I have to admit - I don't think there is a better place in the world than my kitchen at tea time. The kettle boils merrily on the cookstove, sweet aromas fill the air. Children bustle about, excitedly telling their father about the adventures of the day. Sir Knight kicks back in his rocking chair, presiding over the whole affair like a king holding court in his throne room. As humble as our little kitchen is, the potentates of the world don't reside in such splendor. No matter what the day holds, our kitchen always calls to us, encouraging us to rest in its warm embrace.
In the winter, when the stove is bubbling along, I like to make crumpets to accompany our afternoon tea. Crumpets are quite unlike English muffins, in that they are soft, almost chewy. They have a pungent, yeasty flavor that is only enhanced by butter and jam. They are divine warm, just off the griddle, but are equally wonderful toasted or warmed in the oven. It is worth making a double batch, as they freeze well (however, ours never stick around long enough to freeze).
Although there are a few more step in making crumpets than there are in typical yeast breads, they are not difficult. Crumpets are not split, like English muffins, rather they are buttered on the top (there are lots of little holes, allowing the butter to soak into the middle). In France, they call them "Les Eponges" or "Little Sponges" because of the way they absorb copious amounts of rich butter.3 C flour
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 T yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 1/4 C water (lukewarm)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C milk (lukewarm)
Sift together the flour and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Mix yeast, sugar and lukewarm (110°) water in a smaller bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix the yeast mixture into the flour to make a very thick, but smooth batter, beating with a spoon for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until the batter is doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Add the salt and beat the batter for about 1 minute. Cover the bowl and let stand in a warm spot until the batter increases in volume by about one-half, 15 to 20 minutes.
Dissolve the baking soda in the lukewarm (110°) milk. Then gently stir it into the batter. The batter should not be too stiff or your crumpets will be "blind" - without holes - so it is best to test one before cooking the whole batch.
Heat an ungreased, very clean griddle or frying pan over moderately low heat for about 3 minutes until moderately hot; your palm will feel warm when held 1 1/2 inches above the griddle for about 30 seconds. Put a well-buttered crumpet ring on the griddle and heat for 15 seconds. Spoon or pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the ring. The amount of batter will depend on the size of your crumpet ring.
As soon as the batter is poured into the ring, it should begin to form bubbles. If bubbles do not form, add a little more lukewarm water (from the tap is fine), a tablespoon at a time, to the batter in the bowl and try again. If the batter it too thin and runs out under the ring, gently work in a little more flour and try again. As soon as the top surface is set and covered with bubbles, 7 to 8 minutes, the crumpet is ready to flip over. Cook the second, holey side of the crumpet for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale golden.
Butter the crumpet rings well after each use.
|Water, sugar and yeast "sponging"|
|Pouring the yeast mixture into the flour mixture|
|Beating the batter|
|Covered with plastic wrap|
|Doubled in size|
|Stirring the baking soda into the milk|
|Mixing the soda/milk mixture into the batter|
|A buttered crumpet ring on an ungreased griddle|
|Full crumpet rings|
|See all the holes forming?|
|I use tongs to remove the rings before I flip the crumpets|
|Crumpets, fresh from the griddle|
|All dressed up for tea time|