Homemade crumpets with homemade salted butter

If you fancy a bit of pottering around in the kitchen this weekend then making some crumpets could be the very thing for you! I’m on a total crumpet kick at the moment; I’m having them for breakfast every morning (breakfast at my desk has been replaced by breakfast in my car) and feel like I could never get tired of eating them. So a few weeks ago I figured I’d have a go at making them, since everything home-made generally tends to taste better than shop-bought. I have always wanted to know how they get their bubbly tops and stringy, spongy centre.

I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe which was SO easy. It took just a few minutes to whip up the batter; the limiting factor on making these is the time the batter takes to rest and the time the crumpets take to cook. It’s best to make them on a day when you’ve not got much else on, and can just keep checking on the batter/cooking crumpets as and when you need to (I wouldn’t advise making them on a Sunday morning when you’re supposed to be going out like I did!). One thing I will say about the recipe is that it says to add 10 grams of salt, and once I’d measured this out I realised that this is a LOT of salt. Even though the recipe makes a lot of batter, I still didn’t think that 10 grams was necessary, and as a result I put in probably about 6 or 7 grams. Still though, my husband complained that they were too salty, although I did make salted butter so maybe it was just all too much. Next time I’d put in even less salt though; there’s nothing worse than eating something that’s too salty.

Cooking the crumpets was, er, interesting. Not that it was hard, but it took a bit of trial and error to get the correct thickness. Unfortunately I had one of those moments where you just blindly follow the recipe rather than using your own common sense, so I added enough batter to come ‘almost to the top of the crumpet ring’, although my crumpet rings are particularly tall. So I ended up with a crumpet about an inch thick that took about 20 minutes to cook, and even then was still a bit gooey in the middle. I obviously made the subsequent crumpets a lot thinner. Next time, I will be more prepared for the time they take to cook, they’re totally worth it. They were really delicious!

I’m convinced this whole enterprise was doomed from the start, as when I bought the egg rings I took them to the till at the supermarket with a 15-rated DVD and got ID’d. What 14-year-old buys egg rings?! Seriously. I am obviously retaining my youthful good looks, being mistaken for a 14-year-old at the ripe old age of 26.

As for making the butter, it’s something I’ve wanted to do since one of my work colleagues bought a book on making “traditional” things like cheese, butter, bread etc. In this book, the method seemed slightly laborious, but luckily I was watching an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals and he made butter in the processor and it took no time at all. Obviously then I had to give it a go. Even if you don’t have a processor you could do it, essentially you just need to over-whisk double cream until the curd separates from the whey. You could do this by hand (Hulk arms are a MUST though) or with a marble in a jam jar, or any other weird and wonderful way you can think of to whip cream. Then it’s just a case of squeezing out all the fluid (I do this via a combination of a sieve and lots of kitchen towel, although since I made these I managed to score some butter pats from a car boot sale), putting any flavourings into it that you want, and then eating it! I couldn’t believe how easy it was and it’s really delicious too. A really easy way to impress friends or family that you’ve had to stay at breakfast!

Crumpets

The recipe says it makes 12 but once my batter was rested I could have easily got a lot more than that out of it!

450g plain white flour

350ml warm milk

350ml warm water (approximately)

5g powdered dried yeast

10g salt

1 tsp baking powder

A little sunflower or vegetable oil

Homemade butter

Tub of double cream (it really doesn’t matter what size, it all depends how much butter you want to make! I think I used a 284ml tub which makes a generous amount)

Pinch sea salt

Method

In a large bowl whisk the flour, milk, water and yeast into a runny batter the consistency of single cream. Cover with cling-film and leave for an hour until really bubbly (or three to four hours, if need be).

To make the butter, use whatever method you want to whip the cream. Keep whipping it until it goes really stiff, then it will get lumpier and lumpier, and eventually you’ll see the fluid come out and will hear a sloshing sound. This means it’s done!

Now tip everything into a sieve and squeeze the butter to get rid of the worst of the fluid. Next, I spread the butter out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper into a thin layer and dab all over with kitchen towel until the liquid has all gone.

