Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What is a Crumpet?

How do you describe a crumpet?  I’ve been asked what a crumpet is so often and it really is one of those questions I can never answer – a bit like “what does Marmite taste like?”  It’s one of those things you know, but there are no words to adequately describe it.

What do we know about crumpets?  Well, they’re round with a flat bottom and holes on the top.  You eat them with butter and sometimes in our house we would have them with baked beans and scrambled eggs on top - kind of like a toast substitute.  They’re not sweet, but they’re not particularly savoury either.  You can eat them for breakfast and for tea.  Confused? Yes, and so is everybody I try and describe them to.

So I did what any sane person would do – I Googled it.

Wikipedia says:

“English crumpets are generally circular roughly 8 cm (3") in diameter and 2 cm (0.8") thick.
Their shape comes from being restrained in the pan/griddle by a shallow ring. They have a
characteristic flat top with many small pores and a chewy and spongy texture. They may be 
cooked until ready to eat warm from the pan, but are frequently left slightly undercooked so 
that they may be cooled and stored before being eaten freshly toasted. They are often eaten
with a spread of butter or some alternative spread on the top of them, such as jam, honey or
yeast extract.”
So there you go then, or not…  

Crumpet
Not a crumpet
The next question is usually “Oh, so it’s like an English Muffin then?”  Well, no actually.  An English Muffin is not even a thing in England.  They were invented in America around 1880 by a Samuel Thomas (aka Thomas’ English Muffins), a Brit who moved to America and opened a bakery. Maybe that’s where the “English” in English muffin came from.  I had actually never eaten or even heard of an English Muffin until I moved here.

Muffins are kind of bready, and crumpets are certainly not, they are kind of rubbery, if truth be told. A bit more research (umm, googling) led me to this:
  • Crumpets are always made with milk, but English muffins are not
  • Crumpets are made of batter; English muffins are made from a firm dough.
  • Crumpets are made using baking soda; English muffins are made with yeast
  • Crumpets are cooked only on one side (presumably when you’re making them, ‘cos I always put them in the toaster and that would mean both sides are cooked); English muffins are toasted on both sides
  • Crumpets are served whole; English muffins are split before serving
So there you have it, the definitive definition of crumpets. (*sigh*)

I think I will just start carrying a picture of each one around so I don’t have to explain.  But then I would probably be asked what they tasted like.  I would just say “Bloody marvelous!”

Then I would hope nobody asks what a "nice bit of crumpet" is, because that would open a whole other conversation.

10 comments:

  1. It's the texture, not the taste, that sets crumpets apart, isn't it? It really is like eating soft rubber. I don't know if there's a home-baked variety which doesn't have that synthetic rubbery feel - oh yes, I remember... there IS! I saw an episode of The Great British Bake-Off where they had to make crumpets, and the judges didn't say things like "oh, that's terribly synthetic - well done"! or "Gosh, that really does taste like someone in a factory put a bucket-load of chemicals together - you've got it just right." So, yes, there is a home-baked version, but it just wouldn't be the same experience at all for me. It's that resistance against your teeth that speaks of a substance that never came from a kitchen, but an industrial, mass-producing facility. Maybe even a lab. A good crumpet shouldn't really be like food at all. It's like eating packaging, but with melted butter and jam (sorry, always sweet for me, not savoury). In fact, if they ever run out of bubble wrap and polystyrene peanuts, they could start using crumpets that have gone past their sell-by date.

    And yes. The other meaning of crumpet always made me laugh when Americans were spouting forth to me about the difference between muffins and crumpets. How do they all know about that, by the way? Is it in some "all you must know about Britain" book that they read in Kindergarten? It's such a niche area of baked goods, but they all seem to be experts in the crumpet/English muffin/American muffin differentials.

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    1. ha ha... not a crumpet lover then?
      Oh and Americans all think we eat "tea and crumpets," which they always manage to say in that terrible faux British accent. FYI - I never have tea with my crumpets.

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    2. ha ha... not a crumpet lover then?
      Oh and Americans all think we eat "tea and crumpets," which they always manage to say in that terrible faux British accent. FYI - I never have tea with my crumpets.

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    3. No, no... you've got me all wrong. I love crumpets! Though I can see why it might read as if I didn't...

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    4. Ahh,... okay then. I love me a nice bit of crumpet too... although that could be construed as something else altogether!

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  2. The crumpet is the aubergine of baked dough products. They both squeak a little when your teeth pass through.

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  3. Nice post about crumpet, greeting from Belgium.

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