Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hot buttered crumpets, home made - you can do it!

(Edit - Sep. 2014: You can buy crumpets at most of our "open bakery days" - see our Facebook page or website to find out more - or come for a lesson and learn how to make them yourself. The recipe we use is slightly different to the one I started off with here in 2012 :) )

Crumpets are the one thing I could never find in international supermarkets in Tokyo. I've been known to line my suitcase with them on trips back to Japan from the UK, in order to fill my freezer upon arrival - as a fairly moist product they don't keep long at room temperature. Since crumpets are currently doing so well in the ‘favourite treats’ poll on this site, I thought I'd share some recent experiments so that you can create them yourself at home too.

For those of you who aren't familiar, here's what crumpets are, and how most people "make" them ;) (Video posted to YouTube by MarcusBritish.)

There is an abundance of recipes out there, some of which involve milk, sugar, even egg(!) and melted butter in the batter. The basic ingredients though, are strong bread flour, yeast, water, salt, and baking soda. You’ll also need a heavy frying pan and some crumpet rings.

You can buy crumpet rings at Tokyu Hands, alongside a range of different sized egg and pancake rings. Indeed, I read that silicone egg rings work well for crumpets, and that you can improvise with a washed tuna can with the top and bottom removed (with a tin-opener, I’m guessing). Failing all that, go free-style and make crumpet-like irregularly shaped ‘pikelets’ instead, by pouring small amounts of batter a bit at a time into the pan.

This is the most basic recipe I could find, as posted by Andy on www.thefreshloaf.com. Once I've got it just right with the basic ingredients, then I plan to experiment with sugar, milk and so on. In brackets I also included smaller measurements geared towards using just one of the 11g sachets of instant Japanese yeast.

Below the recipe you’ll also find a discussion of common problems I've either read about or experienced first hand, so you don’t have to ;)

Ingredients: (smaller batch size in brackets)
  • 500g (183g) of strong white flour
  • 10g (3.6g) of salt
  • 30g (11g sachet) dry yeast
  • 550g (202g) of tepid water
  • 1.5g (0.6g) bicarbonate of soda
  • 140g (51g) of cold water - this is best read as a guide as flours vary, my flour needed an extra splash of water to be loose enough to produce holes when cooking.
Yields 20 (about 7)
If you are using a hot-plate, the temperature should be just below 200°C. If a frying pan, use a low-medium heat.

  • Sieve together the flour and salt.
  • Dissolve the yeast in tempered water [30°C].
  • Combine these 2 in a mixer and beat on first speed for 2 (1) minutes to form a batter, then beat on second speed for 6 (2-3) minutes, or use a bowl and an electric hand mixer, or a spoon and some muscle power. If you're mixing by hand, be sure to give it a good long beating so as to form elastic gluten in the batter.
  • Cover the batter and keep warm for 1 hour bulk fermentation.
  • Dissolve the bicarb in the cold water and mix this solution well through the batter.
  • Use immediately, piping/spooning the mix into lightly-greased hoops, ready-placed onto the heated surface.
  • Pan/hot-plate should be clean and un-greased.

Serve them hot from the pan, or reheat them in a toaster/grill and serve spread with butter, with a mug of tea. Ahh!
Want more holes and a bit more colour, but getting there

Crumpet Troubleshooting Section: (further photos below)

Crumpets stick to the rings
The rings need to be free of any batter from previous attempts, they need to be greased, and then heated up standing empty in the pan before you pour in the batter. I found the best results with smoothing some soft butter on the inside of the ring with my finger (careful if you are using improvised tin cans!). If your rings are hot enough, the batter should shrink away from the rings as you cook.

