Our first recipe is for crumpets, so first here is a little history of one of the UK’s favourite toasted brunch snack.

‘A thick, flat, savoury cake with a soft, porous texture, made from a yeast mixture cooked on a griddle and eaten toasted and buttered’ (OED).

Going back to when the Anglo Saxon migrants first inhabited Great Briton in the 5th century, the first recognised “crumpet” was cooked on a griddle and was arguably a hard pancake. Yorkshireman John Wycliffe was Oxfords leading philosopher and theologian. In the 1300s his translations from Latin in the Old Testament mention a “crompid cake”. Crompid goes back to the Old English crump, crumb, ‘crooked’, and is related to modern English crumple (reference link). Perhaps the crumpet was more of a ‘drop scone’?

Subsequently, I discovered a recipe from business woman and author, Elizabeth Raffald, included in her book ‘The Experienced English Housekeeper’ 1769. The book appears to be a favourite of Queen Victoria who copied small parts of the book in her diaries. Elizabeth’s recipe was first to describe a method but no yeast or baking powder was added at this stage. The bubbles were part of fermentation using a malt froth called a ‘barm’.

The Victorian era introduced German pressed yeast to the recipe, as well as metal rings. These gave a more cake-like appearance and consistent sizes to the crumpets. This was listed in Mrs Beeton’s ‘Book of Household Management’ 1861. At this time it was nice to find out that the humble crumpet was not a class related dish, but enjoyed by “urchins” on the street to the ladies and gents of high society.

In 1843 food manufacturer and chemist Alfred Bird discovered the first modern baking powder. His research was primarily motivated by the need to finding a solution for his wife Elizabeth’s allergies to yeast and eggs. I must comment that only recently in 2014 were allergen laws put into place, highlighting in the media the public’s awareness of allergens – 171 years after this breakthrough leavening agent was invented!

Subsequently, in the mid 1800s the crumpet had a little extra lift with the help of baking powder. This provided the lovely aeration and the broken bubble look on top that we know and love. At this point, I will also mention the “pikelet”, which was anglicised from the Welsh ‘from bara pygld’. This is the poor man’s crumpet and is a close cousin to the crumpet, except it is flat but equally delicious dropped onto a hot griddle and buttered.

Our recipe today is without baking powder and straight from Mrs Beeton’s book. She suggests toasting with a fork in a “bright clear fire, nicely brown on one side, but do not allow to blacken. Turn it, brown the other side; then spread it with good butter” … so we will see.

Recipe: Mrs Beeton 1861

6 portions using a 8cm x 2cm ring

Ingredients

  • 250g warm milk
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 225g sieved flour
  • 5g salt
  • 40g clarified butter or oil

Method

  1. Cream the yeast in the warm milk and then whisk into the flour then add the salt.
  2. Place in a bowl and cover and leave to double in size.
  3. Once risen and bubbly spoon one portion into a frying pan with a little clarified butter in an oiled metal ring then slowly cook over a gentle heat
  4. Turn over after 4 minutes and colour other side.
  5. Transfer the cooked crumpets onto a wire cooling rack
  6. Cut in half, toast and spread with butter eat while warm

Recipe: The Modern Crumpet 2019

6 portions using a 8cm x 2cm ring

Ingredients

  • 275g sieved Strong flour
  • 2.5g caster sugar
  • 14g fresh yeast
  • 7g salt
  • 275ml warm water
  • 1g Bicarbonate of soda
  • 70ml extra warm water

Method

  1. Combine flour, sugar, yeast, salt and 275g water in a bowl.
  2. Mix together to create a smooth batter.
  3. Cover and leave to ferment in a warm place for 45 mins.
  4. Now stir in bicarbonate of soda and 70g of water into batter; combine well.
  5. Once risen and bubbly spoon one portion into a frying pan with a little clarified butter in an oiled metal ring then slowly cook over a gentle heat
  6. Leave the crumpets to cook for 3 mins until the surface is full of holes and batter almost set.
  7. Turn over to cook on the other side. Both sides should be golden brown.
  8. Transfer the cooked crumpets onto a wire cooling rack
  9. Cut in half, toast and spread with butter eat while warm