CRUMPETS

We’re all doing our best during these stressful times to stay home, stay active and stay informed.  Hubby and I put it off as long as we could, but finally had to make our way into the grocery store.  Well, it was obvious that we were quite a bit late.  Needless to say, all the cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. were gone, but baking ingredients?  Baking is what I like to do to relax, and apparently, a lot of people share in this, because the flours, sugars, and all of the essential baking ingredients were also not to be found.  I was completely unprepared to see even these supermarket shelves barren.  It’s a good thing I had some of the basic items at home.

With that in mind, what challenge do I need to take on with my limited pantry?  Having just received the latest edition of COOKS ILLUSTRATED (a periodical I’ve relied upon for other recipes), there it was … Crumpets!  I’ve never made Crumpets before and felt the need to tackle something new.  The article was a full two-pages on how to make ‘authentic crumpets’, which should have been my first clue.

What are Crumpets?  I think they are most easily described as Britain’s version of an English muffin.  Perfect for breakfast or teatime, they are a home-spun, belly filling, crisp on the outside, kind’a doughy on the inside, griddle cake.  The best way to eat them is toasted and slathered with butter or jam, or butter AND jam.

The COOK’S ILLUSTRATED recipe called for “cake flour”, which struck me as rather odd, because this is hearty comfort food, not a delicate sponge.  Hubby said I needed ring molds.  Really?  COOK’S ILLUSTRATED didn’t say I needed them.  Why can’t I just drop the dough onto the griddle in rounds?  After trying to do exactly that, I can tell you, hubby was right … you’re  not going to get nice, fat, round muffins.  You are going to get something flat and misshapen like a pancake.  The recipe said to ‘scrape off the top of the batter, before flipping, to expose the beautiful air holes’.  Why that alone didn’t  make me toss the recipe aside, I’ll never know.  I plunged ahead anyway.

Epic Fail Crumpet Flapjacks

Three hours later, all 12 misshapen, gluey, tasteless griddle cakes went into the trash.  If you want to make Crumpets, I do not recommend the COOK’s ILLUSTRATED recipe.  I did, however, go through all my cookbooks, as well as online recipes and, after four more attempts, ended up making delicious Crumpets with thanks to Paul Hollywood. 

DIY crumpet ring molds

Not having crumpet rings and looking frantically for something to use, I ended up squashing some cookie cutters into roundish molds.  They aren’t pretty, but they worked. And with my final attempt to make these crumpets, I decided they should be a bit more nutritious.  Why not Whole Wheat?

Super easy to prepare … although the grilling part was a bit tricky.  You can easily use a bowl and wooden spoon, but I choose to use my stand mixer.  And, you can prepare the batter the night before and grill them in the morning.  What could be easier than that?  Eat them as they come off the grill, or make ahead and freeze.  Either way, when you’re ready to eat them, be sure to toast the crumpets til crisp and slather them with rich, creamy butter.  Here’s the recipe.  I hope you give it a go!!

WHOLE WHEAT CRUMPETS
Makes approximately:  10 to 12  4″ crumpets.  Cook time:  8 to 12 minutes.

1 cup bread flour (or all purpose flour)*
1 cup whole wheat flour*
1 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
*(or you can use two cups all purpose flour)

First, warm the milk in the microwave (not too hot) and stir in the yeast and the sugar.  Let it rest for 10 minutes until its frothy.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours and the salt.  Add the warm milk mixture and stir together until a thick dough forms.  If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment.  Let it mix for about 3 or 4 minutes.

No need to take it out, knead it and grease the bowl.  Just cover the bowl with a towel and put it aside to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

When it has doubled and will hold an indentation from your finger, it’s ready.  Mix together the cup of water with the baking soda.  Now comes the tricky part, mix this liquid into the dough.  It’ll be difficult at first.  I used a fork to break the dough up, and then beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it was somewhat smooth (but not perfect … still a bit lumpy).

After the water/baking soda liquid has been fully incorporated, cover the bowl again and put it aside for another hour.  When it’s ready, there should be bubbles on the surface.

Preheat a skillet, griddle or cast iron pan on medium heat and oil it a bit.  Not too generously.  But, generously grease the inside of the ring molds.  If you don’t, the batter will stick and you’ll never get them out.  Put the rings onto the skillet to get hot as well.

Using a ladle or tablespoon, spoon equal portions of the batter into the molds.  The batter will be sticky and gloppy.  Don’t be concerned.  That’s how it’s suppose to be.  Keep an eye on the heat to be sure they don’t burn on the bottom, turning it down as necessary.  They will rise and as with pancakes, they will be almost fully cooked before they need to be flipped over (about 6 minutes on the first side).  When the top has lost its gloss and the sides look firm, remove the rings.  The rings will be hot, so use tongs.  With a spatula, flip the crumpets over and let them cook on the other side for just another minute.

