Hot food: Crumpets

Jill Dupleix
Golden and yeasty: Crumpets and honey.
Golden and yeasty: Crumpets and honey.  Photo: Jill Dupleix

Fancy a bit of crumpet? Of course you do.

What is it?

A crumpet is a light, golden, yeasty, savoury batter cake, essentially designed as a delicious vehicle for butter. Popular in Lancashire and Wales since the 18th century, and name-checked by Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby ("the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company"), it is riddled with holes – in order to catch even more butter. Now that the days are cold, crumpets are hot again, as cafe chefs and bakers rediscover the joys of British comfort food.

Where is it?

The house-made crumpets are legendary at Andrew McConnell's Cumulus Inc in Melbourne, and brother Sean McConnell's Monster Bar & Kitchen in Canberra. But there's a new crumpet in town – one that even Stephanie Alexander says she is "obsessed" with – is Dr Marty's.

These small-batch, organic crumpets, made by former MoVida chef Marty Beck, are at good cafes all over town such as The Duchess of Spotswood. "We serve two crumpets with poached rhubarb, rhubarb compote and pouring custard," says co-owner Bobby Green, who calls the dish Custard's Last Stand. "I think it's just so lovely that Marty does one thing, and does it so well."

In Sydney, the house-made crumpets come with blueberry compote and ricotta at tiny Darlinghurst cafeThe Bunker; and with slow-cooked rhubarb and strawberries, drizzled with honey from The Urban Beehive at the darling little South Dowling Kitchen. "They have the most fabulous texture," says the Kitchen's owner Gemma Svensson, who believes they're a big order because people cannot fathom how to make them at home. "And they're even good with Vegemite."

Why do I care?

Crumpets. Butter. Honey. Tell me you don't care.

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Can I do it at home?

Yes, but they are a bit pernickety. If the batter is too thin, it will run all over the pan, and if it's too thick, it won't form the desired holeyness. Beginners should lean towards a thick batter, then thin it out with a little extra lukewarm milk as necessary.

SOURCING

VIC
Dr Marty's Crumpets. See website for retailers and details of various farmers' markets. drmartyscrumpets.com.au
Duchess of Spotswood, 87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood 03 9391 6016, duchessofspotswood.com.au 
Cumulus Inc, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 03 9650 1445 cumulusinc.com.au

NSW & ACT
South Dowling Kitchen, 354 South Dowling Street, Paddington 02 8964 9700 The Bunker, 399 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst 02 8094 9308
Monster Kitchen & Bar, Hotel Hotel, New Acton Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra 02 6287 6287 hotel-hotel.com.au

RECIPE: Crumpets & honey

Or crumpets and Vegemite, or crumpets with grilled cheese, or crumpets with a poached egg and bacon etc …

200ml milk

1 tbsp butter, chopped

½ tsp castor sugar

7g sachet dried yeast

125g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

vegetable oil for cooking

1. In a small pan, gently heat half the milk with the butter and sugar, stirring until the butter is melted and sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining milk, stirring, and set aside to cool to "baby's milk" temperature. Whisk in the yeast and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Sift the flour, salt and bicarb soda into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour in the milk mixture, whisking until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to one hour until foamy.

3. Lightly oil a heavy-based frypan and place 4 x 8 centimetre diameter, 2.5 centimetre deep oiled, straight-sided pastry cutters on the base. Pour the batter into the rings to about one centimetre high and cook over low heat for five minutes or until small holes form on top. Remove the rings and cook crumpets on the other side for one to two minutes. Repeat with remaining batter, thinning if necessary. Serve immediately, or cool and pop in the toaster to reheat.

Makes 6 medium-sized crumpets