I Love a Bit of Crumpet!

crumpet

A few days ago we hosted a little afternoon tea, nothing exciting in that I hear you say, maybe some simple tea cakes or scones and jam, even a sandwich or two but you would be wrong, what we served brought back memories of something very special because more years ago than I would care to admit, (ok, 30 to be precise) we launched into our first food business, a partnership between my brother Jeremy, my wife Jo-Ann and I.

We set about creating a very unique little tea rooms in one of Adelaide’s leafier suburbs called Thomas & Drury. Looking back it was all very Downton Abbey though at the time we aspired it to be more Fortnum & Mason. The backbone of our offering was a terribly British range of cakes and pastries, the recipes for which had been handed down from our business’s  namesake, our great aunt (Phyllis Thomas) and our grandmother (Kathleen Drury). Both of these redoubtable ladies had worked “below stairs” in private houses of Edwardian Britain and looking back, clearly they greatly influenced how we saw food.

T&D (2)

Their recipes were for the type of baked goods that you only normally see done well in a “home” setting. They included a very time consuming Battenberg , a rich Dundee cake, miniature éclairs, featherlight Madeira cake, yeasted pikelets, Cornish splits, shortbread tails, Sally Lunns (a kind of English brioche) and very much to the point of today’s blog, homemade crumpets.

In keeping with the whole theme, we brought into Adelaide a range of single origin teas and coffees from a small independent importer in Sydney, which we blended and packed to order (no Twinnings or Robert Timms for us, which was the norm back then), and of course these were all served from, and into, fine Wedgewood and Royal Doulton bone china (we almost needed a separate mortgage just for the breakages). If that wasn’t enough we also manufactured a range of some 15 or so condiments, sauces and relishes.

shop (2)

But the centre piece of the business was our afternoon tea, served on very elegant tiered, china cake stands and loaded with all kinds of tea time goodies. It was a decent spread, sweet and savory, hot and cold, all freshly made and all very, very proper. Suffice to say it was a bold venture, some would have called it ambitious but today tea boutiques and ethical barista coffee are common place, the great British/Aussie bakeoff and other cooking shows regularly feature many of the classic sweet things that were our stock in trade and fine bone china is  again quite fashionable now, clearly in terms of being “on trend” we were well ahead of the what was to come.

tea (2)

But back to the crumpets, and with a few exceptions during my time at Appellation, I have hardly had cause to make a crumpet in the past 28 years, but for this event it seemed to be the perfect time to revisit the past and so we decided to serve real English style currant muffins, hot off the griddle (not those obese cup cakes Americans call muffins ), a rich, moist bitter chocolate cake with rum fondant icing, flaky, little savoury pies of local ham, cheese and potatoes, a silky smooth potted mushroom pate and of course home made crumpets, all washed down with Barossa Sparkling Shiraz rather than Darjeeling …. My how times have changed and welcome to the Barossa!.

sparkling shiraz (3)

For those that have never tried making crumpets from scratch, they really are very simple (if you can make pancakes you can make crumpets!) and believe me it is worth it. They really are so different from the supermarket variety that have been sitting quietly sweating in their plastic wrappings for lord knows how long.

Firstly, they are much, much lighter, of course they are still full of those little holes designed to soak up all that butter, but they lack the stodginess of the shop bought item. Secondly, and really importantly when you toast them they actually get crisp on the outside, yet staying soft and moist in the center. And thirdly, they are all natural, lacking the long life additives, chemicals (and weird sourness) that plague the shop bought item.

Try them next weekend when you have a little more spare time, the batter will take a couple of hours to be ready to cook, but the great thing is they can (and should) be made ahead, sure you can eat them straight off the grill but the second cooking or toasting actually improves the eating quality. And most importantly, please don’t stint on the butter and never, ever, under any circumstances use margarine, that’s just plain wrong!