The crumpets should be lightly browned and ready to eat.  Move them to a rack and let them cool for a bit, as they will continue to cook on the inside for a minute or two.  Re-grease the ring molds and put them back on the griddle to heat up and then ladle in more batter.  Keep going until all the batter is gone.  Depending upon the size of the rings, this recipe will make 8 to 12 crumpets.

Whole Wheat Crumpets

Crumpets are delicious hot off the griddle with a generous slathering of butter.  If you are going to toast them, don’t slice them open.  They aren’t English muffins.  We really liked the whole wheat flour, giving these crumpets a darker color, rich nutty flavor.  Half of them were gone, the moment they came off the griddle.  I wrapped the others, put them into the freezer, and they’ll be perfect for the weekend.


If you make them, please be sure to let me know how they came out.
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

_____________________________________________________________________________

THE MUFFIN MAN

Do you know the muffin man … the muffin man … the muffin man?  Well, if you mean the one who lives on Drury Lane … Yes, I know the muffin man!   I am dating myself now, quite certainly, by recalling this childhood song.  I doubt any millennials can sing it, or have ever heard of it.  But one thing I do know is that I love English muffins.  Doesn’t everyone?  Splitting an English muffin in half, toasting it and spreading it softened butter and jam has to be one of the best breakfasts I know of … although they weren’t originally intended to be eaten that way.

In America we think of ‘muffins’ s as small hearty, cake-like breakfast items, which may or may not be made with fruit and nuts.  These are not to be confused with English muffins, which we sometimes call “crumpets”.  Although both did originate in England and both are griddle cakes, technically, a “crumpet” is a bread-like dough using baking powder as its leavening agent, while “muffins” use the same bread-like dough but with yeast as its leavening agent.  Also, crumpets are meant to be eaten without slicing open … muffins are sliced open.  Confusing, I know.

If you’ve watched Downton Abbey, or Upstairs Downstairs, you know that all wealthy aristocratic families had their own kitchen staff which, depending upon the size of the household, included cooks and bakers.  The “muffin” or “crumpet” originated from the leftover dough the bakers would be baking that day.  He or she would take the leftover bits, roll them up into a ball, flatten them and toss them onto a hot griddle.  These would then be enjoyed by the “downstairs” staff at tea time.  These crusty morsels were such a tasty hit, the “upstairs” family wanted them too.  It wasn’t long before these bready treats were also being served “upstairs” at tea time.

The word quickly spread about these delicious, small, round grilled rolls.  And soon bakers everywhere were making them and peddling them on the streets to the working classes.  At that time it was far too dangerous for city homes and apartments to have an indoor working oven.  As a result most people could not do their own baking.  So this inexpensive bread roll became an easy breakfast to grab and go while on the way to work.  Early in the morning, on the streets of London, with a wooden board balanced on his head and a bell in hand, the “muffin man” would walk up and down the “lanes” ringing his bell to signal his arrival.

And now that we know who the muffin man was, let’s make some muffins!  I’m using British bread baker, Paul Hollywood’s recipe.  Not quite sure how they are going to turn out, but let’s have fun trying.

ENGLISH MUFFINS
Makes 8 to 10 good-sized muffins.  Prep time:  about 2 to 3 hours.

2-1/3 cups white, bread flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 medium-sized egg at room temperature, beaten
2/3 cup milk, warmed
vegetable oil
corn meal

This makes a VERY wet, soft and sticky dough and can be tricky to handle.  Should it get too sticky while kneading, let it rest for ten minutes.  The gluten will relax and then go back to kneading.

In a large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment (or by hand), mix all the dry ingredients together.  You may want to dissolve the dry yeast in the warmed milk, or not.  It’s up to you.  If you dissolve the yeast in the warmed (not hot) milk, it will shorten the proving time a bit.

Add the milk (yeast mixture), beaten egg and softened butter.  Beat all the ingredients together until smooth, glossy and the dough has formed a ball.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and let it rest for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, begin kneading.  It  will be STICKY.  Don’t add more flour or you will change the structure of the dough.  Continue kneading (scraping the board if necessary) until the dough has stopped sticking and is smooth and shiny.  This will take about 15 minutes.

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to double in size.  If you want to make the dough at night to cook in the morning, just place the dough into the refrigerator.  This will slow down the proving process.

When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a lightly floured board which has been dusted with corn meal.  Roll the dough out like a pizza to about 1″ thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, dusted with flour (or tuna fish can, which is what I use), cut out the ‘muffins’.  You should get between 8 and 10.

