Somerset Maugham once said "To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day." And one of my favorite English breakfast foods is the crumpet.
The perfect crumpet, even more so than the perfect english muffin, captures the tension between crisp and tender. The outside crunches as your teeth bite into it and are cushioned immediately by a spongy soft crumb that loves to absorb butter and jam. Oof.
After our foray to the Crumpet Shop near the Pike Street Market in Seattle a few weeks ago, I knew I had to learn to make my own.
I'd never made crumpets from scratch before, and to the best of my knowledge, I'd never known anyone who made crumpets from scratch before. When I want to learn a new recipe and have no teacher, I turn to the Internet, where everything is true and the advice is always good. (Ummm...)
Google turned up a few crumpet recipes, which I compared and contrasted. The one that looked the most promising was this one from History.uk.com.
I went to Sur La Table and picked up a set of no-stick crumpet rings (though they thought they were egg rings) for about $7, the next morning, I began the recipe.
The first try I started to measure our the flour until I realized just how much flour a pound and a half is. Good grief! I was trying to feed my wife and myself, not the Royal Fusilliers. I decided to halve the recipe.
The first batch of crumpets turned out poorly. The outsides were nice and crispy but the insides were still batter. And they didn't have that nice soft bubbly crumb where the batter had set. Basically, they looked like they didn't have enough oomph!
So a few days later, I adjusted the recipe and gave it a second try. This time, the crumpets were just the way I like them. The key was doubling the amount of yeast in the original recipe (or actually, keeping the amount of yeast the same while halving the rest of the recipe).
Here now is my adaptation of the crumpet recipe from history.uk.com:
3/4 pound All-Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups of milk - use butermilk if you like buttermilk crumpets
1 tablespoon dried yeast
pinch of sugar
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
Heat the milk to lukewarm - between 80 and 100 degrees Farenheit
Pour 1/2 cup of milk into a glass or bowl, stir in the yeast and sprinkle the sugar on top to feed the little yeasty beasties. After about 5-10 minutes, you should have a foamy head on the milk. reheat the rest of the milk to 80-100 Farenheit if it has dropped in temperature.
Form a well in the center of the bowl of flour and salt. Fill the well with the 1/2 cup of milk and yeast. Add the rest of the milk. Stir to combine, trying to fold air into the mix while combining the ingredients. Continue to stir until a thick batter forms.
Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 45 minutes.
After the rise, the contents of the bowl should look like a big puffy uncooked loaf of bread. Here's where the diet goes out the window - Grease the (preferably non-stick) skillet you will use with butter. Grease the rings as well, and place them on the skillet. Over medium heat, melt the butter and heat the rings until they are the same temperature as the skillet (about three or four minutes).
Raise the heat just a little. Heat control is very important with this dish. You have to find a medium between burning the outside of the crumpet while the inside is still batter, and leaving the heat so low that the butter leaves the crumpet greasy. All stovetops and pans are different - you'll have to experiment a bit.
Pour enough batter into the rings (I use about half a cup per crumpet) so the ring isn't overflowing, but so the bottom is covered. The batter will be sticky and tricky to work with, so be careful when adding it to the rings. Do not move the crumpet for five to seven minutes until the surface looks pretty dry and bubbles have formed holes throughout the top of the crumpet.
Carefully remove the ring, flip the crumpet, and cook the other side for two to three minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
When you're done with the batch, you can eat them right away with butter and jam, use them as a base for an openfaced egg sandwich, or let them cool and toast them the next day for breakfast.
I haven't tried the alternate method of cooking described in the original recipe - using a baking sheet to do a big batch of crumpets all at once - but if I acquire more rings, I may give it a go.