How crumpets came into being is unknown. The earliest references to them are to be found in the late 17th century, when they were made from buckwheat flour and sound very similar to blinis, the small Russian yeast pancakes served with caviar. Elizabeth Raffald, the eighteenth-century cookery writer, described something very similar to today’s crumpets in 1769, by which time they were made from a wheat-flour batter raised with leaven — a piece taken from the day’s bread dough – and cooked on a griddle before being toasted before an open fire.
Charles Dickens was certainly partial to crumpets and, in
Their heyday was probably the 1920s and 30s, when afternoon tea would not have been complete without hot buttered crumpets and jam. You can certainly make them, but to do the job properly you will need some
Start by sifting the flour into a bowl with the sugar and yeast. Warm the milk to hand-hot and beat this with the flour to form a smooth batter. Cover the bowl and leave to stand at room temperature for 1 hour, when the batter will have more than doubled in size before falling.
Beat in the salt and bicarbonate of soda and leave to rest for 10 minutes, while you heat your griddle or frying pan dry over a low flame. You have now reached the tricky point of determining whether your batter is the right consistency: if too thick, the honeycomb of holes which is the defining point of the crumpet will not occur; if too thin, the batter will run from under the rings. Getting the heat just right is another determining factor of success: if too hot the batter will burn before it is ready to be turned; if too cool, the mixture will rise incompletely and be leaden. Test both with a spoonful of batter before proceeding. If too thick, thin with a little water and if too thin, beat in a little more flour.
Grease the rings and place on the griddle. Put
Eat at once or toast the pale side and serve with butter and jam or honey.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.