My husband was amused. At least 3 of his acquaintances, who knew he was job hunting, sent him the notice saying the British Secret Service (MI5) was looking for someone to take on cyber security systems in the UK. You *had* to be a British citizen to apply. Perfect!
Steve unfortunately could not apply because another requirement was the applicant had to have lived in the UK 9 out of the last 10 years. This means the imported terrorists living in sleeper cell row houses in London could be eligible, but Steve, who loves his country could not.
Despite being absent from the land of his birth, he is nonetheless through and through British, with a few quirks. He does not drink tea. He hates tea. However give him a cup of coffee and he is forever in your debt, or at least until the cup gets cold. His Britishness inspsired my quest for crumpets, which has been a work in progress for almost a month. It has enlisted the research abilities of my sister, and an expert “on the ground,” Melinda in the UK .
While in Salt Lake to visit family, I bought essentially a sauce pan, which was the right size and had a heat dispersing bottom. It was good, but I could only do one at a time, and Melinda’s must try recipe made 16. Sheesh! So I ordered crumpet rings from King Arthur Flour and began anticipating their arrival. They came slowly, with a UPS glitch, so it wasn’t till yesterday when the package arrived.
This morning then was designated crumpet morning. I got out the rings, full of excitement and anticipation, pulled up Melinda’s blog to print the recipe, which I knew deviated from all the other ones I had done in its inclusion of cream of tartar, and began.
Um …. oops. This calls for bread flour (or strong flour as it’s called in the UK). I don’t have any of that sitting around. Instant yeast? Darn it, blew that part too. I was unprepared; in my excitement of focusing on the rings, I forgot about the ingredients.
There was a time in my life when I would not only have had all the ingredients on hand, but if I didn’t, would have dropped everything to go get them. No longer. I was ready to make those crumpets and doggonit, I was going to make them!
Subsituting all purpose flour for the bread flour and a full tablespoon of regular yeast for the instant, I forged forward. To compensate for the bread flour, I increased the beat time on the dough to develop the gluten, finding a lovely dough in about 8 minutes.
Steve tells me in the UK they do not generally have clothes dryers, having instead an “air cupboard” where the clothes hang, which is warm. Bakers place their doughs in these rooms to assure of a good rise regardless of the weather. I have no such luck (and a very drafty kitchen), so I put mine over the oven vent and turned it on lowest heat; beautiful results in just an hour!
Now for the fun part. I utilized a very heavy pan, given to me many years ago by a good friend, Julie M. It has 8 layers of heat diffusing materials so I knew it would be a good choice for even heating, plus being large enough to accomodate 8 rings!
Having been duly warned that high heat would overcook the bottom, I opted to begin lower than written, because stovetop temperatures vary so greatly. I was so excited as the batter poured into the rings differently than it had before, and spread out without me having to coax it. I set the timer for 9 minutes.
Here’s the part where I would like to report that I walked away, wrote thoughtful personal notes to all the important people in my life and came back when the timer rang.
Oh heck no. I was obsessed about the bubbles. As I told Lynn, like a jacuzzi, it’s all about the bubbles. She responded, Unlike a Jacuzzi, though, you can’t help the bubbles along by eating beans. You probably didn’t need to know that, but we’ll call it comic relief and return to me hovering around the pan.
I could see the bubbles forming in the batter, but to my dismay the lower temperature was also allowing the top to dry out before the “boiling” could produce surface pops. I set the timer for another 9 minutes. Nada. After another 5 minutes, I admitted defeat and flipped them over; I could still feel the inside was doughy. At least the bottoms came out nicely — that was the round one doofus prize.
Dangnabit, I was going to make this happen! Clang — the bell rang on round 2. Into the ring stepped the battered [rim shot] baker. I greased my rings and pan, let them re-heat and turned back to scoop out 1/3 of a cup to discover the goop had re-risen in all the 9+9+5 minute nonsense. It was not nearly as liquid and didn’t flow into the rings as well and I didn’t read far enough in Melinda’s admonition to add a little more water until the desired consistency was obtained; I will do that on the next time. On the other hand I almost had heart failure as the higher heat produced the bubbles faster and allowed them to break through before the tops got dry.
I don’t think I have it perfect, but my family seems willing to eat these and as soon as Steve wakes up, we’ll have the definitive word. I do not call the quest closed, but I have a sense of satisfaction at having gotten into the proximity.
All we need are some butter and napkins
Adapted from The Bread Book by Linda Collister & Anthony Blake
(makes about 16 crumpets)
3 2/3 cups bread flour
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
2 ¼ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ teaspoon regular salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup lukewarm milk
a griddle or cast-iron frying pan
Crumpet rings, about 3 ½ inches diameter, greased.
– Sift together the flours and cream of tartar, sugar, yeast and salt into a mixer bowl. Add yeast and salt so they are not touching initially (salt can kill the yeast, and you don’t want that to happen) With the paddle attachment mix all the dry ingredients so they are well blended, about 2 minutes.
-Add the lukewarm water to the dry ingredients and mix with paddle attachment for 8 minutes until the batter is smooth.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until the batter rises until doubled which takes about an 1 hour.
– Dissolve the baking soda in the lukewarm milk. Then gently stir it into the batter. The batter should not be too stiff or your crumpets will be “blind” — without holes – so it is best to test one before cooking the whole batch.
-Heat a very clean griddle or frying pan over moderately low heat for about 3 minutes until very hot then grease lightly with a vegetable oil.
Put a well-greased crumpet ring on the griddle. Spoon or pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the ring. The amount of batter will depend on the size of your crumpet ring.
-As soon as the batter is poured into the ring, it should begin to form holes. If holes do not form, add a little more lukewarm water, a tablespoon at a time, to the batter in the bowl and try again. If the batter is too thin and runs out under the ring, gently work in a little more all-purpose flour and try again. Once the batter is the proper consistency, continue with the remaining batter, cooking the crumpets in batches, three or four at a time. As soon as the top surface is set and covered with holes, 8 to 10 minutes, the crumpet is ready to flip over.
– To flip the crumpet, remove the ring with a towel or tongs, then turn the crumpet carefully with a spatula. The top, cooked side should be chestnut brown. Cook the second, holey side of the crumpet for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale golden. The crumpet should be about ¾ inch thick. Remove the crumpet from the griddle and finish in a 350 º oven for about 5 minutes. Grease the crumpet rings well after each use.