Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Growing up in the United States, crumpets were something I read about in British novels. I didn't taste a crumpet until I moved to Hong Kong. Usually, I buy mine at Marks & Spencer, but the supply is erratic, and some of the other brands aren't as good. So it's handy to know how to rustle them up yourself.
I don't have a tried-and-true crumpet recipe that's been passed down through the generations, so I felt free to experiment, primarily with the cooking method.
Initially, I had problems cooking the crumpets. When I cooked the batter the traditional way - on the griddle - they would get too dark on the bottom before the interior was done; other times, even after griddling them long and slow over a very low flame, they'd be heavy and doughy inside and would have the unpleasant taste of uncooked baking soda. Even when using the same batch of batter, occasionally holes would form on most of the crumpets but not on a few. (If the holes refuse to form on all of the crumpets, it probably means the baking soda is old and/or the yeast is dead.)
So now I use a combination cooking method: I heat the pan and the crumpet rings in the oven set at 180 degrees Celsius. This means the batter starts to cook immediately once it's poured inside the rings. I continue to cook them on the stove top, then, to make sure they're not gummy inside, I bake them for a few minutes in the oven. And for the few crumpets that don't form enough holes, I cheat: I wait until the crumpet is fully cooked, then use a wooden skewer to poke holes.
This recipe is adapted from one in Great British Bakes, by Mary-Anne Boermans; I increased the amount of salt and baking soda, and omitted the egg.
For faster results, I like to work with two skillets, letting one heat in the oven while the crumpets cook on the stovetop in the other.
210ml whole milk
175ml warm water, divided
25 grams butter, cut into small pieces
225 grams bread flour
3 grams instant yeast
3 grams fine-grained sea salt
12 grams sugar
½ tsp baking soda
Pour the milk into a microwavable measuring cup and add the butter and 75ml of water. Zap briefly (about 30 seconds) in the microwave (or heat in a saucepan on the stove) until the ingredients are at body temperature (37 degrees).
Put the flour, yeast, sea salt and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the milk-water-butter mixture over the dry ingredients and whisk to make a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place for about two hours, or until the batter is light and bubbly.
Dissolve the baking soda in 100ml of warm water and pour it immediately over the batter. Mix thoroughly and leave for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the metal rings (mine are 8cm in diameter and 2.5cm deep) on a heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast iron) in the oven and let it heat for about 10 minutes. Place the skillet, with the rings, on a low flame, but leave the oven on. Spray the skillet and rings with pan coating.
Stir the batter briefly then pour it into the rings, filling them halfway. The batter should start to set almost immediately around the edges: it will go from shiny to matte. The batter will rise slightly and bubble, with holes forming under the surface which then start to pop. Occasionally turn the pan around over the flame so the crumpets cook evenly. It takes about 10 minutes to griddle the crumpets.
When bubbles form across the surface and pop, but don't fill in (i.e. leave holes), the surface is matte and firm to the touch, and the crumpets shrink slightly in the rings, it means they are almost ready.
Loosen the rings - if you sprayed them sufficiently with pan coating, they should come away easily; if needed, run a sharp knife around the perimeter. Remove the rings, then carefully flip the crumpets over and cook them for about two minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.
Flip them back over then place them on a baking tray and bake them at 180 degrees for several minutes, or until the interior is fully cooked.
Put the crumpets on a rack to cool. Cook the remaining batter the same way.
If you keep the crumpets for more than two days, store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Before eating, toast the crumpets, then slather them with butter and add the topping of your choice. Makes 12 to 15, depending on the size of the rings and how deep you fill them.