Once you’ve done this, scatter the salt over the surface, and fold the greaseproof in half, smooshing the butter together. Peel back the greaseproof and fold the butter in half again using the paper, so that it’s a quarter of the original size. Do this several more times; flattening it out and folding it up so that the salt is evenly distributed. Using the paper to squash it together stops the heat from your hands melting it. Once it’s done, cut a circle from greaseproof paper, dollop the butter into the middle of it and squash up the sides, making a little patty encased in the paper.

Obviously you could just leave the butter plain, or put in herbs/garlic/chilli etc and use it on steaks or over vegetables. Yum! If you want to use it for these things you can freeze it; just form it into a sausage in some greaseproof paper, wrap it and put it in the freezer. Then you can cut disks off as and when you need it.

Once the crumpet batter is rested, heat a frying pan or griddle over a medium heat. Whilst the pan is heating, whisk the salt and baking powder into the batter. Lightly grease some crumpet/egg rings and the pan, and then make a test crumpet. Pour some batter into the ring, about 1 1/2 cm thick. If the mixture runs out the bottom of the ring, you’ll need to add more flour to the batter to thicken it. Otherwise, as the crumpet cooks small holes will appear on the surface. Once the surface is set and the crumpet looks like it’s cooked through (this will take around 8 minutes or so), flip it over and cook for a further few minutes until golden. Once you know your batter is ok you can cook several at once.

They’re best eaten straight from the pan, with the homemade butter and jam, nutella, cheese… anything!

 

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Ricotta hotcakes

I made these a few weeks ago to use up the ricotta from the ravioli I made. I’d never made them before but remembered seeing them in Nigella’s Forever Summer, which is probably my least used of her books. But since it’s summer and everything, I figured I’d give them a try. The weather was distinctly un-summery when I made them, but somehow they bring a bit of sunshine to an otherwise wet and miserable morning.

They were really wonderful; denser and sort of stickier than a regular pancake. Because of the ricotta they were almost cheesecakey inside, if that’s possible, and definitely had a tangier taste than a pancake. This worked really well with the strawberries, which I mashed up a bit so that they went really nice and juicy and made their own sauce. I did have a little bit of maple syrup on them as well though!

I halved the recipe, because I had just the right amount of ricotta left over from the ravioli to make half the batch, and it made six 4 1/2 inch pancakes. Whisking the egg whites makes the mixture really light and bubbly, so it had a really nice texture when putting the batter in the pan.

Ricotta Hotcakes

Makes 12 4 1/2 inch pancakes

250g ricotta cheese

125ml semi-skimmed milk

2 large eggs, separated

100g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

2 teaspoons groundnut oil

Strawberries, to serve

Method

Put the ricotta, milk and egg yolks into a bowl and beat together. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt until you get a smooth batter. Beat the egg whites until they’re foamy (this should only take a couple of minutes and really there is no need to break out any heavy machinery), then fold them into the batter.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and dollop the mixture in.

The pancakes will only take a minute or so a side, so once they’re golden flip them over to cook the other side. To keep them warm whilst you make more, I find the best thing to do is just stack them on top of each other, and they keep each other warm with their heat.

Serve with gently mashed strawberries, and dig in!

Breakfast at my desk 2: Granola

My last batch of muesli ran out last week. It lasted longer than expected because of holidays and a few emergency starbucks visits (a coffee and a blueberry muffin have been breakfast at my desk more times than I want to think about), but once the batch ran out I felt like I’d got bored with the soft oat flakes and wanted something crunchier and a bit more flavoursome, so of course I made some granola.

I first made this one New Year about 3 years ago, when we had visitors and I made this epic breakfast banquet of granola, pancakes with blueberry syrup, three cheese and onion strata with bacon and pear and ginger muffins (I LOVE BREAKFAST). I still make it fairly regularly though, and at work it’s a lifesaver because not only do I eat it for breakfast but I also munch on it in its raw form throughout the day.

