Cracking Crumpets

Me and crumpets have got history. My first attempt was a complete failure; the batter was wrong, the cooking was wrong, the finished product was wronger than wrong. I ended up with a pile of stodgy, under cooked discs, which lacked that most distinguishing and important of crumpet features – holes. If they don’t have holes then the butter can’t get in. Enough said.

My second attempt was more promising, mostly down to the good advice of Bea, who suggested I use a different recipe and make a couple of tweaks. The batter this time was spectacularly gaseous and I was effervescent with excitement. The bubbles in the batter rise to the top during cooking and burst, leaving that essential network of butter channels. I thought I’d nailed it. Well, I thought Bea had nailed it.

They did produce some holes – an improvement on the first attempt, but still not good enough. Bea was flummoxed and I was inconsolable until some helpful soul ventured to ask the rather personal question, “how old is your bicarbonate of soda?” I hung my head in shame and squeaked out the admission: “don’t really know; at least two years, probably three, maybe four.”

That was back in July. Despite being certain that this embarrassing discovery marked the end of my crumpet woes, I just couldn’t face making them again until now. The thought of a third failure too traumatic perhaps? Well, it almost happened again; I forgot to put the bicarb in. I honestly couldn’t believe what was happening, but through the mist of disappointment and dizzying fog of frustration I just slung it in half an hour late, re-mixed, re-covered and hoped for the best.

And…it worked. Hallelujah! They were spongy and light, with more holes than an OJ Simpson alibi. Finally, a recipe for crumps that I can rely on, and of course I’ve learned a thing or two about making them along the way. Here it is:

1. Using rings is a right faff. You have to oil them repeatedly (until you can’t be bothered any more) and lift them up using tongs while simultaneously trying to release the crumpet with a knife. Next time I’ll freestyle.

2. Making crumpets takes time. If you try and rush them (by turning up the heat) they will burn on the bottom before they are cooked on top.

3. Keeping bicarbonate of soda for longer than two years is skanky and pointless.

4. I’ve made every single mistake in the book so you don’t have to.

Crumpets

This mix makes about 14 crumpets. Just think, if you remember to put your bicarb in at the right time, your crumps could have even more holes than mine! (Edit: Miss Marmite Lover has made a brilliant suggestion in the comments: she adds more bicarb than the recipe suggests. Obvious now I think about it. This is a brilliant way to get more holes).

360g plain flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
580ml warm milk
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Combine the yeast and sugar with 250ml of the warm milk in a bowl. Do make sure the milk is just warm, not hot. Cover and leave in a warm place to rest for about 10 minutes until frothy.

Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into another bowl then make a well in the centre and add the yeasty mix along with the rest of the warm milk. Mix this to a thick batter using a wooden spoon. Cover it with cling film and allow to rest in a warm place for about an hour. The film will rise up as gases build up inside. This is good. The result is an extremely light and aerated batter.

Heat a wide pan over a medium heat then turn down fairly low. Use a piece of kitchen paper to wipe vegetable or groundnut oil over the base so it is coated in a nice film. Do the same to your rings if using or you can freestyle (i.e drop blobs of batter into the pan). Allow to cook for about 8 minutes or so or until they appear ‘dry’ on top, then flip them over to toast lightly for a minute on the other side. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat as necessary. They can then be re-heated under a grill to crisp up more before serving. Spread liberally with butter and then rejoice in their holey juiciness.

A huge thank you once again to Bea. Without your advice I may never have lifted myself from the depths of crumpy despair.

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56 thoughts on “Cracking Crumpets

  1. Hi!
    I have heard of recipes using vinegar aswell as the ingredients you used. What do you think? I don’t want to end up with a dangerous mix….
    Search hov is crumpets and on the packet it says vinegar!, thank you!!

  2. Attempted these last night, tasty but a very disappointing lack of holes :(

    Think the problem was the fermenting stage, as nowhere in my flat is warm enough to get the yeast going! I will have to time the next attempt to coincide with the heating being on. Oh well, gives me an excuse to eat more crumpets I suppose!

