Late last night I realized we were out of chocolate ice cream. I had thought of notifying the UN for some relief but instead went for a trip to the supermarket. Generally I head across the street but I was looking for a little entertainment. so I ventured out. The Capitol Hill area of Seattle is a fairly trendy bit of real estate, mostly college students and hipsters a-plenty. There’s a QFC that’s 24 hours up there and somewhere around midnight it’s true neighborhood colors come out.
Most times I get there the same “team” of folks seems to be on, which generally means extraordinarily loud dance/trance music playing in the front of store. For a supermarket they have a mighty impressive sound system. The guy watching over the self checkout lanes has giant headphones on – like he’s a DJ mixing at a rave. Not to be mistaken, this is a giant chain supermarket. And please don’t think I’m complaining, it’s far more entertaining than the awful easy listening or Muzak that gets played in most places. It fairly makes my evening whenever I go. I’m also, for the most part, the only person with my natural hair color in the store. Green, red, purple, black, grey….anything but my boring brown. It is an event.
I got my ice cream and as often happens I was wandering around the store just browsing. I happened across the small few half shelves that often get stuffed with the more esoteric “international” food. I use quotes because I was in the small British food section which is for the most part some awful kidney bean soups, Vegemite, Marmite, and sometimes if you’re lucky Bovril. Bovril, for the uninitiated, is a meat extract, sort of like a bouillon, which is used to make a drink. Gack! Meat drink. Silly British.
Also making an appearance on the shelf was clotted cream. I love me some clotted cream. It’s a lot less nasty than it sounds. Clotted cream (sometimes called clouted cream or Devonshire cream) is a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms ‘clots’ or ‘clouts’. Sounds gross but think of it as a lighter colored butter. It’s great on crumpets, with desserts, can be mixed into mashed potatoes, or anywhere else you might think to use butter. You can even make a cream tea with it.
Thinking tea and crumpets might be a nice late night snack I looked around and found only English Muffins. Not the same thing. English Muffins are made with a dough. Crumpets are made with batter. I also grabbed some fresh raspberries and headed to the
rave checkout. I figured crumpets couldn’t be that hard to make, so I headed home.
I hadn’t completely thought it all through, however. That’s par for the course for me – not thinking things through. You see, crumpets, because they’re batter based, need something to cook in. You make them on a skillet. Because they’re shaped like an English Muffin, they need to have something to hold all that batter in while it’s cooking, otherwise you’d just have a pancake. Every recipe calls for egg rings or crumpet rings. A good substitute are cookie cutters. I don’t have round cookie cutters, or egg rings, or crumpet rings. And I wasn’t going back out to find them. What to do?
Not to be defeated I looked around for something to use. Julia Child has said you can use tuna cans with the bottom cut off. Great but what do you do with 6 cans of tuna once you emptied and cleaned them. That and I don’t have any canned tuna in the house. I finally seized upon a container of Ghirardelli cocoa powder. It was almost empty and it’s a fairly wide can. It’s also metalized cardboard, not plastic. I emptied it, cleaned it out, cut both the top metal ring and the metal bottom off, and then separated it into six rings with a knife and a good pair of scissors. Pictures will do it more justice, but you’ll want something that looks like those above when you’re done.
Before I started all this trimming and cutting I made the actual batter. Crumpets are yeast based and given that, need a bit of time to rise. In one bowl mix together 2 cups of AP flour, 3/4 tablespoon of baking powder (I know that sounds like a ton but it worked out perfectly for me), and one teaspoon of salt. Set that aside. In another bowl add 1 and 3/4 cup milk – heated to about 110 degrees F (I just microwaved it), one teaspoon of sugar, and add a teaspoon and a half of yeast. Allow that to bloom until nice and frothy, figure about five minutes or so.
Once the yeast has bloomed – it’ll look sort of gooky and frothy – make a well in the middle of your flour mixture and pour in. Mix this together and you should have a fairly runny batter, something along the lines of a pancake batter. You can add a little flour if it’s too runny or a little milk if it’s too thick. I ended up adding a bit of flour but I’m not sure that was even necessary. Allow that to sit for ten to fifteen minutes, giving the yeast some time to do its thing.
I used to that time to cut up the rings and get my skillet out. The rings need to be greased fairly well on the inside. I used vegetable shortening but I’d wager butter would be fine as well. I wasn’t sure that I’d made very even cuts on my rings, so I wasn’t sure if the batter was going to come running out when I ladled it in. To counter that, I greased up the bottom part of the ring really well.
I used a really flat skillet kind of pan that we use for crepes. It has almost no lip and is perfectly flat. A griddle would be the ideal surface, most likely. I turned the burner on medium low heat – 4 on my electric – to start. I also generously greased the skillet with butter. I set a ring down, filled it 2/3 the way with batter, held it down for a second to make sure it wasn’t leaking batter, and then moved on. In short order I had 6 crumpets nicely cooking along and not one leaked any batter.
I turned the stove top down to three – three and half. Crumpets cook over low-ish heat. The idea, at least in theory, is to allow them to cook for about 10 minutes on one side. That’s only a rough guide. What you’re really looking for are the formation of bubbles on the surface. Bubbles will bubble up, then pop. Once the top has some holes in it and starts to dry out a little bit, you flip them over and cook for another two to three minutes.
Every recipe I read said to remove the rings before flipping. I’d ignore that. I flipped them, let the other side set a little further, then removed the rings. Perfection! Cooking for another two to three minutes was about perfect. I removed them one by one.
Being late at night I just stuck a serving knife in the jar of clotted cream, rinsed my raspberries, and we were ready to eat. I’d boiled some water, pre-heated the teapot, and made a nice sachet of loose-leaf Lady Grey. Tea time in minutes!
These were better than any crumpet I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. Stores, restaurants…England. Doesn’t matter. Beyond a doubt, the best. These were fantastic. I kept my Ghirardelli cooking rings as well. I’m sure they’ll deteriorate at some point but for the moment they still are in decent shape and they worked the business.
For about 12 crumpets (give or take – depends on the size of your rings) you’ll need the following:
- 2 Cup of AP Flour
- 3/4 Tablespoon of Baking Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Sugar
- 1 and 1/2 Teaspoon Yeast
- 1 and 3/4 Cup Milk – Heated to 110 Degrees F
- Egg Rings, Crumpet Rings, or Your Own “Rings” made at home.