Crumpets and pikelets: cheese & onion flavour

Savoury crumpets and pikelets are particularly wonderful things to eat when toasted and buttered – whether or not you then want to dress them up further with cream cheese or a poached egg or any manner of adornments.

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Crumpets really are easy to make: the batter is made up in moments and just sits there for a few hours until you are ready to use it, at which point it is simply a matter of slowly frying spoons of the batter, either in rings or without.

Crumpets or pikelets?

Cooking the batter in rings will give you crumpets:

However, if you drop the batter straight into the pan free-form, you get pikelets: flatter than crumpets, they are certainly just as enjoyable:

About the recipe

The recipe below is my twist on a standard crumpet recipe. I add cooked onions and a little mature Cheddar to the batter: just enough cheese to give a subtle cheese flavour, without over-doing it.

I have added a little ale and mustard to the batter, which make these almost rarebit in flavour. If you don’t want to use ale, use all milk instead.

If you want a standard crumpet, ideal for buttering and topping with jam, simply use all milk (without ale), omit the onion and the cheese

I previously published a sourdough version of these crumpets, but this version uses commercial yeast. The photographs in the recipe of the batter cooking slowly are from the sourdough crumpets, but the process is exactly the same.

Top tips for cooking the crumpet batter

– you need to cook these slowly in a preheated pan and over a low heat: too hot and the bases will burn before the crumpets are anywhere near cooked through. After about 6 minutes the surface will be riddled with air bubbles, some of which will have burst, leaving the characteristic holes you want in a crumpet. After about 12 minutes the surface of the crumpets will be almost fully dry.

– try to not disturb the rings or knock the pan until the tops have bubbled and have started to set. If you do, you might deflate the batter, resulting in doughy rather than airy crumpets.

– I like to turn the crumpets over in their ring after about 12 minutes (or once the tops have set) so that they cook through fully. If the batter has reached the top of the rings, this also gives a nice golden-brown tinge to the surface.

Shaping

These are best made in well buttered crumpet or other cooking rings, placed on a buttered frying pan or flat griddle. I use 7cm diameter rings. You could instead spoon the batter straight onto the hot pan, to give pikelets:

They are also great made miniature as simple canapés, blini-style: for these, drop a teaspoon of the mixture straight into the buttered pan and cook for a few minutes before flipping over and finished for a minute or so.

Storing

The cooked crumpets freeze very well: I like to make up a double batch (it’s particularly wonderful making these on a dreary day) and freeze some of them for a later time.

Recipe: cheese & onion crumpets – makes about 12-14

  • 150g strong plain flour
  • 120g standard plain flour
  • 7g easy-blend (instant) dried yeast mixed
  • 3 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 4g fine sea salt
  • 250ml warm milk
  • 100ml warm ale
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (or use 1-2 tablespoons of dried onion powder)
  • 30g finely grated mature Cheddar or Parmesan
  • extra butter (or vegetable oil) for cooking the onions and cooking the crumpets

(1) Mix the flours, salt and the mustard powder in a bowl. Add the milk and all but about a tablespoon of the ale and beat for a few moments to give a thick, smooth batter. If using dried onion powder, mix this in now.

(2) Cover and leave for about 2 hours or so in a warm place until very bubbly, or place in a cooler place such as a fridge for longer (overnight for example) if you want to develop a deeper flavour.

(3) If you are using fresh onions, rather than onion powder, cook them while the batter is fermenting: heat a little oil and add the onions. Sweat gently for about 20 minutes until the onions are very soft and have just taken on a little colour. Cool and then either blitz to a purée or very finely chop/crush.

NB: if the onion chunks are too large, they will weigh down the batter, hampering the level of rise you want.

(4) Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the remaining ale and fold through the batter, along with the onions and the cheese, trying not to knock out all of the bubbles formed during the long fermentation.

NB: you should have a fairly thick batter that drops off a spoon without any effort rather than clings to it or pours too quickly. If the batter is too thick, you won’t get the characteristic holes in the crumpets (but they will still taste fabulous!), so stir in a little more ale if needed.

(5) Cover and leave for about an hour in a warm place, after which time the batter will be very well aerated. It should smell wonderfully fermented and wobble almost like a just-set jelly!

(6) Heat a solid frying pan over a low heat for a few minutes. Generously brush the inside of metal crumpet rings and the hot pan with butter or oil. Place the rings on the pan over a low heat.

(7) Without disturbing the batter too much, spoon some of the batter into each ring, going not much deeper than half full. Keep the heat at medium to low to begin with and don’t shake or knock the pan. The batter will rise and after about 6 minutes bubbles should appear and then burst, followed by more bubbles appearing and bursting: it is a fascinating process  – you could easily pull up a chair and watch all the activity!

(8)  Keep cooking for another 5-10 minutes, at a lower heat, until the surface has dried out and set – and not before, otherwise the crumpets will collapse. NB: patience is the key here – don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to rush things!

(9) Carefully turn the crumpets over, still in their rings, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes to give a nice brown tinge to the tops. The bases should have a deep brown colour and feel very crisp: this is precisely what you want and makes a wonderful texture contrast with the softness of the inside of the crumpet.

(10) Remove the crumpets from their rings carefully and serve warm – and with plenty of butter!

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Author: Philip

Very much into baking and general cooking.

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