or tea baked goods: English muffins (which we deeply discussed about some posts ago). Despite their many similarities, they seem to be totally different things. Generally speaking:
– Crumpets are made from batter while English muffins are made from a firmer dough. That’s why they are completely different in texture: English muffins are quite dense and more bread like, whereas crumpets are a slightly spongier.
– Because crumpets are made from a batter, they must be cooked in metal rings, (called crumpet rings) or they will lose their shape. You can also use egg rings or round cookie cutters.
– Classic crumpets have a smooth round bottom, and a top riddled with small holes.
– Crumpets are served fresh from the griddle and can be topped with cheese, bacon, honey, jam or clotted cream —although butter is the traditional crumpet topping.
– Crumpets are never split, unlike English muffins, and their dreamy spongy texture absorbs butter remarkably well.
It is believed that the English muffin may have been invented by someone who was trying to replicate the crumpet, which would explain the commonalities between the two:
– They are both griddle cakes.
– They’re both bready, round and generally biscuit-sized.
– They both absorb melted butter and other delicious toppings wonderfully.
– They’re also both considered to be a breakfast, brunch, or tea food, but not the kind of bread you’d serve with dinner.
In short, one way or the other, as long as it serves as a vehicle for melted butter and luscious jam, I’m in. Would you join me?
- 1 cup (125g) plain or all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (125g) bread flour
- 1 teaspoon (3g) dry active yeast
- 1 teaspoon (4g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk, lukewarm
- ½ - ¾ cup (125-175 ml) water, lukewarm
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Butter or sunflower oil, for greasing the pan
- In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm milk. Sprinkle with the yeast and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until frothy.
- Meanwhile, sift both flours directly into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a separate large mixing bowl if you're mixing by hand using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon).
- Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the yeast and milk mixture. Beat vigorously until you have quite a thick and smooth batter for about 3-4 minutes. It would be rather sticky.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- After this time, dissolve baking soda and salt in ½ cup (125 ml) of the warm water.
- Now, stir the batter well to knock out any air bubbles, add the baking soda and water mixture and beat with the spatula or wooden spoon until smooth and sort of creamy. Cover and let it sit again for 20 minutes more as you did before.
- Heat a non-stick, heavy-based frying pan, skillet or flat griddle over a medium-high heat (320-350 degrees F / 160-180ºC). Meanwhile, using a pastry brush generously butter or grease as many crumpet rings or egg or pastry rings as you can fit in the pan, skillet or griddle (in the absence of any of these, you can use round cookie cutters)*. 3-3½-inch rings would be just fine.
- Lightly grease the pan with a drop of oil or butter. Sit the greased rings on the pan for a couple of minutes and drop two tablespoons of the batter into each ring (it should come around 1,5 cm / ½-inch up the sides of each ring, but no more). Leave to cook until lots of small holes appear on the surface and the batter has just dried out and set. This will take about 8-10 minutes (la masa no deberá superar 1 cm de altura máx. dentro del aro). Carefully lift off the rings (Use an oven glove and take care as the crumpet rings will be hot), flip the crumpets over with a flat spatula and cook on the other side for a further two to three minutes, until golden-brown.
- Repeat with the remaining batter in batches in exactly the same way as the first, washing and buttering the rings well before re-using (In case the batter dribbles out underneath, it is too thin, so whisk a little more flour into your batter mix. If it's too thick, gradually whisk in the remaining water, one teaspoon at a time, until lots of holes form on the top surface).
- Serve the crumpets warm, generously buttered, with jam or any other topping of your choice. IMPORTANT: Crumpets are not usually split.
If you are making crumpets in advance, store them in an airtight container and then reheat them by toasting lightly on both sides just before serving.
- *In case you don't have any egg, pastry or crumpets rings, you may like to know that you can do just as well with the standard-sized flat tuna or salmon can -just take the tops and bottoms off them.
- The types of flour ratio used in a crumpet recipe may vary from 100% plain flour to 100% bread flour. When in doubt, try 50%-50% first and then try adjusting this ratio to your liking.
Sources: The Guardian, Food.com, The kitchn et al.