In the United States, we enjoy many brilliant British exports … fish and chips, Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Benedict Cumberbatch. But, we don’t have crumpets.
If you’ve never eaten a crumpet, you might assume this is because the English muffin is a near-enough equivalent, but after trying both, I can attest that it really isn’t. Crumpets and English muffins are served in similar ways and under similar eating conditions. They are approximately the same size. You smother both with butter and jam. You’d eat both before noon at an event like a fancy brunch or high tea. But the texture of a crumpet is quite different from that of an English muffin. Crumpets are chewy for starters, not crispy. (Though if toasted nicely, they can get a crispy edge to the top.) English muffins have a sourdough flavor that lingers at the back of your tongue and is often rolled in cornmeal before baking for their signature grainy texture. Crumpets tend to be softer, and milder in flavor.
English muffins are typically baked with a yeast dough. Crumpets are made on a griddle from a yeast AND baking-powder concoction. And crumpet batter has a lower ratio of dry to wet ingredients. It is loose and soft … like a thick pancake batter. Something called crumpet rings are used on a griddle to hold the batter together and to give it a surface to rise against while cooking – they look like biscuit cutters with handles for lifting off the hot disk when it can hold its shape.
A crumpet is cooked on just one side, the leavening and heat working together to create bubbles that work up through the batter and flay open at the top in a craggy nest of delicious gluten, perfectly adapted to absorb melting butter or liquid honey.
The texture of a crumpet is more spongy than chewy, and the final product isn’t split in half before eating like you would an English muffin. If you toast it, you just toast the whole thing and pile clotted cream and lemon curd on the bubbly side.
Why haven’t we yet adopted this obviously delicious English tradition into American culture? We are, after all, big fans of carbohydrates at breakfast. Crumpets are as comforting as pancakes … and yet you can pick them up. They can be as sweet at fruit loops … but they don’t get soggy. They’d be the perfect accompaniment to a plate of warm bacon and runny eggs over easy. Or slathered with some Cox honey or Bear Lake raspberry jam. So why aren’t they?
Maybe our lack of crumpet problem is related to the lack of tea … another English tradition that never caught on full-force here. Perhaps to really enjoy a scrummy crumpet requires a cup of hot Earl Gray on the side and a pinky in the air.
I’m willing to give it a go.