I didn’t realise it, but crumpets seem to inspire strong feelings in the general populace. The yeasted crumpets we know and love today are a gift from the Victorians and, as such, everyone has had plenty of time to form very definite opinions about them. I told a friend – a generally good and reasonable person – that I had made and was eating ridiculous amounts of crumpets. Upon hearing I was eating them with jam (shock! horror!) he was scandalised at the notion that I was adorning them with anything other than plain butter, and I’m not sure he’s entirely forgiven me. He is a purist who insists that crumpets + melted butter = perfection, and I am a heathen for messing with this equation. Unfortunately for him, I also love crumpets with a layer of Marmite, topped with a layer of cheese, and grilled until melty golden and delicious (try it, thank me later).
My butter-loving friend is not the only one with strong feelings. I gave some sample crumpets to a couple of other friends of mine after I’d made my first batch, as even I struggle to eat ten crumpets solo. One of these friends posted a picture of one of the crumpets I’d made on Facebook to say thank you, and a person I don’t know commented, saying ‘That looks suspiciously like a pikelet…’. I just love the use of the word ‘suspiciously’. As if it were a spy in disguise, infiltrating batches of baked goods, pretending to be a crumpet when it was only a humble pikelet. There’s a pikelet vs. crumpet debate to be had (although, frankly, who has that kind of time?), but as far as I understand it, pikelets are made without crumpet rings and thus tend to be shallower and more freeform as a result. What I made, then, are technically crumpets. Not that it matters at all, really, as both things are delicious.
I know crumpets are a fairly unusual thing to make, and I can’t deny that it is (a little) easier to simply buy a pack of them in a shop than it is to make them from scratch. But these fine specimens, hot from the pan, tender with gloriously buttery crisp edges, are much nicer than any shop-bought crumpet I’ve ever eaten. Yes, you do have to let the batter sit for an hour once you’ve made it, but it’s a very simple mixture made from cheap ingredients you probably have in the cupboard already, and it will take you literally five minutes to throw together. Also, because no one really makes crumpets from scratch, you will feel like an absolute rockstar for whipping up a batch for appreciative family or friends on a lazy weekend morning.
The batter makes 10-12 crumpets, depending on how generous you are with depth and size.
This recipe is very unlikely to work properly if your bicarbonate of soda is out of date. I bake near-constantly, so I finish tubs of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder every month and am constantly purchasing new ones. However, if you turn out baked goods at a more sane rate then it’s perfectly possible that you have bicarbonate of soda that’s been sitting at the back of your cupboard for a couple of years. That stuff does go out of date. Check the label.
Normal people don’t tend to have crumpet rings. They are fairly cheap to buy, but if you don’t plan on making crumpets regularly I can see why you wouldn’t want to bother. But fear not! Just as with American pancakes, you can simply dollop the crumpet batter into a pan and it will cook away perfectly happily. Your crumpets will probably be a little flatter and more irregularly shaped (so technically pikelets, I think, but let’s not get into that), but they will still be completely delicious. Alternatively, if you have sets of cookie cutters (metal, not plastic, for obvious reasons) they will do the job too. Or you could just fill the pan and make one massive crumpet and slice it up, pizza style, to feed a brunch crowd. I haven’t actually tried this as the thought has only just occurred to me, but I can see no reason why it wouldn’t work and actually sounds pretty awesome.
275ml full fat milk
250g strong white bread flour
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Butter, for greasing
- Heat the water and milk together in a saucepan until hand-hot. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast, caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and gradually add the milk and water, beating with a wooden spoon, slowly drawing in more flour from the edges of the bowl as you add liquid until it is all smooth and incorporated (this is called the batter method, and is the best way to make a batter for crumpets, pancakes, Yorkshire puddings or whatever without getting lumps). Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the batter in a warm place for around an hour.
- Your batter should now be thickened, obviously risen and full of bubbles. Grease crumpet rings with butter (if using) and melt a knob of butter in a non-stick pan over a medium heat until gently foaming. Place the rings (if using) into the pan and dollop around 4 tbsp of batter into each (until the rings are nearly full).
- Lower the heat and cook the crumpets for around 10 mins. You want the crumpets to rise, form bubbles on the surface, and dry out all the way through. If your heat is too high, the bottoms of the crumpets will burn before they cook through. Remove the rings (with tongs, they will be hot) and flip the crumpets and cook for a couple of minutes more on the other side until golden.
- Repeat until you have used all of your crumpet batter. Eat immediately, toast later, or even freeze and toast to defrost when crumpet cravings hit.