Friday, 27 September 2013

English crumpets

I love to send and receive post, and I know that I have mentioned it in the past, but there is nothing quite like packaging up a parcel and sending it to distant shores, or another part of the country, and bringing a little bit of snail mail joy to someone.So, when I was asked by a friend if I might be willing to put together a special package for her friend in Italy, I was more than happy to oblige. The lady in Italy loves crumpets, which are not available to buy in Italy, so the friend living in England thought it would be a nice idea to send her a recipe, along with the ingredients to make her very own crumpets. I was very grateful to my sister in law and her Italian boyfriend for their time and skills in translating the English recipe into Italian. I have a lot of admiration for people who can speak more than one language, which includes rather large proportion of mine and John's family!
I had never made crumpets prior to being asked to prepare this special package, but was more than willing to have a go at making a batch of the delightfully holey, squishy, yeasty treats. If you'd like to read a little about the history of crumpets, Wikipedia can help you out, as always.) Preparing the batter felt like a mixture of making pancakes, and making bread dough. The method is really quite simple - all that is essential is that you have plenty of time on your hands, as the batter needs to rest for a good long while before it is ready to be cooked.
Crumpets make me think of cold, Winter days and open fires to toast them on. I know that they can be eaten at any time of the year, but there is something so wonderful about having a family tea around the fire, toasting fork in hand, and crumpets freshly warmed from the blazing fire. (Note to self: we need to open up our chimney breast and build a fireplace, asap.) 

ingredients
450g plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp caster sugar
14g instant yeast (2 sachets)
350ml skimmed milk
350ml cold water
1 tsp salt
half tsp bi-carbonate of soda
oil for cooking

method
1) Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar & yeast.
2) In a pan, heat the milk until it's just warm to the touch, then combine with the water. Beat the liquids into the flour to make a batter.
3) Cover the mixing bowl with cling film and leave the batter to stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
4) Beat the salt and bi-carb into the batter, and leave to rest for another 10 minutes.
5) Heat a griddle or a heavy based saucepan over a low heat. Put a little oil on some kitchen towel and grease the griddle / pan and your crumpet rings.
6) Using a ladle, fill the crumpet rings half full with batter and cook over a low heat for 12 minutes. You can tell when the underside is cooked by the bubbles that form on top and the texture of the batter. Once bubbles have formed and popped across the entire surface of the crumpet, and it looks like the batter is drying out on top, they should be ready to turn. The crumpets in the photo below needed about 3 more minutes of cooking time before they were ready to be turned.
7) Remove the crumpet rings and flip the crumpets over to brown on the top side. Cook for 2-3 minutes to give them a lovely brown glow.
8) Continue until you have used up all of your batter.
9) Serve immediately with butter and your topping of choice (I love peanut butter, or marmite or cheese), or leave to cool, then heat in the toaster as desired. Personally, I preferred them heated in the toaster. John loved them both ways and devoured almost the entire batch with incredible speed.

A couple of notes:
+ I used these poachette rings to make the crumpets - they worked perfectly and did not need greasing, as they are covered in non-stick coating. This is obviously not essential, but was a useful feature, and they didn't cost any more than metal rings without non-stick coating.

+ A heavy based saucepan or griddle is essential for the crumpets to cook properly and evenly. There are a lot of non-essential items in baking, but I would say that in this instance, it's not worth trying to make these if you only have a cheap frying pan / skillet - I tried both our good quality frying pan and our old, cheap one. In the cheap pan, the crumpets burned on the bottom and were raw in the middle - not a good combination!!

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