The recipe is Andy’s Fairfield Granola from Nigella’s Feast (surprise surprise) and yeah, it’s a little more effort than the muesli and it does use a lot of ingredients, although I find I generally have everything but the apple sauce in the house anyway. You can mix it up with whatever fruit you like, I often use dried cranberries which are brilliant with it (but I would say that because I have a pretty bad obsession with them), but I would always use sultanas instead of raisins because I just like them better. I like to pretend to myself that it’s healthy, although with the amount of sugar and syrup it’s probably not. Once I accidentally left the sugar out because I weighed it out but left it on the scales. It was actually nicer as sometimes I find it a little too sweet for morning, and so now I add less sugar.

Andy’s Fairfield Granola

450g rolled oats

120g sunflower seeds

120g white sesame seeds

175g apple compote or apple sauce

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

120g brown rice syrup or rice malt syrup, or failing that, golden syrup

4 tablespoons clover honey or other runny honey

100g light brown sugar

250g whole natural almonds

1 teaspoon Maldon salt

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

300g raisins

The method is really simple. Just put everything (except the raisins) in a large bowl and mix really thoroughly.  Press the mixture onto a baking tray (it will probably fill two), and bake in an oven heated to 170C for about 30 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. Halfway through cooking, flip it over so that it browns evenly (this is no easy task believe me, I advise NOT doing it near the edge of the work surface because a lot will fall on the floor!), and when it’s done leave it to cool, then break into crunchy clusters and mix it with the fruit of your choice. Serve with milk or yoghurt, or just eat it as it is. Yum!

American Pancakes

Obviously everyone loves pancakes. My favourite are the American kind, that’s to say the thick, fluffy ones you have with maple syrup. It’s become a bit of a regular occurrence in this house to have pancakes with bacon and maple syrup at some point over the weekend, but they’re just so easy and quick to make I just can’t resist. Coupled with the fact that I always have the ingredients in the house makes them a bit of a no-brainer.

I’ve tried a few recipes for pancakes and have settled on the following Rachel Allen recipe as my favourite. Not least because this amount of mixture makes six 10-15cm diameter pancakes which is perfect for two people, and the mixture only uses one egg which is great because there have been so many times when I want to make a nice breakfast but only have one egg left! I also love this recipe because the batter is nice and thick, so it’s really easy to dollop out into the pan and spread out to whatever size pancake you like. The recipe is SO easy to remember as well, definitely no excuses!

American Pancakes

Serves 2 (makes 6 pancakes)

150g self raising flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg

150 ml milk

Method:

Measure out the flour and sift it into a bowl and stir in the caster sugar. Make a well in the centre.

Break in the egg and beat into the flour. Gradually add the milk and whisk until you get a smooth batter. I find if you add the milk bit by bit, and only add more once the mixture is smooth, then it’s really easy and quick to end up with a lump-free batter. Adding all the milk at once and then whisking I find creates more lumps!

Once the batter is made you can leave it to rest for a while, although I don’t really think it makes a huge difference with this recipe, the pancakes still come out fluffy and thick without resting.

Heat a frying pan (I use a Le Creuset omelette pan which is a perfect size for these pancakes) until really quite hot. You know how when you make pancakes the first one usually comes out really pale and anaemic looking? That’s just because the pan isn’t hot enough. It’s worth waiting just that little bit longer for it to get nice and hot. If in doubt, add a blob of mixture to the pan to test it. If it turns golden, then the pan is ready. If you’re using a good non-stick pan I don’t think you need to oil it, but if your pan isn’t non stick then pour some oil onto some kitchen towel and rub it over the pan (you really only need a very thin coating).

Add a spoonful of the batter to the pan and spread it out with the back of the spoon to the size you want. Once the pancake starts forming bubbles on the surface that pop, it’s ready to flip over. They will only take one or two minutes a side if the pan is hot. Oncc you’ve flipped it the pancake is cooked if it’s golden on both sides and the middle feels spongy. Just keep repeating until all the pancakes are done!

To keep the pancakes warm (particularly if I’m doing a big batch) I usually heat a plate or a serving dish in the oven, then take it out and stack the pancakes on top of each other. When the pancakes are stacked they generally keep each other warm. Don’t be tempted to put them in the oven to keep warm, they’ll just dry up and go crispy. To be honest, they take such a short time to cook there’s no need to make them too far ahead. If I’ve got a lot of people for breakfast I have been known to have two or three pans on the go at the same time, all cooking up pancakes! It’s quick but not to be recommended if you have high blood pressure.

