Oh, Sweet, Sweet Crumpets…
Many years ago, I discovered something called crumpets for sale at my local grocery store. I think it must have been during my Anglomania days. It was a time when I craved all things British. Not sure exactly why. It all just sounded so exotic and normal at the same time.
Like any fad that, too, eventually faded. Battenburg cake became passé; tea was just too weak for an espresso-drinking girl; and english muffins just seemed illogical to me. Is it a bun or a muffin?
Crumpets, however, have never lost their lustre. As tasty as pancakes (though not nearly as sweet) and perfect for holding pats of melted butter and spoonfuls of jam. I can still find them in a few of the grocery stores near my home, but I’ve always wondered if I could duplicate them at home. My motivation was partly expense – surely, they’re cheaper if homemade – and partly taste. I wanted mine to be even more scrumptious than store-bought.
And there is where I hit the wall.
I flipped through cookbooks and searched the internet. There are lots of crumpet recipes out there, some more elaborate than others. The basic problem to all of the recipes I tried was the final look of the things. Crumpets should (as far as I know) be lightly browned on the bottom, not browned on top, and most importantly, crumpets must be covered in holes. The last part is the main difference between crumpets and pancakes. The top develops lots of tiny holes as it cooks. Those holes are what capture and hold anything you choose to spread on your crumpet.
Each of my attempts resulted in hole-less crumpets. The key, it seems, is to achieve the correct proportion of liquid to dry. The batter needs to be loose enough to allow the surface bubbles to pop as it cooks, leaving behind holes. If the batter is too thick (or even too wet), the bubbles may not form at all. Or worse still, the bubbles will form (making you think the batter’s perfect) only to pop, cook and leave the surface as smooth as a pancake’s.
I did find the solution. I came across a crumpet recipe by King Arthur flour. The crumpets that resulted were, by far, the best I’ve ever made. They weren’t as holey as the store-bought variety, but maybe duplicating what can be done in a factory is a near-impossible feat. I also adapted the recipe slightly by adding a couple teaspoons of sugar. Some crumpet recipes call for baking soda as a way to make the batter bubbly. I did try that, but found that it didn’t really make any difference. The key really does lie in the proportion of wet to dry ingredients.
For now, I’m happy that I’ve come close. But, rest assured, I will keep on tweaking this recipe until I get a crumpet that’s perfectly holey!
Here’s my take on King Arthur’s recipe:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (approx. 100°F)
1 cup lukewarm milk (approx. 100°F)
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1. Stir dry ingredients together until well blended.
2. Add water, milk and melted butter to dry ingredients. Stir well until batter comes together. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
3. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. If you’re using crumpet or egg rings, grease them well. Rings can be made from tuna cans that have had tops and bottoms removed. Otherwise, simply spoon batter into rounds in the pan.
4. Cook for at least 10 minutes on one side. Bubbles should form and pop on the surface as the crumpets cook. Commercially-made crumpets are not flipped. They’re allowed to cook on one side until the top has dried. If you’d like some colour on top, then flip the crumpets over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Toast crumpets and spread with butter and jam.