By Angela Denstad Stigeler
While a cup of tea can—and often does—stand alone, it’s much more cheerful when surrounded by a tray-full of accoutrements: the sugar bowl, the creamer, the saucers, the crumpets. And the generously-laden tea tray should, in turn, be surrounded by cheerful faces, all pausing in the midst of their various pursuits, to collaboratively enjoy a small repast. Tea, as an event, is a joyful little snack which carries none of the obligation of breakfast or dinner, none of the hurry or necessity of lunch. Tea is a tiny luxury, a brief leisure. No wonder it’s the most-often served ‘pretend meal’ of childhood play.
But what of those crumpets? If you’d like some for real, they’re simple enough to prepare. The original inspiration for the ‘English muffin’, crumpets are yeasted griddle breads with admirable holes which hold astonishing amounts of whatever you choose to spread on them. Unlike the English muffin, you shouldn’t need to split them, as the holes should break through the surface as they bake. If your batter is too thick or your griddle too cool and they bake up solid on top, you can simply cut them in half before toasting. The holes will be there.
If it’s been awhile since mom had a true tea party, why not indulge her this Mother’s Day weekend? Dust off the good cups, butter up some crumpets—remember, they should be liberally spread with sweet butter and jam—and let your teaspoons recall their purpose.
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
8 to 10 buttered flan rings or wide-mouth canning bands
Combine the milk and water in a small saucepan; heat until lukewarm, about 110 degrees. Add the yeast and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the salt and flour. Add the yeast mixture and beat with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until smooth. Let the batter rise until doubled in bulk and slightly bubbly, about an hour. Beat the dissolved soda into the batter and let it rise again briefly, while you prepare the rings.
Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-hot heat. Position the buttered rings in the pan and let them heat. Spread the batter into the rings to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Cook until dry and bubbly on top, 8-10 minutes. Remove the rings, turn the crumpets and cook briefly on the other side. Transfer to a rack to cool. Toast and butter the crumpets and serve warm with jam, honey or other preserves.