By Jove, she’s got it! She’s jolly well got it!
Ah, My Fair Lady, the film of the masterpiece by George Bernard Shaw. A quintessentially old fashioned English musical I simply adore – how can you not melt as hopeless romantic young Freddy lollops down the street, swinging lustfully from lamp post to lamp post singing On The Street Where You Live for Eliza Doolittle, played by timelessly, breathtakingly beautiful Audrey Hepburn. Well, I adore all but the ending – for all that I loved Freddy’s demonstration of his infatuation with Eliza, it pains me that Eliza did not end up in the arms of the much older, chauvinistic and not to mention grumpy Professor Higgins. For all his faults, they are clearly destined for one another, sigh…
Anyway, as Professor Higgins proclaimed in shock and delight, “by Jove I think she’s got it!” as Eliza finally mastered the art of elocution which had lead him to wring his hands in frustration, pout and spout insults as the young, impoverished Cockney girl failed to deliver the articulation and enunciation to make her a lady, I too berated myself in the quest to make the perfect Homemade Crumpet. Until today! Hoorah, I’ve got it!
Over the years, I have tried many a time to create anything which remotely resembles a crumpet. Hungry Hubby adores them – as I do, actually. A childhood comfort both of us enjoy for breakfast, snack or supper, we aren’t fussy when you serve them – as long as they come with lashings of butter which dribbles down your chin and wrist as you eat. Sexy, I know 😉 Despite promises to deliver perfect crumpets, recipe after recipe disappointed us both and although he never said it, I do believe Hungry Hubby wished I’d just give up flogging a dead dog and feeding him solid lumps of dough without a single hole to collect the dribbles of butter as it melts on the freshly toasted surface. Sad times. That was until my friend The Baking Moose mentioned she was buying crumpet rings and I tried to dissuade her from doing so, so loud was the ringing sound of failure in my ears from my previous attempts! I was wrongly convinced at this point it was impossible to achieve at home but once she posted her photographs showing the most perfect homemade crumpets I’d ever seen, I knew I had to have another go. I ordered some nonstick crumpet rings and waited impatiently for them to arrive. Alas, my first attempt looked nothing like hers BUT my Facebook followers and foodie friends rallied around with lots of helpful advice and today, I bore it all in mind and created these beauties.
It took just one more batch to figure out where I had been going wrong. The Baking Moose told me she felt that whisking the batter was important in aerating the batter and helping the bubble formation so I whisked it like mad in my KitchenAid. Also, I had to add a lot more liquid to my batter than she had in her recipe the first time I tried them. This time around, I bumped up the liquid from the start, needing only to add another 50ml or so as I cooked the crumpets to make sure the bubbles could rise through the cooking batter and burst leaving the characteristic holes behind which truly define a crumpet in appearance, anyway. This can be due to the flour you use as different flours, even different bags of the same sort of flour, seem to absorb rather different amounts of liquid. You may find yours need a little more or a little less. Also, I’d been making them way too thick – no matter how wide your rings are (and they vary a lot from brand to brand) you want a maximum of half an inch of batter or again, no holes for you!
Once you have gotten the perfect consistency (which is akin to the thickness of double cream) you need to work on the temperature of your pan. If you have one of those baking stones you do welshcakes on, that would be excellent to cook crumpets on but a flat griddle pan or heavy bottomed sauce/frying pan is just as good. If I were you, I would buy at the very least 4 crumpet rings (and nonstick ones just make it a lot less stressful) so you don’t have to stand at the stove top for hours, churning out one or two at a time! Once you are confident at making them, I would use two pans and 8 rings so you can make plenty – they taste so wonderful you will want a nice big batch! But back to the heat – if you are too timid, the crumpets may burn before they are cooked through and once again, you won’t get the holes you’re after. It is well worth preheating the pan until you can feel the heat if you hold your hand 5-6 inches above the surface for a few seconds so your first crumpet is perfect or you will have a pancake paradigm going on; i.e. the first one will be pants! The bottoms of store bought crumpets are quite brown and well done if you haven’t had one before and this is because the majority of the cooking occurs on the first side.
Crumpets are all about technique. I hope that my tips and the photographs here will give you a helping hand so you can create them with confidence too. I must say, even though the ones from the gallery at the top of this post are way too thick, both in the consistency of the batter and the depth of the bake, they tasted wonderful. If you live somewhere where crumpets don’t exist, let me describe their taste a little more. They are a very simple yeasted dough made with plain or all purpose flour so they benefit from being generous with the salt to bring out their flavour. Whilst yeast is the main raising agent, baking powder is whisked in at the end before you cook them and it works some kind of magic in creating a (stay with me now) spongy chewy texture which is unlike any other similar bread product. Hungry Hubby and I prefer ours lightly toasted and buttered as already mentioned but others prefer theirs sweet with fruit, compote or jam and others till pile up rashers of bacon and fried eggs for a substantial weekend brunch not to mention melted cheese and pickle for a supper time snack. Thanks to my blogger friend The Baking Moose, my Facebook followers and foodie friends, I can finally shout “By Jove, I’ve got it!” and keep Hungry Hubby is all the hot buttered crumpets his heart desires… 😉
- 450g plain flour
- 7g dried yeast
- 400ml cold milk
- 400ml boiling water
- 1tsp baking powder
- 10g sea salt
- Place the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer (or roll up your sleeves and prepare for a lot of whisking!) and add the yeast.
- Measure the cold milk into a large jug then pour over the boiling water.
- Using the whisk attachment, start slowly but steadily dribbling in the milk and water and once fully incorporated, turn up the speed and let the batter whisk for at least 5 minutes. By hand this will take at least 10 minutes. You want lots of air bubbles.
- Cover and leave to “prove” – well, in this case you wont see much of a rise more a lot more air bubbles and frothiness will form as the yeast goes to work.
- Once ready, whisk in the salt and baking powder. Put a flat griddle pan or large heavy based frying pan on to heat up on medium high – give it several minutes to get hot as too cool a pan will lead to hole-free crumpets. Grease your crumpet rings and spray or brush on some oil to the griddle/pan, place the rings in to heat up too.
- Make a test crumpet – pour in enough batter that it comes to no more than half an inch in depth up the crumpet ring. Cook until it become apparent the edges are cooking and becoming set and lots of bubbles are bursting on the surface leaving holes behind. If this does not happen, you need to whisk some more water into the batter. If the batter runs out underneath the ring, add some more flour – once you’ve made one, you’ll know how hot your pan needs to be, how runny your batter and roughly how long each crumpet takes to cook (around 5 minutes on the first side on my stove). Flip over to colour the top – this side will be quicker, around about a minute.
- If you are happy with your batter, carry on as above cooking as many crumpets as you have rings for. Note, when you flip to do the second side, the ring may come off – no worries, the sides will be set and it will hold it’s shape nicely. Re-grease the pan and rings as needed.
- Transfer to a rack as they cook. You could eat them hot off the griddle but I like to pop mine in the toaster for a few minutes and slather with good salted butter to serve.
- The crumpets keep well in the bread bin for a few days or will freeze beautifully. Add a couple of extra minutes to toast from frozen, no need to defrost them first.