Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Crumpets – in Search of the Hole-y Grail

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Indiana Jones had it easy. To find his Holy Grail, he merely had to deal with rats, fire, gunmen, betrayal and avoid being chopped to bits by a ship’s propeller. Mr Jones would have paled in the face of my mission – to make the Holey Grail of the griddle cake world – the perfect crumpet.
So, what constitutes the perfect crumpet?
According to my true blood English crumpet connoisseur, it must be: “light and fluffy with lots of holes in it, but it has to have a certain chewy bite to it. It is best eaten toasted and dripping with butter, which needs to soak through the holes. The holes are very important.”
Being Irish, perhaps I don’t fully appreciate the finer nuances of this yeasty little devil which is little known in the Emerald Isle. Perhaps it is ignorance that allows me to laugh in the face of such a challenge. Bring it on, I say - oh, and don’t forget the butter!

For 12 – 14 crumpets, enough for 4 – 6 people, you will need...
... crumpet rings*
125g strong white flour
125g plain flour
1 x 7g sachet of quick action dried yeast
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
350mls water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter for greasing the crumpet rings

Place the strong flour, plain flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Heat the water to between 27°C – 35°C. (This is approximately when the water feels neither hot nor cold. Too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cold, it will just take longer to activate.) Add the olive oil (or melted butter) and vanilla extract to the warm water.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and slowly add the water, incorporating the flour from around the edges, mixing to a thick smooth batter. Cover and leave in a warm place until the surface is covered with little bubbles (about 90 minutes).
Grease the crumpet rings well with butter and place them in a large frying pan over a medium heat - 4 fit snugly in my frying pan so I make them in 3 or 4 batches.
Rub the frying pan with a little butter, just within the area crumpet rings. Wait until the butter has melted and the rings are hot (otherwise the batter will stick horribly and you’ll never want to make crumpets again).
Fill the crumpet rings a little over half way – they’ll rise further as they cook. I use about 60mls of batter per crumpet. Cook gently until the top looks dry and is full of holes - about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the crumpets over, and remove the rings if they will come away easily. Cook the crumpets for a further minute or so, until golden. Traditionally, crumpets are cooked only on one side but this results in a pale unattractive bread.
You can cool them on a wire rack and freeze them at this stage, for later revival in a toaster - which is the preferred manner of many crumpet fanciers. However, I prefer them fresh from the frying pan, smothered in butter - and large doses of an excellent homemade plum jam I was given recently.

*If you don’t have crumpet rings, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Spoon the batter into the pan to form little cakes – about 2 tablespoons of batter per cake. A crumpet without the support of a crumpet ring is called a pikelet – and is just as good.

Crumpet Connoisseur Verdict:
Light and fluffy? Check!  Lots of holes? Check !  A certain chewy bite? Check !
Would you like another - just to be sure ? Check, check, check !
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