A Nice Bit of Crumpet
How to cook the perfect … crumpets
It’s a delicate business but worth the trouble – just make sure you have enough butter to do them justice at the end
Anyone puzzled by the origins of the appreciative term “nice bit of crumpet” has clearly never had a good one. Well toasted, and decently adorned, these fluffy yeasted tea cakes are – and I don’t use this phrase lightly – properly, hopelessly sexy. Indeed, a fellow food writer recently told me her husband wooed her with homemade crumpets.
It’s possible to buy decent ready-made versions but as Elizabeth David observes in her English Bread and Yeast Cookery, crumpets are infinitely better “freshly cooked, warm and soaked in plenty of butter” – indeed the true connoisseur will continue to spread until it seeps from the bottom.
The problem that exercises many wannabe crumpet cooks is the small matter of the holes that separate the crumpet from the yeasted pancake. They’re surprisingly elusive; I dismiss two recipes, one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and one in a book allegedly devoted to crumpets and teacakes, because of the sad smoothness of the accompanying pictures. The pride and delight you’ll thus quite rightly feel when those first tremulous bubbles emerge through the batter will only add to the joy of the whole affair.
200ml whole milk
100ml boiling water
1tbsp dried yeast
150g strong white flour
100g plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
20g butter, for cooking
Mix the sugar, milk and boiling water in a jug and stir in the yeast. Leave in a warm place for 15 minutes until frothy.
Combine the flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Stir in the liquid and mix vigorously until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for between one-and-a-half and two hours until the batter is a mass of tiny bubbles.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with 50ml warm water and stir it into the batter. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Melt the butter and use it to brush the inside of four crumpet rings. Heat a large frying pan on a medium-low heat and grease the pan. Put the rings flat into the pan and ladle a spoonful of batter into each, so they are about half full.
Cook until the top is dry and festooned with holes, then push the crumpets out of the rings (you may need a knife for this operation). If eating immediately, toast the tops under a hot grill until golden, then serve. If you’re keeping them, cool on a wire rack, then toast on both sides to reheat.