O Holy Crumpets!

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Nothing compares to a crumpet. I won’t say that nothing compares to a homemade crumpet, because that would be a lie. Shop-bought versions are very good, and as most of them are destined for the toaster anyway, freshness is never really an issue. I lived off crumpets for weeks at a time whilst at university (crumpets with Marmite followed by crumpets with Nutella to be more precise) – not only do they last for months in the fridge, but at less than 70p for six, I was able to save my pennies too. You could of course spend these on the butter instead (I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to eat crumpets without it)…..Lurpak ‘slightly salted’ was our usual choice, but you could go crazy and splurge on some really good quality French stuff. But whatever the butter, as long as it melts and trickles down into all the piping hot holes…..that’s crumpet magic.

Crumpets are true Brits. We managed to find them in the supermarkets of Paris (alas no, not in the boulangeries), but they still remain elusive outside of the UK. Maybe this is what makes them so special; after all both the muffin and scone have long-since emigrated, been imitated and a little lost in translation…..some of their foreign counterparts are almost completely unrecognisable. Here, in Tokyo for example, in addition to being square (?!), scones are much denser and crunchier (the edges are usually quite crispy, which gives them a pleasant texture, but not strictly scone-like). They like to play around with the flavours and fillings too – we’ve seen chocolate chip, banana, black sesame, cheese and green tea to name just a few.

And so perhaps this is why crumpets are so cherished; it seems that no other culture completely understands them and the charm of their little bubbles. Below is a Paul Hollywood recipe, which is in fact very similar to one of Elizabeth David’s. Although many other crumpet recipes use simply one flour or the other, she advises combining strong bread flour with soft plain, and this completely makes sense. The higher gluten content of bread flour gives the batter a more robust structure and therefore the resulting crumpet a stronger honeycomb and a lighter texture. However the addition of a softer flour will prevent them being too chewy, and will ensure that soft, fondant-like interior that absorbs melting butter so well. The bicarbonate of soda acts as another raising agent and releases carbon dioxide upon contact with the hot griddle.

This is by the way, after many years of crumpet-gluttony, the first time I’ve attempted making them at home…..I can’t say I’ll be making a habit out of it, but it was good fun and tremendously satisfying watching all the bubbles pop. Mum and I took a special trip to Lakeland and Limited (any excuse) to buy the metal rings, and we cooked them on her old-fashioned scone griddle.

To make 10-12 crumpets:

175g strong white flour
175g plain flour
2 x 7g sachets instant yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
350ml warm milk
150-200ml warm water
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
Sunflower oil or butter for cooking

1. Weigh the two flours into a large mixing bowl. Add the dried yeast and mix through.
2. Heat the milk to blood temperature, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour onto the flour then using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until you have a smooth batter. Beat for a full 4 minutes to work the gluten in the strong bread flour – this is vital to increase the strength of the internal honeycomb structure.
3. Cover the batter with cling film and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes (you can leave it for up to one hour). The batter should rise quite considerably, and then begin to fall.
4. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt and beat into the batter. Add about 3/4 of the warm water, then keep adding until the mixture is the consistency of double cream. Cover again and leave to rest for a further 20 minutes.
5. Heat a flat griddle or heavy based frying pan. Grease the insides of four metal crumpet rings with butter or oil, and the surface of the griddle too (although very lightly). Sit the rings on the griddle over a medium heat, then drop two dessertspoonfuls of crumpet batter into each ring – just enough to come almost to the top. After 4-5 minutes bubbles will appear and the surface should be showing signs of setting. Carefully turn the crumpets over in their rings and cook for a further 3 minutes upside down.
6. Remove the crumpets from the rings, which can be re-greased and set back upon the griddle for the next round. The hot crumpets can either be served immediately, or left to cool and toasted later.

Be sure not to get the griddle too hot – this will result in burnt bottoms and undercooked tops. The base should be a deep golden brown and the batter just starting to set before the flip…..

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These are ready to turn…..

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Forever my topping of choice…..

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