Obviously you can serve these with whatever you like. This time I chose bananas and maple syrup but I also love bacon, blueberries, Nigella’s blueberry syrup (blueberries boiled with maple syrup, SO GOOD), strawberries, nutella, jam… ANYTHING!

Cinnamon strawberry sandwiches

Breakfast is my favourite meal, and I love when the weekends come and I can make something a bit more involved and special than the usual weekday fare. I wanted to use up the bread rolls I bought for the Little Bubbas (despite taking some for lunch the next day, they came in a pack of 12!), so I thought I’d use them for breakfast. They would have been good with just butter and marmalade and a coffee, but they’ve started to go a bit stale so really I had to use them for something else.

I decided the best thing to do was turn them into french toast-rolls, and to play on the sandwich element I thought I’d stuff them with sliced strawberries. They turned out delicious!

Cinnamon Strawberry Sandwiches

Serves 1

2 small bread rolls
1 egg
Splash of milk
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar (vanilla caster sugar, if you have it)
Splash of vanilla extract (if you don’t have vanilla sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
Knob of butter

To serve:
Sliced strawberries
Icing sugar

My measures for the above ingredients are approximate, depending on how sweet/cinnamony you like it!

In a dish, break the egg and add the milk, some of the vanilla/caster sugar (I use about a tablespoon), the cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon so I use quite a lot!), and the vanilla. Beat everything together.

Cut the rolls in half and place them cut side down into the dish and push them down so that they really soak up the eggy mixture.

While they’re soaking, heat a pan with a knob of butter and a tiny dribble of oil (to stop the butter burning).

Stab the tops and bottoms of the rolls with a skewer or cocktail stick and turn them over (this will just help the egg mixture soak in, the tops and bottoms have a thicker crust on that will stop it soaking up as well).

Once they’ve soaked up most, if not all, of the mixture, the butter in the pan should be frothy and hot. Put the rolls in and fry them on both sides until golden and crisp on the outside and the egg is cooked through inside.

While the rolls are in the pan, wash and slice the strawberries.

Once the rolls are cooked, sprinkle the cut sides with the remaining caster sugar (you don’t have to, but it gives a nice crunch) and fill with the strawberries. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve! I had mine with a vanilla latte made from my awesome new coffee machine, YUM.

Breakfast at my desk: Cherry and almond muesli

I’m not one of those people that can get up in the morning in enough time to have a nice breakfast at home, so I eat it when I get to work. Unfortunately we’re not allowed a toaster (yes, ~HEALTH AND SAFETY GONE MAD~), which limits a lot of my favourite options for weekday breakfasts (i.e. crumpets), so I have to get a bit more creative.

I try and include fruit into my breakfast every day. I’m not very good at eating fruit, I get quite bored of eating apples and bananas and I have an intolerance to oranges, so putting berries on my breakfast is the best way for me to actually eat fruit every day with minimal effort.

Although I love cereal and could eat it three meals a day EASILY, I do get bored of the same thing over and over again. Really the only cereal that fills me up are the bitesize shredded wheats, and I went through a phase of eating them with blueberries or strawberries on top for almost a year(!). Lately though, I feel like I want more variety. So I’ve started making my own cereal instead – this is great for fussy people like me who inevitably find something they dislike in most ready-made muesli/granola (I loathe raw hazelnuts and I can’t stand coconut). My current batch was made thus:

Cherry and almond muesli

200g whole rolled porridge oats

100g dried sweetened sour cherries

100g flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan

A few tablespoons of seeds (I used sunflower, pumpkin and golden linseed)

The sour cherries are really awesome; they’re big and squashy and have a really nice tang. As you can see I don’t put sugar in my muesli so it’s nice that the cherries are sweetened a bit otherwise it could be too bitter.

Today I enjoyed my muesli with quartered strawberries and Rachel’s Organic apple and elderflower yoghurt. It was yummy! I wholeheartedly recommend making your own muesli with whatever combination of nuts/fruit/seeds takes your fancy, it’s healthy, filling AND tastes nice!