A Barcelona food blog
It’s been a few months now since I visited my homeland and satisfied a few English food cravings. With only a few weeks until my feet are back for a visit on UK turf, once again the craving for hot crumpets and butter has raised it’s head. Why did it have to be so impatient? Rather than fight the urge until after Christmas I decided to have a bash at making some of my own.
Using Elizabeth David’s fantastic book ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery’ and her recipe from 1973, I got out of bed to make the first stage of the batter and then went back there to read the Sunday papers. Only about 10 minutes are actually spent in the kitchen preparing them, but a patient wait of more than two hours is needed before the batter is ready to cook. Perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.
Firstly, warm the flour in a low oven and whilst waiting for that to happen milk, water, sugar and oil are heated to blood heat in a pan and then a little of this liquid is then used to cream fresh yeast. To make sure it’s blood heat just put your clean finger in the liquid as it’s heating and when the liquid feels the same temperature as your finger then take it off the heat. Once the flour has warmed through, some salt is added to the flour, then the yeast mixture and the pan of liquid. This is all stirred together and then left covered on the kitchen worktop for 1½-2 hours. This is where you go back to bed and relax a while. What you return to is a gently bubbling, cauldron of doughy mixture which in my warm kitchen was at the point of running like lava over the sides of the bowl and collapsing into itself after only 1.5hours. At this point you beat it down with a wooden spoon.Dissolve some bicarbonate of soda in some warm water and stir this into the mixture, then place the bowl into a warmer place for another half an hour so the batter rises again. Now might be a good time to stop that bedroom lazing and jump in the shower.
After this time the batter should have risen again although not quite to it’s previous level. This is where for me this cooking became a labour of love. With not a crumpet to be found anywhere, finding crumpet rings to make them is even more difficult. Therefore I’d resorted to buying round moulds of the type used in restaurants for presentation. This also meant I had to do them one by one as I didn’t have four the same size, I was at the hob quite some time.
I greased the aluminium ring with a little oil, placed it into a non-stick pan and then poured in some of the batter. My first couple of bulbous, doorstep size attempts ended up in the bin before I got the hang of how much mixture was needed to produce a good shape. Mrs David wasn’t explicit about how high to have the heat but after a few adjustments I found it better to have the gas quite low which meant the base didn’t burn before the main mixture had set. It’s time to remove it from the mould and flip it over once a skin has formed on the top surface. This sounds easier than it was as no matter how well greased my makeshift crumpet rings were, they wouldn’t release the crumpets easily. Low heat, patient waiting, awkward moulds. This was dragging on a bit.
However, to use the old adage that good things come to those who wait, it was worth the effort in the end. A big mug of tea and hot, buttered crumpets with raspberry jam. A perfect, winter warmer breakfast. The difference between these hand made crumpets and those I’ve always eaten from a packet was the distinctly different texture, much less chewy and rubbery than I’m used to and also a much more bready, yeasty flavour. They were delicious if a little rough around the edges.
Mrs David makes no mention of freezing them and expresses her dislike at having them re-toasted saying she feels the texture changes. After all my efforts I’m prepared to take a chance and tolerate a bit of chewiness to tide me through my urges and give me a taste of home.
Here are the exact ingredient quantities for the recipe:
450g flour (half and half ordinary plain flour and strong bread flour)
15g fresh yeast
550-575g of half milk, half water
For the second mixing:
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g warm water
Recipe courtesy of ‘Elizabeth David – English Bread and Yeast Cookery’ © Elizabeth David 1977