Griddle-hot crumpets, with steamed sweet peas and heirloom carrots, all dotted with fresh-churned butter.
Yeasty as baked bread but light as a pancake, crumpets have been a mystery to me since girlhood. When I was a tot, my Girl Scout leader (aka Mom) put on a "breads of the world" activity for our troop. I nibbled through naan, challah, and lavash...but oh, then I came upon this wonderful spongey delight, toasty and fraught with curious butter-trapping crevices. I was enamored and mystified. While other breads could clearly be replicated in a home kitchen, I was ready to believe crumpet magic was wielded by a priviledged and professional few.
Two decades later, I find myself in a flour-dredged apron, laptop on hand, surrounded by simple ingredients and simple instructions, lamenting each slightly-stale and passionless crumpet I have purchased in these intevening years. Crumpets are divine, yes, and exceedingly simple.
Thanks to the Internet, I came across this marvelous recipe from The Bread Book (Linda Collister and Anthony Blake).
But first, my recipe tweaks:
1. I don't own crumpet rings, and since I was too hungry to run to Williams-Sonoma, I improvised. I used the ring from my miniature (4") springform pan to shape the batter, altough simple round cookie cutters would work too. Apart from having to cook each crumpet individually, this provided a perfect substitution.
2. I did not have bread flour, but rather, "Ultimate Performer" high-protein wheat flour. I suspect this is even gluteny-er than the bread variety, as I found I needed to add much more lukewarm water (~1 c extra) when thinning the batter to create a consistancy in which crevice-making bubbles would form. It's a trial-and-error process, so don't be afraid to play around with your batter until the crumpets bubble-up perfectly!
3. I was afraid of burning the crumpet bottoms, so I turned the burner down to medium after heating the griddle. Then, my first couple crumpets did not bubble well. I toyed with the heat until my crumpets were desirably holey -- a consistant medium-high worked for me, but the heat distribution may vary depending on the nature of your range and griddle material.
4. Cool these fellas on a rack if you aren't devouring them immediately. My first two cooled on a plate and ended up with soggy bottoms from trapped steam. I re-grilled the bottom side of these two and all was righted, but foresight avoids this extra step.
Fluffy, spongey, and steaming with bready aroma, these were the crumpets of my dreams.
(makes about 18)
2 cups (230g) unbleached white bread flour
1 2/3 cups (230g) unbleached all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 0.6oz cake fresh yeast (15g) or 1 envelope active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons) plus ½ teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ cups (510ml) lukewarm water
3 ½ teaspoons (10g) coarse sea salt, crushed or ground (gk: use about half this if you're not grinding your own coarse sea salt -- or, y'know, if you're measuring by weight, not volume, you're fine.)
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup (140ml) lukewarm milk
a griddle or cast-iron frying pan
4 crumpet rings, about 3 ½ inches diameter, greased.
o Sift together the flours and cream of tartar into a large bowl. Crumble the fresh yeast into a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the lukewarm water until smooth. If using dry yeast, mix the granules and the sugar with ¾ cup lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining lukewarm water.
o Mix the yeast mixture into the flour to make a very thick, but smooth batter, beating vigorously with your hand or a wooden spoon for two minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until the batter rises and then falls, about 1 hour.
o Add the salt and beat the batter for about 1 minute. Then cover the bowl and let stand in a warm spot for 15 to 20 minutes, so the batter can “rest”.
o Dissolve the baking soda in the lukewarm milk. Then gently stir it into t he batter. The batter should not be too stiff or your crumpets will be “blind” -- without holes – so it is best to test one before cooking the whole batch.
o Heat a lightly-greased, very clean griddle or frying pan over moderately low heat for about 3 minutes until very hot. Put a well-greased crumpet ring on the griddle. Spoon or pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the ring. The amount of batter will depend on the size of your crumpet ring.
o As soon as the batter is poured into the ring, it should begin to form holes. If holes do not form, add a little more lukewarm water, a tablespoon at a time, to the batter in the bowl and try again. If the batter is too thin and runs out under the ring, gently work in a little more all-purpose flour and try again. Once the batter is the proper consistency, continue with the remaining batter, cooking the crumpets in batches, three or four at a time. As soon as the top surface is set and covered with holes, 7 to 8 minutes, the crumpet is ready to flip over.
o To flip the crumpet, remove the ring with a towel or tongs, then turn the crumpet carefully with a spatula. The top, cooked side should be chestnut brown. Cook the second, holey side of the crumpet for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale golden. The crumpet should be about ¾ inch thick. Remove the crumpet from the griddle. Grease the crumpet rings well after each use.