  3. Foodycat – Excellent! Let me know how you get on.

    Ambulance – Sorry I just found your comment in spam so bit of a delay in publishing it. Glad to hear you need no conversion to the sinful ways of the crumpet.

  4. Chris ā€“ Crumpet y crumpet y crumpet y goodness. One of the finest vehicles for butter every invented. They look great and Iā€™m inspired to eat a buttery crumpet topped with lashings of golden syrup. So messy and so good.

  5. ha ha! reading this has got me so excited, I’m too excited to read it properly! Next opportunity I get, I’m going to make some crumpets, can’t wait! what am I doing tomorrow? how old is my baking powder? we’re in!!

  6. Jenn – ha ha! Maybe I will frame it myself, just so I don’t forget.

    Ginandcrumpets – Amazing colour, isn’t it? It came in a mayo jar as well so I had to e-mail to find out the flavour!

    LexEat – Thank you!

    The Ginger Gourmand – ha ha, thanks! You should give em a go.

    Johanna – well yeah that’s the thing, I never had a problem with cakes and stuff but I guess the bicarb is so important to the crumpet what with making those holes and all.

  7. those crumpets look amazingly good – makes me think it is time to replace my old bicarb – but honestly it still cleans up quite well with a bit of vinegar though I am amazed any of my baking rises

  8. Ailsa – Ha ha, yes I was very embarrassed! I just thought it lasted forever.

    Foodbridge – Well that bread sounds very interesting! What is it called? Do give the crumpets another try – this recipe definitely works. I would suggest adding a bit more bicarb too as miss marmite lover suggested.

    The Grubworm – Well they do spread out, obviously but they do still keep some depth, yes. Here’s one of my earlier attempts

    http://helengraves.co.uk/2009/07/crumpet-fail-no2-argh/

    They don’t have enough holes obviously but I’m just showing you so you can get an idea of what the shape is like. They don’t look anything like traditional crumpets though and according to ruth_dt above, they are therefore pikelets! I also really like her suggestion of using silicon rings, if you feel inclined to buy some.

  9. I’ve always wondered just how crumpets got that lovely rubbery, holey texture that soaks up butter so well. Will be off to try them (checking my bicarb first) as soon as I can. One thing, if you freestyle without rings, do they still get that depth?

  10. thanks for not giving up. I completely know how you feel about holeless crumpets. I am still trying to make a crumpet like bread- a Yemenite bread which also has distinguishing holes. I made them with holes once and since then they refuse to appear- I tried twice already. Perhaps I will give it another try.

  11. Those look fantastic! I bought a ring-thingy specifically for making crumpets but have not yet done it. And I hate to think how old my bicarb is so glad I read this before I attempted it.

  12. Hello ruth_dt – pikelets! I had to google them! I didn’t realise that they were flat crumpets – thanks very much for the info. Silicone rings are also genius. I must admit the rings I used are not crumpet rings at all, they are just presentation rings that I used as a substitute so I’m not surprised I had trouble. I love how they are making everything out of silicon these days – what did we do before the silicon pastry brush?! We got eggy glued together brushes that’s what, and we spent ages picking stray bristles off our pies. Thanks for your comment – very useful!

  13. I made these yesterday after seeing your post, and I have two thoughts for you:

    1. If you don’t use rings, you get pikelets. They are very nice, but definitely not crumpets.

    2. Silicone rings rock! I didn’t have to regrease mine once.

  14. Alex – I will endeavour to get EVEN MORE BUTTER on my crumpets in future.

    Gourmet Chick – Thank you! I did it!

    Greedy Diva – yeah I love Marmite on them too. Only occasionally though. Mostly I just have butter and save the Marmite for toast or soldiers. So many options, so little time…

    The London Foodie – yeah I saw Neil’s post too. I think I made some moany comment about not having made successful crumpets!

    Kerri – You must! Go forth and create!

    Sharmila – Brilliant! You MUST blog it so I can see your gunpowder!!

