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A traditional English crumpet

One thing I’ve never really ventured into is bread making. I’ve baked bread rolls, loaves and pizza dough but never dared to tread outside the basic flour, yeast and water mixture. Yet, there are so many interesting variations: pita bread, soda bread, tea cakes, hot cross buns, English muffins, croissants…and then there’s the traditional English crumpet, my all time favourite.

I recently visited the Hambleton Bakery (if you’re ever passing through Peterborough/Leicestershire area, it is well worth a visit!) and I left with a paper bag filled with breaded delights. It was late afternoon when we arrived home so we sat down with a cup of tea and sampled one of the baked-on-the-premises crumpets (how very English!) and it was like no other crumpet I’d tasted. Wondering why I had never tried making them before, I set about finding out where to start and it seems, crumpet rings are the vital ingredient!

So, here is the recipe I followed with a few hints and tips along the way.

This recipe will make twelve crumpets and will take up to two hours, and a fair bit of concentration! I’d recommend dedicating an afternoon.

Before you start, make sure you have the following:

Crumpet rings – essentially just metal rings like cookie cutters but with thicker rims. I have four.

The main ingredients:

250g strong white bread flour, sieved.

1 x 7g sachet dried active yeast

100ml water

275ml of milk

The essential little extras:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Butter for greasing (and to serve!)

The method:

1. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sachet of yeast and your little extras – caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt. (Not the butter)

2. In a pan, mix the water and milk together and heat gently over a hob on a low heat until lukewarm.

3. Once lukewarm, pour the water and milk mixture into the flour mixture and use a balloon whisk to whisk it for approximately two minutes. A batter will form.

4. Once suitably whisked. Place a damp tea towel on top of the bowl and place it in warm place for one or two hours (depending on how much time you have!)

N.B. I used a freshly washed tea towel that wasn’t quite dry yet and stood my mixture on a shelf in my airing cupboard for an hour and a half.

5. After standing your mixture should have risen and be full of bubbles. A bit like this:

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Crumpet mixture after an hour and a half standing time

 

6. Now it’s time to cook your mixture. Grease your crumpet rings generously. Use a non stick frying pan (a pancake pan is perfect for this) and melt a little butter on the pan.

 

7. Place crumpet rings on the pan and spoon the mixture into the rings until they are half filled. I found about two tablespoons of the mixture in each worked well.

The crumpets starting to rise

The crumpets starting to rise

8. Cook on a low heat for around ten minutes, until you can see that the surface is bubbly and the mixture is cooked. As they cook the crumpets should shrink away from the sides of the ring and be easy to remove from the ring. Be wary at this stage as the crumpet rings are very hot – use an oven glove to remove the rings.

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9. Now flip the crumpets for just a few seconds so the tops can brown.

 

Now lather generously with butter, jam or honey and enjoy your homemade, traditional English crumpet as an indulgent breakfast, a savoury mid-afternoon snack or with a cup of tea as a warming treat when you arrive home from work…

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Recipe from Mermaid Professional Home Cooking.

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Be a crafty commuter

An exciting new job in London has meant that I have joined the long standing commuters of East Anglia once again.

While ecstatic about the new job, I was a little apprehensive at the thought of a daily commute from the depths of the Cambridgeshire fens into central London (and back again!). I thought that it would leave me with very limited free time to spend on the little creative projects that I love doing. But within the first week, I sat next to a lady who inspired me with her crafty determination: as she pulled a bundle knitting out of her bag and spent the entire journey completing row upon row of perfect stitches, I vowed to follow in her footsteps and dedicate the time spent commuting to doing the things I most enjoy.

I’m now three weeks in to my new routine and, in actual fact, I’ve been more productive than ever before – the time spent on a train is sacred!  It’s very rare that a busy person gets a 50 minute time slot to do whatever they like – with a little forward planning and savvy packing, the possibilities are endless.

So, here are three ideas on how to be a crafty commuter, each one adaptable to your own hobbies and interests:

 

Learn something new

It’s time to study an instruction manual intently. Crochet has been something I’ve wanted to learn to do for a few years now but the list of equipment alone was enough to deter me from starting. Equipped with two instruction books (this is how good my intentions to learn were), a crochet needle (they’re very blunt, don’t be alarmed) and some wool, I began learning and practicing a new stitch each day. I’ve only got the odd chain to show for my efforts but I’m slowly mastering it and, once I feel confident, I’d like to make some granny square bunting.

 

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Read…anything!

A little unoriginal, but there’s good reason behind why you see so many commuters’ faces buried in all manner of reading material. It’s the perfect time, without any disturbances, to get stuck in to a good read whether it is a gripping new novel or the new edition of your favourite magazine. I was lucky enough to be given a Kindle for my birthday last year so I carry a selection of books around on that. Last week I finished Toni Morrison’s heart-wrenching novel set in rural South Ohio in 1941, The Bluest Eye (I love her writing!). In need of a little light relief, I began J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy yesterday – I’m trying to read it before I succumb to watching the TV adaptation.

 

Finish a creative project

Whether it’s knitting or DIY, use your commute to finish it. Knitting needles and writing materials can of course, be carried on to the train but even if your hobbies are larger scale gardening or DIY projects, why not do some rough drawings of your plans or write a list of what you’ve got left to finish? There are loads of journals and specially designed garden note books available that would be great for this (I actually gave my Mum one for Christmas – it’s called ‘a line a day garden journal’).

 

If you’re a commuter too, or just have some great ideas, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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‘Cheerfulness’

 

 

 

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I’ve discovered a new favourite flower! These daffodils, aptly named ‘cheerfulness’, have pom-pom like florets of tiny cream flowers that nod elegantly on long, delicate stems. Their beautiful scent is strong enough to fill a whole room.

 

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Say it with a sausage roll

While for some, Valentine’s weekend was spent fancifully, I spent mine very practically – baking sausage rolls for the week ahead.

Determined to embrace the Valentine’s Day vibes, here’s an idea for those of you who are not so excited by flowers and chocolates, say it with a sausage roll…

You will need:

1 packet of Jus Rol puff pastry (500g)
1 packet of Waitrose sausagemeat (450g)
1 egg, beaten

These will take under an hour, including cooking time.
Preheat oven to 200°c

1. It’s best to divide the packet puff pastry into two halves and roll each one out separately. Take one half of the pastry and roll it out into a long, thin rectangle about half a cm thick.

2. Divide the sausage meat in half. Take half and line it up on top of your puff pastry. Try and line it up so it is slightly closer to the right hand side edge of your pastry. This will mean that when you come to fold the pastry over, you have enough pastry on the left hand side to reach over.

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3. Before the next step, use a very slim knife (I used a fish filleting knife) or a tiny cutter to cut out heart shapes down the left side of your pastry rectangle.

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4. Use a pastry brush to brush beaten egg down the edge of the right hand side of your pastry rectangle. Pull the left hand side of the pastry over the sausage meat to meet the other side of the pastry and seal by pinching the two sides of pastry together with your finger. Use a fork to seal it further.

5. Brush the whole length of sausage roll with egg white (this makes pastry lovely and crispy).

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6. Cut the long sausage roll into smaller ones using a large, sharp knife.

7. Repeat with second half of puff pastry and sausage meat.

8. Line on a grease-proofed baking tin and cook at 200°c for 20-30 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden brown.