Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

This Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman


March 28, 2019

When you're used to purchasing your favorite foods from a supermarket, it can sometimes take a while to cotton on to the idea that you could just make the thing for yourself. Consequently, I've spent the last eight years not eating crumpets and it has only just occurred to me that it doesn't matter whether I can buy them around these parts.

I felt compelled to share this discovery with you so that you, too, can change up your lunchtime sandwiches or introduce a new family teatime tradition. Crumpets, you see, are a staple of the British diet because they're a nice change from other bread products while still requiring only the most basic of ingredients.

You may be thinking that you already know of crumpets, but that here they are known as English muffins. Unfortunately for our collective tummies, this is incorrect and has occurred because the crumpet is a misinterpreted creature outside of Britain. From what I can make out, that's largely our own fault for assuming you couldn't possibly understand.

The American translations of Harry Potter, for example, renamed the crumpets JK Rowling wrote about for fear of confusing readers but the characters still did crumpety things instead of muffiny things with them. Actually, the crumpet is an entirely different beast that's made from batter, while muffins are created with dough, and they don't end up looking or tasting anything like the same.

A crumpet is a griddle cake with small holes all across its surface, which we appreciate mostly for their ability to hold the melted butter. They have an almost spongy texture with a crisp base and top if they are toasted before eating.

Crumpets have a certain nostalgia attached to them for many Brits, because a lot of us first discovered them through our parents or grandparents. Personally speaking, I grew up eating them with my mum and dad and have distinct memories of munching on crumpets topped with butter and strawberry preserves while watching a BBC adaption of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".

The Brits appear to have been eating crumpets since the 1300s, when a theologian from Yorkshire for some reason translated a word from the Latin Old Testament as "Crompid cake". I imagine he was hungry at the time.

Proper crumpets, however, came about several centuries later and were perfected by the Victorians. They were beloved by all, whether the street urchins hawking them for a sixpence or highborn ladies enjoying a crumpet with a cup of tea.

The crumpet recipe I intend to follow comes from Paul Hollywood of "Great British Baking Show" fame, so it's sure to be delicious. Combine six ounces each of strong white and plain flour in a bowl and stir in two sachets (7g each) of instant yeast. In another bowl, dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in 12 fluid ounces of warm milk.

Pour the milk into the flour and use a wooden spoon to beat it into a smooth batter. Hollywood warns that this will take four minutes of elbow grease but is the step that produces that holes, without which I don't see much point in the crumpets.

Cover the mixture for up to an hour (and at least 20 minutes). During this time, the batter will rise and then fall again, leaving marks on the side of the bowl.

Mix a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt with five to seven fluid ounces of warm water. Beat this into the batter, adding about three quarters of it and then a little at a time until the batter is of the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and rest for 20 minutes (I assume he means rest the batter, but you might want to put your feet up too).

Heat a flat griddle or heavy based pan and lightly grease both the griddle and the inside of four metal chef's rings. Sit the rings on the griddle over a medium heat and drop two large spoonfuls of batter in each.

After around four or five minutes, you should see bubbles appear in the top of the mixture and the surface should be set. Turn the crumpets in their rings and cook for three more minutes.

You can now either serve them immediately as a side or allow them to cool, then pop them in the toaster and slather with plenty of butter, which will drip down into the holes in a perfectly delicious manner.

As to what you should then top your crumpets with; well, the sky and your imagination are the limits. Traditional options (along with the mandatory butter) include preserves, marmalade, honey, fruit with syrup or yogurt or a sandwich spread such as peanut butter.

Sweet toppings are only one half of the equation, of course. You can put anything savory on a crumpet that you would put in a sandwich or on toast, really, from avocado to smoked salmon and cream cheese to a fried egg and so much more.

I've even seen enterprising souls create recipes such as "crumpet pizza", chicken curry crumpets, crumpet fondue, crumpetburgers and "huevos rancheros con crumpets". The last on the list is an entertaining smashing together of languages, but I'm not sure I'll be dashing off to make any of them, if I'm going to be honest. I'll stick with my butter and strawberry jam – why fix what ain't broke?


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