Are you looking for an entertaining bread alternative? If so, you might want to give crumpets a try. They aren’t complicated and don’t even require an oven.
You can’t help but become smitten by crumpets if you’ve read much English literature. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, vividly describes ‘dripping crumpets’ as part of a delectable and sumptuous tea. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, one gathering is served a splendid meal of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle and Christmas cake, leaving everyone too full and sleepy to do much else.
Actually, crumpets originated in Wales as hard griddle cakes long before making their way into the British hearts. During the Victorian era, yeast was added to yield a soft, chewier dough and teatime would never be the same again.
Here in the US, we tend to lump crumpets and English muffins together, but in the British way of thinking, they couldn’t be more different. A crumpet is not a muffin. Although they can both be cooked on a griddle, the English muffin is more bread-like; it is split, toasted, and served as two halves. The smaller thinner crumpet is heavier (even called rubbery by some) and typically served whole.
The crumpet’s claim to fame stems from interior holes that are formed during the cooking process. While hot, the little cakes are summarily smothered with butter and/or jam, which in turn drips down into the craters of the crumpet— creating the havoc that is so dearly loved.
To make this happen, crumpet batter is thinner than English muffin dough. After the initial yeast rise, either baking powder or baking soda is stirred into the batter to increase the formation of air bubbles. While both tend to use rings to hold their shape, an English muffin is often a bit larger, but any size will do. I’ve come across stray rings and unopened boxes at local thrift stores. In a pinch, 5-oz tuna cans with tops and bottoms removed will also work.
As a savory alternative, try a few dressed up with seeds. I happen to have a handy jar of Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. Otherwise, a few sunflower seeds are delicious, or dust the tops with any or a combo of white and black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, and poppy seeds.
1⅓ cup AP flour
1 tsp instant yeast
¾ tsp sea salt
½ cup warm water
½ cup warm milk
½ tsp baking soda, 1 Tbsp warm water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or spray
1 Tbsp Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend; or sunflower seeds; or a combo of a combo white & black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, & poppyseeds.
Finish: butter, marmalade or fig jam
Tools: 2 to 4 3-inch rings
- Heat milk and water to 12-130°. In 4 cup measure, combine flour, instant yeast and salt; Stir in the hot water and milk. Combine all, then beat the batter with the spoon for 1 minute. Cover and place in warm spot; let rise in warm spot until doubled and bubbly on top, approx. 1 hour.
- Stir the raised batter down. Combine the baking soda and water and thoroughly stir in. It should be loose and batter-like; thin with a little warm water if necessary. Completely oil the insides of the rings and the surface of a flat skillet or griddle.
- Heat the skillet to medium low, until a drop of water sizzles when dropped onto it. Add the rings to preheat. Spread @ 2 Tbsp batter into each, barely fill to ½” thickness; level out the batter to rise evenly using floured fingers. If using seeds, lightly sprinkle across tops now.
- Cook 7-8 minutes, until tops begin to blister and bubble and edges firm. Rotate the rings to cook and rise evenly. Remove the rings, cutting around edges with a thin knife; turn crumpets over and bake 3-4 minutes on second side, for a total of 10-12 minutes.
- Clean the rings, oil them and skillet again; repeat process until all batter is used. Cool on rack. Serve warm, spread with butter or jam. Can be reheated in toaster. Makes 8 crumpets