Shop-bought crumpets can, as Elizabeth David said with characteristic disdain in English Bread and Yeast Cookery, be “terrible travesties…perhaps…delivered direct from a plastics factory”. Though I’ve eaten my fair share of those, toasted and slathered in butter, home-made are in a class of their own. However, they are tricky to get right.
There are two key issues, based on my experiments over the past couple of weeks. The first is the batter, the second is the heat level required to cook the crumpets through without burning the bases. I’ve tried to cover the variables, but you’ll need to trial the recipe in your own kitchen. I had more success on the Aga/Rayburn/MoneypitMonster than I did on my electric stove.
There are numerous different recipes available. Some use yeast alone, most use yeast with a later addition of bicarb. I tried several but after a couple of my experiments ended up in the compost bin I turned back to Mrs David. This is an adaptation of her recipe, which in turn owes a lot to Walter Banfield’s 1937 opus Manna, an interesting book but probably one best suited to bread nerds (like me).
You will need crumpet rings as the batter is quite loose.They are usually 2-3cm high: mine came from Lakeland. They’re perhaps a bit of an extravagance for an occasional treat, but when I tried my deeper food rings, I found the crumpets stuck to the sides and it was harder to gauge the correct quantity of batter.
The liquids, as in many bread recipes, are given in grams rather than millilitres for accuracy’s sake. You may need more than the stated amount, please see recipe.
150g plain (all purpose) flour
300g strong white bread flour
7g dried active yeast
580g whole milk/water, 50:50 mix
1 tspn sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
150g warm water
Put the flour in a heat-proof bowl and place in a low oven for five minutes (a hot tip from Walter Banfield and one he said was a baker’s secret weapon when it came to crumpets and muffins).
Warm the milk, water and oil to blood heat. Spoon some of the milk mixture into a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in it, then sprinkle over the yeast and whisk it in. Leave until frothy then whisk again.
Mix the salt with the warmed flour, stir in the yeast and pour in the remaining liquid. Whisk vigorously until it’s smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the surface is bubbling madly and starting to dome slightly.
Dissolve the bicarb in the warm water and stir it into the batter, then cover again and leave somewhere warm for half an hour. It should look something like this:
Lightly oil a large flat-bottomed frying pan or griddle and grease your crumpet rings with butter. I suggest doing a test run first – even professional baker Richard Bertinet says he always burns the first one and it can take a while to gauge the right heat. Put the pan on a low to medium heat and make sure it’s hot before you put a ring inside and pour in enough batter to come nearly to the top. Don’t overfill or it won’t cook through.
Read this paragraph twice. Cook very gently until the top surface has formed a skin. In theory this will take 10-12 minutes but don’t be a slave to these timings. You must wait until the whole top looks dry, otherwise the middle won’t cook. The crumpet should be a mass of little holes and if it isn’t, your batter is too thick, so add a little extra warm milk or water before making any more.
Once the crumpet has set, remove the ring, flip it over and cook the other side for two or three minutes. It should be golden on the bottom and lightly speckled on top. Once you’re sure you have the heat at the right setting, put four rings at a time into the pan and cook in batches, cleaning and re-greasing the rings each time, until you’ve used all the batter.
They may not be uniform or perfect, but I promise they’ll taste a heck of a lot better than shop bought.
Either hand them out as they’re cooked, as you would pancakes, or keep them warm in a folded tea towel or in a covered dish in the oven until they’re all done. Or cool on a rack, then toast lightly. They also freeze well, once cooked and cooled. Whatever, be lavish with the butter. You’ll have earned it.
Your perseverance is impressive and these look superb xx
Thanks, Nic. Took a while! Got there in the end, though.
They look wonderful. I’m still not sure whether giving house room to crumpet rings is worth it. Perhaps we need a community set of crumpet rings?
Thank you – and what a good idea! To be rented via the pub or WI perhaps. 🙂
If we had a pub …
Yup, same problem. We have a WI though. 🙂
how interesting. i’ve never seen liquid measures given in grams rather than mils!
Hi Sherry. It’s quite common in the UK when dealing with precise measurements for doughs, especially.
I have to admit I’ve never had a cumpet. Or at least not a proper one. Here in the US they sell something called an “English muffin” that looks something like this, with a similar bubbly texture. They don’t sound terribly hard to make, so I should try them and compare!
Over here, a muffin is related, in that it’s a yeasted batter baked in a ring, but it doesn’t have holes in the top and is usually split and toasted. But yes, crumpets are lovely to make at home. I await with interest! 😀
I have developed a recipe that I Use in my pie maker its very simple and the results are excellent
In bowl 2 tsps dry yeast
2 tblspns warm water mix well and let stand .
2 cups plain flour (i use bakers flour)
11/2 cups water plus 2 tblspns.
1 tspn salt
I use a hand held electric beater and whisk for 2-3 minutes
Add 1 tspn sugar
2 tspns baking powder
Add yeast mixture
Further whisk with the electric beater for another 1-2 minutes
Cover bowl with cling flim and i stand the bowl in the sink with warm water fo around 30 minutes..
Pre heat pie maker when up to temp use a ladle and put 1 ladle of batter into each pie recess. Cook with lid open for 10 minutes then turn over for 30 seconds. Place on a rack to cool, store in the fridge in a paper lined air tight container they will keep for at least 10 days. TO USE toast them, i use butrer and honey. They are every bit as good as shop bought if not better. Cheers,
Thank you, Brian, I’m sure readers who have a pie maker will find this very useful.
Having just heard Nigel Slater on R4 waxing lyrical about the joys of crumpets, guess what I shall be making this afternoon? Naughty boy opted for the shop version, but I agree with Elizabeth David.
I once interviewed Margaret Thatcher when she was touring M&S’s flagship store and she said to me: “Cashmere is so comforting, isn’t it?” which I felt showed a certain disconnect with the economic status of much of the electorate at the time but that’s by the by. Personally I’d opt for buttered crumpets for comfort every time. Dribbling butter down your cashmere cardie is an optional extra. And food writer Regula Ysewijn, whose opinion I hold in high regard, swears by M&S crumpets if you’re buying them in. 😉
Let them eat cashmere. Or crumpets 😉 !