"Crumpets are the quintessential, afternoon tea treat, served warm with lots of butter. The soft, spongy crumpets we know today, reputedly, come from the Victorian era and are very different from early, flat griddle cakes. It is the extra yeast in the batter which creates the soft texture and the myriad of little holes on the top (so perfect for soaking up the butter)." link
Crumpets have never graced a plate in my kitchen. I've read references to English tea and crumpets, but have never held or tasted one. The commercial packages of crumpets at the local grocery look uninviting, more like wimpy, anemic cousins of the extra-crispy English muffins that I love. Now how's that for an unfair, blatantly uninformed opinion?! Sourdough Surprises chose Griddle Breads for the September 2015 challenge, prompting me to give this griddled yeast bread a try.
The ingredient lists and directions I found in various online recipes were simple enough. Crumpets sounded more like fat pancakes or thin English muffins - easy peasy, right? Well, not quite. As with so many seemingly simple things, the devil is in the details. Batter consistency, the amount of batter per crumpet ring, griddle temperature and the decision to flip or not to flip can drastically alter the appearance and texture of these round, crater-speckled little disks. Success is apparently to be measured by the quantity of holes on the upper surface.
I chose an old 1991 recipe I found online at the King Arthur Flour site (link). In my experience, King Arthur recipes rarely fail. Old Faithful, my sourdough starter, was refreshed, rested and ready for action, hanging out at room temperature on the counter near the stovetop. A heavy, well-seasoned cast iron, smallish mixing bowl, a silicone whisk and six metal muffin rings rounded out the equipment list. Ready, set go!
The simple batter called for four ingredients: 1 cup of sourdough starter, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Poof! a gazillion carbon dioxide bubbles form to fluff up the batter. My starter is fairly stiff, so I added 3 tablespoons of milk to loosen up the batter to a more pancake batter-like consistency. Why milk? I had read somewhere online that crumpets typically include milk whereas English muffins call for water.
Lightly grease the griddle or heavy skillet and the inside of each metal ring to minimize sticking (use well-washed tuna cans if you don't have crumpet rings). Preheat the pan and the rings for several minutes over low to low-medium heat on the stovetop. (I used a setting of 2.5 out of 8 on my electric range)
Ladle or pour some batter into the greased rings, filling no more than half way up (a scant 1/3 cup in each). This allows some space for the batter to rise. Cook over low to low-medium heat until the tops are set and bubbles stop forming (4-5 minutes on my range). Remove the rings and flip; briefly cook the second side for a minute or two to set up and add color.
Set the cooked crumpets aside, regrease the metal rings and repeat the above cooking steps with the rest of the batter. I added a few more tablespoons of milk to to the remaining mix to see if a smaller quantity of a looser batter would produce more holes. This time I ladled only 1/4 cup of batter into each ring.
This second batch produced thinner crumpets with fewer holes. What? The looser-batter test results were inconclusive, since the baking soda may have lost its lifting power oomph over time. No problem with taste however, these thinner disks still rated two thumbs up with RL as he ate one straight from the skillet.
Thin crumpets are tasty enough hot off the griddle, but are even better when toasted, rendering them fairly toothsome and crispy throughout. Fatter crumpets emerge from the toaster with crisp exteriors and soft, almost fluffy interiors. Blame it on my existing love affair with English muffins, but I like to split the fat muffins in half before toasting to crisp up the insides a bit more and minimize the soft texture. Add butter and honey and you might discover that crumpets are so good you can't eat just one. Go ahead, see for yourself. Then click over to Sourdough Surprises and check out this month's griddle cakes from other kitchens.
recipe from King Arthur Flour
yields 6 crumpets
1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water or milk
- Lightly grease the heavy griddle or skillet and the inside of crumpet rings (or well-washed tuna cans). Preheat on stovetop over low to low-medium heat.
- Place the cup of starter in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the starter and stir in.
- Dissolve the baking soda in 2 tablespoons of warm water and add to the starter. Whisk or stir into the starter. When the batter lightens and fluffs, you are ready to cook.
- Ladle batter into each ring, filling no more than half full. Cook over low heat until the top sets up and bubbles quit forming, usually 4 to 5 minutes or more.
- Remove the rings and flip to cook an additional minute or two on the second side.
- Set aside on a baking rack while you cook up the rest of the batter.
- Toast and spread with butter and/or honey. Enjoy!