On Crumpets and Earl Gray
Several years ago, for Mother’s Day, my heathens bought me a scone pan. This because they recognize that, when I can’t travel, I like to cook as though I was somewhere else–the result of a restless imagination. We ate scones frequently–still do–for our Sunday morning all-together breakfasts (which is not the same as breakfast in the altogether, so just stop that).
However, shortly after we returned from England after a school trip, my friend Teri, who had purchased all sorts of fun teas while there, decided that we should do a tea party in the teachers’ room. I volunteered the crumpets. Even though I had never made them. Still, I am of the opinion that, if there are directions anywhere in a book or online, I will find them, and I will follow them. I have a monstrous two-burner stove-top griddle, so that part was easy. What I didn’t have were crumpet rings. So I improvised, with canning lid rings. After a fashion, they worked, though sometimes after the crumpets rose while baking on the griddle, the beastly little cakes were nearly impossible to remove from the rings. I learned that lesson quickly: while canning rings will do in a pinch, crumpet rings are made the way they are for a reason. I was able to order some from Amazon, and I’ve never looked back.
Yesterday, a rainy day conducive to nothing else, had me whipping up a batch of crumpets for drinking with my pot of Earl Grey tea. Several people requested the recipe, so here it is. First-timers, by all means, use the canning rings…but if you like the result and intend to make these again, I suggest you invest $6 in some real crumpet rings. And a can of spray cooking oil, which makes greasing the things a heck of a lot easier.
3 cups plain white flour
2 teaspoons dry active yeast (that’s one little packet!)
2 3/4 cups of warm water, divided
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp of sugar or honey
2 teaspoons milk (the original recipe called for powdered milk, but plain old milk works fine, if you add it to the liquids; in a pinch, when the heathens have drunk up the milk and not let me know, I’ve even used coffee creamer)
1 tsp baking soda
2 TBS of warm water
Combine yeast, sugar and one cup of warm water into a mixing bowl. Cover and stand in a warm place for about ten minutes. The yeast should foam up. Add the milk here, if using liquid.
Sift flour, milk (if using dry) and salt into another bowl, and mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour; add the yeasty water and the rest of the warm water.
Using a wooden spoon, mix to a thick batter. Cover and stand in a warm place until well risen and bubbly, about an hour.
Combine the baking soda and the extra water, and add this mix to the dough. MIX WELL. Then leave this mixture to stand, covered, in a warm place for a further 15 minutes.
Preheat a heavy based fry pan or a griddle to a low heat such that oils will not burn or smoke. The spray oil works well; don’t forget to coat the rings (and recoat them after each crumpet, but be careful! Those babies get hot). Place enough mixture into the center of each ring to come almost to the top of the ring (leave enough room for rising). Cook for 4-8 minutes over medium heat, until bubbles appear over the entire surface, and the dough appears ‘dry’.
Remove the ring, turn the crumpet over and cook an additional 30 to 60 seconds to brown the top. Remove from the pan and cool on a cake rack.
*Note: the pan has to be flat, because the rings need to touch the pan’s surface all the way around. Otherwise the batter will seep out the bottom, and you end up with a mess. Don’t ask me how I know.
These crumpets are best served hot, with butter, jam, or for the lucky, clotted cream. If you’re like me, and you’re the only one home–this recipe will make about 15 using standard rings, but more if you use canning rings, which are smaller–you can refrigerate or freeze the ones you don’t eat straight away. Reheat in a toaster or under a broiler. Serve with tea: Earl Grey has never steered me wrong.
Earl Grey has apparently never steered Patrick Stewart wrong, either. Love that man.