Place the muffins onto a parchment lined sheet which has also been dusted with corn meal.  Cover the muffins lightly with plastic wrap and let them rest for about 30 minutes.

Preheat a stove-top griddle over medium heat.  Lightly oil the griddle.  If you prefer to oven bake them, preheat the oven to 350° and use a heated pizza stone.  When the griddle is ready, toss the biscuits onto the surface and cook them for about 10 minutes or more on each size, depending upon the thickness of the muffins.  Baking will take about 25 minutes (flipping them over half way).

When done, move them to a wire rack to cool.  Then put the kettle on, get the butter and jam.  Slice one open and lash on the goodness.  You deserve it.  Honestly, once I realized how to work with such a sticky dough, they were quite easy.  Now they are going to be a weekly treat … perfect for a weekend breakfast.

Ella Fitzgerald can even make this little ditty sound good.  Listen ……

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
References:  Kitchen Project, The Foodies Companion, Bread Through History, BBC Food

_____________________________________________________________________________

BLACK PUDDING or BLOOD PUDDING??

Growing up my Dad would tell us how he loved blood pudding.  He would regale us with how wonderful it was, how it was something he had grown up with, but could never find …. and when he did find it, on a menu in some obscure little diner, that place then became his favorite restaurant of all time!   On occasion my Grandmother (his mother) would find a way to get her hands on some.  We never knew how she got it, but when she fried it up with some eggs and toast, it was the treat of all treats for my Dad.

Blood Pudding

Blood Pudding

As children, would we eat it?  Are you kidding?  Pudding made out of “BLOOD”! Just the name alone was frightening.  Even if he called it by its other popular name, ‘black sausage’, I think our young taste buds would have vehemently declined the invitation.  At that time, blood pudding (black pudding, blood sausage)  wasn’t made in New England.  At least not that we knew.  It was only available if someone coming from the “old country” secretly tucked it into their suitcase when they made the trip over, which didn’t happen often.

The first time I went to Ireland, I was amazed that blood pudding was on every breakfast menu. People were eating it … and enjoying it!!  Huh?  No longer a child screwing up my face at every food that didn’t sound good, I decided I’d be brave, I’d be an adult, I’d try it … which I did. Meaty, but with more texture, a hint of spice, but not overpowering.  Bloody?  Yes, but no more than a good rare steak.  Sliced and fried up, it had a great crunch.  Hmmm, was I missing something all these years?

Black pudding in the dairy case at the airport.

Black pudding in the dairy case at the airport.

Going through the airport on my way back home, there was blood pudding available for sale in the dairy case at the duty free shops.  I HAD to bring some home to my Dad!  How could I not!!  So, I bought it …. and, yes, I “tucked” it into my carry-on, hoping that it wouldn’t be discovered (which it wasn’t).

Blood pudding ….. known by various different names in the U.K., is also very popular in other countries.   In Germany, it is blutwurst …. boudin noir in France …. buristo in northern Italy and sanguinaccio in southern Italy.  In Spain, it is called morcilla.  This delicious and very popular sausage originated from the days when no part of the freshly-slaughtered pig went unused.  The ‘sausage’ itself was created as a way of preserving meat.  Historians can trace sausage making back to 2000 B.C.  and even earlier.  Homer’s the Odyssey, written about 1000 B.C., appears to be the oldest written word about sausage.  “there are some goats’ paunches down at the fire, which we have filled with blood and fat, and set aside for supper; he who is victorious and proves himself to be the better man shall have his pick of the lot”.

And in the  satirical play by Aristophanes in 424 B.C., the sausage is described as the perfect preparation for a politician:  “Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savory that pleases them.”

A traditional 'fry up'.

A traditional ‘fry up’.

In our ever-shrinking world, imported blood pudding is now sold everywhere in New England, generally available in the refrigerated or freezer section of the supermarket.   Sales of blood/black pudding have made a remarkable turnaround …. up by 25% this year alone.

Made with fresh pigs’ blood and a filler such as oatmeal, barley or buckwheat, fat of some sort, with onions and a variety of spices, there are now local butchers who have mastered the art of making this classic sausage.   A nutritional powerhouse, blood sausage is high in potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium.  Unfortunately, it contains a lot of saturated fat, mostly because it is generally served fried as part of a traditional ‘fry-up’.

Is it possible that there is a renewed interest in this ofall.  Absolutely!  The resurgence of interest in this sausage is amazing as young chefs begin creating recipes using blood sausage and putting these delicacies back on their menus.   – Great British Chefs Black Pudding Recipes

Although I haven’t tried them, I will shortly.  Meanwhile, you can count me in as …. a lover of BLOOD PUDDING!!

References:  Sausage obsession.com, en.Wikipedia.org, Great British Chefs.com,