Crumpets

250g                                       plain flour
pinch                                     salt
15g                                         dried yeast
350ml                                    milk – blood temperature
1                                              egg
1 teaspoon                            caster sugar

Melted butter for grilling

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl (except butter) and mix well to a smooth batter.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to “prove” for 1-2 hours
  • When proved, batter should be thick and foamy (see image)

batter2

  • Preheat a non stick pan or griddle over a low heat, grease some egg rings or metal cookie cutters well with non stick spray or melted butter.
  • Brush or wipe pan lightly with melted butter and place spoonfuls of batter into rings to about the depth of 7mm

in rings 2

  • Cook until crumpet clearly forms holes on top and base is a nice golden colour.
  • Remove ring and turn crumpet over and cook until lightly golden

on griddle2

  • Transfer to a cooling rack and reheat in a toaster when ready to eat and butter generously!

ready to toast2

My Friend (&) the Chocolate Cake

plated

Medical science over the last 20 years has praised the heart health benefits of dark chocolate, olive oil and red wine, all in moderation of course. S0 I would think that a cake containing all three of these could, or should be labeled a super food, along with chia seeds, quinoa and kale.

And the good news is such a recipe does exist. A few weeks ago, courtesy of a visitor to our Kitchen Studio, I discovered a chocolate cake recipe that includes all three, and well, living in a region where two of these ingredients are locally produced, in excellent supply and of outstanding quality, I figured it would be worth giving it a crack for a lunch we were hosting later that day.

I had to fiddle with the recipe, firstly it was designed to yield a massive cake so that needed adjustment and because it was originally Spanish there were some subtle ingredient changes required, but nothing drastic. Preparing it turned out to be as simple as making a packet mix, and after a slow bake for about 25 mins, it came out of the oven as a dense, moist sponge, all rich and chocolaty, even slightly boozy with a whiff of fresh baked bread.

liquid

Most of the cake was quickly demolished during lunch but the left over’s were packed up and sent home with our co host for his family. Clearly it was a hit because very shortly after I had a call asking if I’d share the recipe? The answer was of course yes, after all,  in one way or another, sharing recipes is pretty much what I do these days.

Diligently I typed up the recipe from my rough notes and edited calculations, promptly flicking them off, quite pleased with myself that this unusual cake not only worked so well, but had proved so popular. However, reality burst my bubble when my friend called the next day to say what she made came nowhere near the cake I had sent over. Of course I ran the recipe again to test why it failed so and it soon became apparent something was very wrong.

dry

The result was a chewy, soapy mass of gloop (my friend was much kinder with her description)  and this threw up some big red flags. It was very clear that I had transcribed the recipe incorrectly because it was way too sugary which accounted for the chewy toffee like character, it had too much raising agent which was clearly responsible for that soapy, chemical trace. So back to my original jottings and on further investigation I discovered that I had listed twice as many dry ingredients (the original quantity) to wet (my modified recipe) Getting measurements like this wrong when transcribing a recipe is  something for which many of my chefs in the past have felt my wrath ….. whoops!

batter

So, egg on my face and a big lesson learnt, never give out a recipe before testing it personally from the final edited version!. But I’m happy to say all is well now, and here is the correct recipe, exactingly tried and tested as evidenced by the photos above and below. To paraphrase the title of a song by Melbourne band My Friend the Chocolate Cake “I’ve got another recipe (and this time it’ll work)”

cake

Ruby Red Wine Chocolate Cake

¾ cup                   plain flour
2 tablespoons      corn flour
½ cup                   cocoa
½ teaspoon         baking powder
1 teaspoon           bi-carb soda
½ teaspoon         fine salt

1 cup                     caster sugar
1                             egg
25g                        yogurt
100ml                   milk
½ cup                  red wine
¼ cup                  olive oil
1 teaspoon          vanilla paste

Method

  • Sift flour, cocoa, raising agents and salt together and add to caster sugar, mix well
  • Combine all wet ingredients in a vitamiser or with a stick blender
  • Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix vigorously with hand beaters or a whisk for 60 seconds, mixture will be quite thin and pourable and will form its own level.
  • Pour into a prepared 16cm spring form or sandwich pan and bake at 170c for 20 minutes or until it springs back to the touch.
  • Allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove from pan and allow to cool (it helps to keep the cake flat for decorating and finishing if you invert the sponge while cooling so that the top is on a flat surface)
  • To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and serve with fresh berries and Jersey cream or sandwich with apricot or raspberry jam.

baked