  15. These look fab. I love crumpets, and think I’m now going to attempt them this weekend.

    This may sound mega freakish, but one of my favourite ways of eating them is with a South Indian spice powder (not sure what it’s made of, but it’s usually called gunpowder), mixed with sesame oil. Butter the crumpets and then dip them in the oily spice powder. Sounds wrong, it’s so so right.

  16. I really admire your persistence, I get so disheartened if things go wrong the first time and almost always give up after the second. They look brilliant though so it was clearly worth it!

  17. Sarah – Yes they do look very glossy don’t they. Probably due to the obscene amount of butter I put on them! Don’t be scared off, this recipe works I promise.

    Eating Melbourne – Do! I’d love to see how they turn out. I think MML’s idea of using more bicarb is also excellent.

    Shayma – Thank you. The jam is wild blackberry, a Christmas pressie from my boyfriend’s mum who makes the most amazing jams!

    The Graphic Foodie – I know! I never even thought about it before. I clearly don’t do enough baking. Meringues are a tricksy one in themselves though, perhaps do a post about it so people can give tips? That’s what I always do!

    Jones – YES! Loving the idea of the expensive butter. Show those crumps the love they deserve!

    Bellini Valli – I am always open to new crumpety adventures so I will give your crazy Aussie fruit crumps a try ;)

    MML – The idea of using more bicarb is obvious now you say it. Brilliant. I’ll definitely do that next time.

    Sarah – Well no, not unless you want perfectly round crumpets! I mean they will look weird, but taste the same. You could always use pastry cutters or something as a substitute.

    Jan – Oh yes.

    Billy – Ha ha, I love how everyone else has the same old pot of bicarb in the cupboard. Don’t throw it out though, good for cleaning the fridge apparently! Then again, who wants to be cleaning the fridge when there are crumpets to be made.

  18. I also found that using more bicarb than the recipe I used suggested, produced more holes…and yes cooking them slowly is the trick…I wait quite a while before turning them over. I cook them on the cooler ring of the Aga.
    I buttered the rings with a brush, the crumpets shrank within the rings, making it easy to lift the ring off. However yes another hand would be useful..

  19. Never made them myself but I’ve had homemade ones before and they were fantastic, so different to what you buy in the shops. I’m so making these very soon, going to buy some expensive butter especially to go on them! And a new tub of bicarb as well, of course.

  20. so what kind of jam is it? it looks GORGEOUS. the crumpets look really great, Helen. e brava. and yes, next time i use smthg i have had in my pantry for ages (flour, sugar or butter in the fridge) i shall say: skanky indeed.
    ‘holey’ moly (forgive my corniness, but you started it, with ‘holey juiciness’!).
    jokes aside, those crumpets look great, helen.
    x shayma

  21. Lizzie – Ha ha! You know I love Marmite but not that much…

    It is Chris’s mum’s wild blackberry jam – a Christmas present. It is amazing. She sure is an awesome jam maker. If you don’t use rings, then they won’t stay round! They sort of spread out into blobs. I freestyled batch number two. They taste the same, of course.

  22. Superb! I love your “lessons I have learned” as well!

    The other day, I found some square crumpets in the supermarket. They were somehow more exciting than the normal ones. Anyway, my point is – freestyling the shape is a good thing :)

  23. Chris – Crumpety crumpety crumpety gooooodnesssssss. One of the finest vehicles for butter every invented.

    Ollie – Thank you! I will not be beaten.

    James – You can have whatever you like on em. I’m rather a purist myself. Even jam is a stretch too far (boyfriend’s jammy crumps pictured).

    Michelle – I will check out your recipe, thanks. They are totally different, agreed. The improvement is staggering.

  24. Now when I made mine last year they were not holey enough for me either. I used Elizabeth David’s recipe from English Bread Cookery, and she puts the bicarb in right at the end just before baking.

    So maybe you got it nearer to right than you think?

    or maybe I’d have got more holes if I had put it in at the beginning? (nice fresh bicarb btw, so not that problem…)

  25. I have made crumpets a couple of times, absolute heaven (recipe is on the blog, also took a couple of tweaks to get it to work)! Home made crumpets are nothing at all like the weird shop ones. Yours look lovely, perfectly holey!

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