My batter didn’t rise during proofing
You may have killed or weakened the yeast through excessive heat or salt, or your yeast may have been exposed to the elements and expired during storage. If you’re using Japanese instant yeast and are following Delia’s recipe, which advises heating milk to the “hand hot” stage, you may well scorch your yeast and render it useless - after investing in a thermometer, I discovered that my idea of "hand hot" was just over 50°C which is much too hot for the type of yeast I was using. Different types of yeast have different levels of endurance, but in general the optimal temperature range for baking yeast to work is 30 – 37°C. The 30°C used for the lukewarm water at the beginning of the recipe I listed here really doesn’t feel that warm at all to the touch, and so if you can get a digital thermometer (while you’re at Tokyu Hands buying the crumpet rings, maybe) it will come in very handy here, rather than guessing. Regarding salt, I have read that excessive use of salt can slow yeast down, and many crumpet recipes call for adding salt after the hour-long resting period for this reason. The ratios given in the recipe above worked for me however, so you should be fine adding the salt with the flour at the start as long as you stick to the recipe.
Finally, how warm is your kitchen? If you’re making these crumpets in the dead of winter and have placed your batter to rest near a drafty window, then the batter might get too cold for the yeast to work fast enough. You could put the bowl of batter in a cold oven with the light on, or under the light of your stove-top ventilation system if the kitchen is a bit chilly.

The crumpets are raw and doughy on the inside
Many recipes recommend a very low heat setting, and a fairly long 7-8 minute cooking time before de-ringing and flipping them over. 20-minutes in, I decided I was being too cautious with my heat setting, so I would recommend medium or medium-low. If your test crumpet forms holes within the first minute of cooking, then your temperature is probably good. You will still want to aim for the 7-8 minutes cooking time so that they can be cooked all the way through and the tops are completely dry before you flip them (soft and wet on top will cause your crumpet holes to be squished closed when flipped). Another indication of whether you have the temperature right is whether the base has browned slightly – you don’t want them too anemic on the underside. If the crumpets are too thick, then it might be hard to get the centre to cook through, also if you have only a few holes, then the heat isn't getting channeled through the body of the crumpet.

My crumpets have no holes!
Though utterly disheartening, this is your final hurdle. Firstly, is the problem no holes at all, or that they rise and then close in on themselves? If it’s the latter, then it could be that your batter wasn’t thoroughly mixed at the start when you added the yeast and water to the flour. This is the stage where your action with the wooden spoon or mixer, like when kneading bread, helps to link glutenin and gliadin molecules into long coily strands of gluten so that instead of tearing, the batter becomes elastic enough to stretch around the gas bubbles that form, and is strong enough to hold their shape when set. This is my present understanding, and it seems to work. When you are beating the batter, you will start to see a change in consistency to a noticeable elasticity, and if you pull the spoon or beater away from the mixture, you can see the batter has become slightly stringy. If the crumpets don't produce enough holes at any point, it could be because the batter is too thick – I added a little more cold water with baking soda to my first-attempt batter and the holes in the top appeared quite soon after the pouring. I’d recommend starting with just one crumpet first so that you can get the batter thickness that allows the holes to form, and then continue with the rest of the batch.

I’ll tell you a secret: it’s ok to fail at your first few attempts at making crumpets. I read somewhere (on the internet, so it must be true) that the “English muffin” was an American re-branding of a failed crumpet, certainly I'd not heard of them when I lived in the UK.., and almost all comment sections of online crumpet recipes are laden with tales of crumpet woe - particularly regarding lack of holes. I’m hoping however, that I’ve done enough testing and research that you’ll be sufficiently well-armed to get it right first time.

Looking forward to hearing how it goes for you - do let me know!

My favorite crumpet battle stories

Excellent crumpet recipes:
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15953/crumpets-and-muffins (as used above)

---- Update! ----

I made another attempt, with a slightly hotter pan, and thinner batter, and behold! More holes! holes inside holes!
We're really getting there - holes inside holes! And no poking!

I noticed that bubbles form quite quickly, popping and sealing over at first. Once the batter is drying out the popped bubbles retain their shape - as you can see happening round the edges first in my video.

This continues happening, spreading to the middle of the crumpet, and once the whole thing is set on top you're ready to flip. Since the inside might still be a bit unset at the top, you don't want to leave the flipped crumpet on the holey side for too long, as the weight of the thing might squish your precious holes. Now this is pretty good I'll experiment with the best taste, trying milk and sugar etc. Good luck with yours! If you get stuck, don't forget, you can come to Mornington Crescent Tokyo for a lesson

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your perseverance! It helps :)