Sunday, October 13, 2013

Conflicted by Crumpets

What is it about crumpets that makes them so endearing?  For the longest time these stodgy stepsisters of the elegant English muffin were hard to find, even unavailable in many American markets.  Perhaps the food marketers theorized, "Why bother, we have English muffins, don't we?" 

Crumpets from
Once sampled, I was completely charmed by crumpets’ dense satisfying yeastiness. They evoke in me a peculiar primal yearning that must harken back to ancient days of yore and early gobs of comfort food.  Best described as a spongy cross between a pancake and a biscuit, these heavy lumps of air-specked dough surely lodge in the intestinal tract for days ―maybe years. 

Crumpets' air of mystery could come from the special props required to make them.  As with the luminous pan for the lofty kugelhopf, or the shell-shaped molds for classic madeleines, special metal rings hold the batter/dough in place on a griddle until crumpets are set and firm enough to cook on their own. 

I toted a set of rings around for years and finally sold them at a yard sale - in their original box.  Truth be told, I was more than a little intimidated by the cooking process. 

My fears were quelled recently when the cheeky video, “The Great British Crumpet” from Titli’s Busy Kitchen, popped up on YouTube.  In her version, Titli manages to de-mystify the formidable art of British crumpet making. 


It looks like fun, I mused, but what about the rings?  In my pantry, I eyed two cans of tuna fish and sensed I had a close enough match.  Why did I need six anyway?  Titli gets by quite nicely with only two rings. 
Forewarned:  the tuna cans did not work.  Bumblebee has re-engineered their cans with a curved bottom edge, making them far too difficult to cut open with a manual can-opener.  Fortunately, Dole pineapple has not seen the need to do so.  I moved on―with one ring. 

The batter-like dough came together in a bubbly gooey mass and filled the ring mold, just like Titli's.  That’s where the similarities ended.   Even with adjustments to burner heat, the interior of the crumpets lacked their characteristic large holes and remained soggy when sliced.    

Of course, that didn’t stop me; I finished the cooking process in the microwave.  While steaming hot, I slathered a slightly shrunken version with butter, and proceeded to burn the roof of my mouth devouring it―but ready to test the next. One ring worked well with this method.  Unfortunately, my rhythm did not allow time to document my findings. 

Who knows when next I will be tempted to try again? I’m still digesting the last batch.    For future reference, here's my working copy of Titli's recipe: 

The Great British Crumpet
From Titli's Busy Kitchen

1 cup warm milk
¾ cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon each active yeast and granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt (my addition)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 

Proof the yeast with ½ cup warm water and sugar until it bubbles, about 10 minutes.  (My option; Titli combines all liquids here and proofing was very slow.)  

In a large bowl combine the yeast mixture, the milk, remaining water, and the salt.  Whisk in the flour until the mixture is smooth.  Cover and let rise in warm place until light, about 1 hour.

When ready, in a small bowl combine the baking power with about 2 tablespoons warm water and stir into the dough. 

Preheat non-stick pan with flat bottom over medium heat and spread the muffin rings thoroughly with butter.  When hot place, butter the pan, place the rings in pan and fill each with ½” to 3/4” full.  Reduce heat to medium low to avoid burning.  Allow to cook undisturbed until the muffin rises and surface is filled with bubbles (like pancakes), about 10 minutes.  Run knife around the edge to release and turn to toast second side, 1 minute or longer.  Wash the rings, butter again, and repeat.



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