Left - commercial crumpets, center - less water and English Muffin texture, right - more water (and holes) but flatter
Here it is. The best of the bunch. Lots of holes, but the holes do not go through to the outside. (Too bad.)
After five batches, I'm still trying to produce the perfect crumpet. This one is very close. The crumpet toasts up crunchy with a creamy center that is yeasty and slightly sour. If you want to get the blow-by blow and understand the trade-offs, just keep reading. If you just want to get to the good stuff and make the crumpets, skip the text in blue.
All of this started when we attended our daughter's wedding in England: I enjoyed how easy it was to find store-bought, GF crumpets. Admittedly, the nutritional profile of the UK GF breads does not meet my definition of ideal (cornstarch is the major ingredient along with other refined starches - see label below), but these breads taste good. GF crumpets aren't readily available in the wilds of the San Francisco Bay Area. So, I decided to try my hand at it. Although it wasn't quite as easy as I originally thought, in terms of overall complexity, baking crumpets is way easier than normal yeast bread - fewer ingredients, shorter rising time and the crumpets cook in just a few minutes - about 8 to be more exact.
Step 1: consult the internet to see what others have done. It seemed like the most authentic implementations should come from the UK, Australia and New Zealand. There were three recipes from the BBC alone. The result of my research is that crumpets are a state of mind - lots of different recipes based on wheat flour. A minority of the crumpet recipes have both butter and egg, but always milk and water. Steps 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 - keep trying. My first two attempts were total wash-outs - down the garbage disposal. The second two attempts were better and at least somewhat edible. They didn't go down the chute. The fifth attempt is a good jumping off point for further enhancement; however, it is good as it is.
It appears that crumpets are a thick, lean (no eggs and very little oil), milk-and-water-based pancake that are yeast flavoured (yep, not a typo). You can ferment the dough from 20 minutes to three hours according to a survey of the various recipes. I tried the three hour fermentation, and it was way too sour for my taste. Twenty minutes to one hour are pretty good. I actually prefer the taste of a 20 minute fermentation. The trick to the crumpets for me was (1) not too much xanthan or guar gum, and (2) plenty of baking powder for bubbles and leavening.
One article said that the thickness of the batter determined whether the result was an English Muffin or a crumpet. That was an interesting clue. I computed the ratio of liquid to flour and found that the ratio ranged from 1.75:1 for the wettest down to as low as 1:1 for the driest across the various recipes. The two results above are for 1:1 liquid to flour (middle column) and 1.4:1 (right hand column). The crumpets in the middle have a wonderful taste and bready texture, but no large bubble holes. The crumpets on the right have some holes, but the texture is wet and somewhat waterlogged. Still in all, when the waterlogged crumpets are toasted, they are pleasantly crunchy and chewy like a good crumpet should be. The wet crumpet batter was the consistency of thin pancake batter. The optimal crumpet had the batter of a perfect pancake.
Flour is also a factor. One of my earlier trials used a bean-based flour with long fermentation, and I found the taste quite unpleasant. The flour used for the crumpets above was the mild but flavorful mix used for rolled pizza. I actually suspect that the best texture would come from a cornstarch-white rice-tapioca starch mix; however, I'm not crazy about the nutritional profile. I have a bag of "UK GF white flour" (lots of refined starch), and I'll try that next.
Leavening is pretty straight forward but quite different from normal yeast bread. Once the dough is leavened, it is stirred down and cooked in muffin rings in a skillet. In general, this makes the dough taste yeasty and somewhat sour, but the yeast has a more limited influence in making the bread rise. In recipes surveyed and in the most basic case, no additional rising agents are used. The GF crumpets from the UK use both yeast and what amounts to an acid-baking soda (something quite akin to baking powder) mix. However, two recipes from the BBC either use baking soda alone and rely on the lactic acid created as a byproduct from the yeast or the addition of tartaric acid and baking soda which by all measures is baking powder.
Batter thinness is also a key factor. The highly thinned-out version created lots of bubbles, but these bubbles mostly closed upon cooking. The final crumpet did not gain height, and this version produced lots of thin crumpets. The very thick dough did not bubble at all; however, it rose quite tall and increasing in height by almost 50%.
Special equipment: You really need muffin rings to make crumpets (and English muffins). We bought our muffin rings at the local Sur la Table store for about $5.00 for four rings. King Arthur Flour sells about the same rings at a much higher price. They are reasonably priced at Amazon and Cooking.Com. Fox Run muffin rings are also available in Canada.
Our recipe used non-fat dried milk in all of its tests. Alternatively, you could use a combination of fluid milk and water instead.
|Amount and measure||Ingredient|
|2-1/2 teaspoons or 1 package||Instant yeast. Our favorite is SAF|
|10 fluid ounces*||Water - 110° F (Alternatively, you can use 2 ounces of water and 8 ounces of fluid, fat-reduced milk. This is a bit richer in milk than some recipes.)|
|2 Cups (8 ounces)||Mild gluten free flour blend We used this.|
|3/4 teaspoon||Xanthan or guar gum|
|1/2 teaspoon||Cream of tartar|
|1/4 Cup||Instant non-fat dry milk. (Skip this ingredient if you are using fluid milk only.)|
|1/2 teaspoon||Baking soda|
|2 teaspoons||Baking powder|
|1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon||Kosher salt|
|Olive oil spray for the pan|
|Margarine for greasing the crumpet tins|
* If you want to make a bread more the texture of an English Muffin, reduce the water to 8 fluid ounces. English Muffins are almost always baked on cornmeal instead of directly against the bottom of the skillet. You'll want to put cornmeal on the top of the batter as well. Cook at a lower temperature for a longer time. You don't want the cornmeal to burn.
Flip with a spatula and bake the uncooked side.