Traditionally baked on a griddle or straight onto the hotplate of the range cooker, crumpets and pikelets can be made from the same dough with the addition of a little more water for the pikelets, but the method is a bit different. Pikelets are baked like thick pancakes and crumpets are baked in a ring so that you get higher, pillowy cakes. They are both often baked in advance and sold per piece or per stack so that you can heat them up at home. The British like to toast crumpets, either in a toaster for which they are the perfect size, or impaled on a toast fork over an open fire.
The thing that defines both cakes is the pale baked top with many holes, in contrast to the well-baked, brown bottom. Personally, I prefer a pikelet or crumpet that is re-fried in a pan or toasted. I know that sounds strange, but when I am in London for work I always buy a packet of crumpets or pikelets in M&S on the way home, with the prospect of an easy and quick breakfast the next day. That also means that you can easily bake and freeze them yourself. Simply defrost for a few minutes on the radiator or overnight in the refrigerator and you’re done!
You can eat both of these griddle cakes either sweet or savoury. For example, think of golden syrup that makes the holes on top of the pale cakes into little pools of syrup. Or with an egg and bacon, the runny egg yolk perfectly caught in the holes.
Mix the flours, buttermilk and water together and whisk until you no longer have any lumps. Add the yeast, mix well, cover and let rest for an hour. You can also make the batter the night before and let it rise, covered, in the fridge, then add the salt and baking powder on the day of cooking.
When you are ready to bake the crumpets, add the salt and baking powder to the batter. Heat a griddle or a cast-iron pan. Grease the pan by spreading over some olive oil with paper towel. Test the heat of the pan with half a teaspoon of batter. If it immediately colours, the heat is too high.
When the top starts to appear drier, you can turn the crumpet over, along with the ring, and bake for another minute, making sure the top remains as pale as possible. If you turn the crumpet too quickly, the batter will pour out of the ring. Don’t be surprised if your first crumpets are a disaster – you will get the hang of judging when the moment is right to turn them over.
Serve the crumpets immediately or freeze once cooled. Reheat in a hot pan or in the toaster. Toasted crumpets with lots of butter to fill the little holes is very traditional. Golden syrup is a classic accompaniment, but crushed raspberries and cream are a real treat too and will get you one of your ‘five a day’. One to two crumpets per person are sufficient for breakfast, depending on what you serve with them.
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