Eggs and toast tend to be my breakfast of choice. Any number of food companions can join the party, but that savoury, protein-carb partnership is always holding court. That being said, the toast in this union changes from day to day depending on what’s in my freezer, and lately, that’s been crumpets. Most people think of crumpets as slightly sweet, best paired with butter and jam. Although that is a delicious way to dress them, they’re even better covered in runny eggs and salty avocado. Let’s make savoury crumpets.
Most folks in America are familiar with English muffin. Thomas’ made sure of that, and we’re all better for it. Well known for their nooks and crannies, English muffins have been our chosen vehicle for eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, and countless other nameless egg breakfasts. However, the muffin has an underdog cousin — the crumpet. Round and puffed much like the English muffin, upon first glance you might mistake it for one. The differences are few but noticeable. The top of a crumpet is perforated with numerous holes and the bottom is flat and sealed, as opposed to the English muffin, which keeps all of its precious holes on the inside. The texture of a crumpet is supple, flexible, and springy like a sponge, whereas a toasted English muffin which could used as a puck in a pick-up game of floor hockey.
The crumpet has a yeastier flavour than the English muffin does, which I prefer because it gives me the impression of sourdough even though it’s not sour. This yeastiness lends the spongy round well to a savoury application, and the plentiful holes make it the perfect vessel to capture puddles of salted butter, or gooey egg yolk. Even after toasting the next day, the crumpet crisps lightly on the outside but remains bouncy on the inside, so you never get those sharp crannies scraping on the roof of your mouth, and each bite is met with little resistance. You feel less like a hyena ripping apart your breakfast and more like a human getting ready for your day.
Of course, you can buy crumpets packaged in many grocery stores in the refrigerated sections for breads, but they won’t be herby and fresh like the ones you can make at home with the recipe below. The dough is simple, and although they are partially leavened with yeast, you only let the mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes, not two hours. The batter gets a helping hand from baking powder, which allows for plentiful holes in a short amount of time, along with the warm malty flavour from the yeast.
To make crumpets, dump all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk them together thoroughly for about two minutes. The batter is similar to pancake batter in thickness but even easier to prepare. Cover it and let it sit in a warm place. I tend to use my microwave with the light turned on as a proofing box. While it’s proofing for 20 minutes, butter some metal rings. (I know, who has metal rings? If you don’t have rings like this, you could use the sleeve part of mason jar lids.) Heat up a skillet with a small amount of butter in the centre. Over medium heat, place the buttered ring on the skillet and scoop about a ¼ cup of batter into it. (If you’re using a jar lid ring, start with the lip side facing down.) The batter will begin to cook and form holes around the edges near the metal. Cook the crumpet for about two minutes, or until the some of the centre bubbles pop and it starts drying out. Take off the ring before you flip it (but if you’re using a jar lid, remove it after flipping). Flip the crumpet and cook for another minute.
The following recipe is made with thyme, but you could substitute any finely minced herb that you enjoy. Or just leave it out completely and have a plain crumpet to give yourself some options later. Crumpets keep in the fridge, covered, for up to five days before they start drying out. If you have leftovers, I suggest freezing them. Then you can pull one out when you want it and pop it in the toaster for five minutes. They can keep frozen, well-wrapped, for up to two months.
Savoury Thyme Crumpets
Ingredients (makes six):
- 200 millilitres lukewarm water (about 3 tablespoons added to ¾ cup)
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast (I use SAF yeast)
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Add the water and yeast to a medium bowl. Let the yeast bloom for a minute or two and stir. To the bowl, add, in order, the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Whisk this mixture for two or three minutes straight, to build gluten strength. Add the thyme and gently mix in, until combined.
Cover the bowl and let rest in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the metal rings.
Butter two 3-inch metal rings. It’s better to slather them rather than be stingy with the butter here.
When the batter has many bubbles over the top, put a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add a pea-sized amount of butter to coat the bottom and place one metal ring on the skillet. Add about a ¼ cup of the thyme crumpet batter to the ring. It will bubble and brown along the sides — you can take the ring off now. (If you’re using a mason jar lid sleeve, take the ring off after you flip the crumpet.)
When many popped, dried, bubbles have formed across the surface and maybe the very centre is drying out, about two minutes, flip the crumpet and cook for another minute.
Enjoy fresh with a soft boiled egg and avocado or slathered in salty butter. Any remaining crumpets can be kept, wrapped, in the fridge for up to five days, or frozen for up to two months. To revive, put them in a toaster for a few minutes.
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