Bakers refer to their bread starters as their "mother", but I must admit to harboring maternal feelings towards mine. For the past few weeks, I've fed it when it's hungry, kept it warm, and celebrated its accomplishments. One of the greatest challenges has been to deal with its excessive productively, just like the endless onslaught of artwork that returns in my children's backpacks each day. Sourdough waffles could help, but I needed the moral equivalent of a magical 12 quart minestrone recipe made from macaroni and dried bean collages.
This crumpet recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, adapted from King Arthur Flour, is essentially straight fried bread starter. The first time I tried it, my starter was a bit too thick and the baking soda didn't get mixed in well. For my next batch, in a small stroke of frugal kitchen genius, I added some yogurt whey that I had strained out to make a thickened yogurt sauce, which gave it the right consistency and added to the tangy flavor.
Why would someone happen to own crumpet rings, you might ask. Mine were a birthday gift that I received from my future husband shortly after we started dating. Special occasions can be awkward early in a relationship, but he handled the situation charmingly, preparing me a lovely dinner followed by a scavenger hunt for my gift, complete with rhyming clues. At the last clue, I realized with a sudden shock that the gift was going to be a ring, and just as quickly I realized what my answer would be if it were an engagement ring. When I opened the gift, I was overcome with happy relief at knowing I'd met the man I wanted to marry, mischievous scavenger hunts and all, and also knowing that we were only at the crumpet ring stage. Now sixteen years later, we have two children who can help make crumpets for Mother's Day tea.
Bread Starter Crumpets
Yields eight 9-cm (3 1/2-inch) crumpets.*
270 grams (1 cup) bread starter (can use older starter that has been kept in the fridge for a few weeks )
a little yogurt whey or buttermilk for thinning, if necessary
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
butter or vegetable oil for greasing
1. Place the starter in a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt, and whisk to combine. The batter should be the consistency of a very thick pancake batter and pourable. If necessary, thin the batter a little with some yogurt whey or buttermilk.
2. Heat a skillet over medium low heat. Grease the crumpet rings well. When the griddle is hot, melt a pad of butter or pour on a little vegetable oil and spread it around with a spatula.
3. Just before you are ready to cook the batter, whisk in the baking soda. As the baking soda reacts with the acid in the starter, the batter will foam and rise. Using a measuring cup or a small ladle, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into each crumpet ring.
4. Cook for a few minutes, until the top is set and the bottoms are lightly browned when you peek underneath by lifting with a spatula. As they cook, the crumpets will gradually shrink back from the rings. Use pliers or tongs to lift the crumpet rings off the crumpets (you may need to run a knife around the edge to help them loose), and flip the crumpets to brown lightly on the other side.
5. Eat the crumpets warm off the griddle or cool them for toasting later. They can also be frozen once cooled. Wipe down the crumpet rings if necessary, re-grease, and place them on the skillet to preheat again before repeating with the remaining batter.
*Note: Clotilde Dusoulier recommends that if you have multiple cups of starter to use up, you should mix the batter in batches with 1 cup of starter at a time, so that the crumpets are cooked shortly after the addition of the baking soda.