September 22, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Going stir crazy

By |2020-10-03T18:19:05+02:00September 30th, 2020|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Thank you, Barbara Pym!

ell, here we are. More than six months at home, in a small French village isolated from the real world, with sweet early morning walks and a good bottle of Scotch later in the day. I think we stocked up on gin too.

Yet I’ve done some strange things while staying so very put, especially in the kitchen. A something comes over me that definitely does not during normal times (remember them?), and I long to take on recipes that I’ve never made before, that or simply plunge into the unknown with inspiration from something I’ve read or am reading.

Years ago, when I read “Shogun” and “Taipan,” we ate Japanese and Chinese food for two months.

In this case, after a marathon of novels by England’s Barbara Pym who, for some reason, keeps me sane on these sometimes disturbing days, the urge to make crumpets propelled me to Amazon and crumpet molds.

Heaven knows why I never owned such molds to help in making little tea breads (the molds are normally used for poaching eggs, but I’ve mastered that art long ago).

That said, I rose early one day to stir up the crumpet mix so it could get to its bubbling point, trying to encourage them to grace our breakfast table and bring a little of Pym’s ever-present tea time into our petit dejeuner ritual (oatmeal, coffee, juice…yawn).

Crumpet molds should be a part of everyone’s cooking equipment stash.

But when those little darlings had puffed up in their non-stick metal skillet circles and formed sufficient tiny craters for more butter and jam, it came to me (out of personal satisfaction perhaps) that crumpet molds should be a part of everyone’s cooking equipment stash. At least during lockdowns or self-imposed isolation (we belong to the latter tribe).

No crumpet molds? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, here is what to do, and I have made it all easier because I’m a one-bowl stirrer from long ago.

In a mixing bowl, stir up all of the following, then set the bowl in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes:

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup warm milk (the company that makes commercial crumpets for the UK uses water. Milk is better.)
  • 1 tablespoon warm water mixed with 1 teaspoon granular yeast
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar

— Now, place your molds, brushed with butter, in the hot skillet for a few minutes over medium heat, then ladle the risen dough carefully into each mold, about halfway up.

— Cook over medium heat until little bubbles start to form on the crumpets, and when bubbles begin and the tops still look a bit gooey, lower the heat and continue to cook until the goo is gone.

— Remove the molds (they come off easily if they have little handles — otherwise, use a mitt and don’t burn your fingers).

At this point, serve with a strong cuppa and your next Barbara Pym novel waiting patiently until breakfast or tea is finished.

And isolation.

One note: If you don’t have molds, large cookie cutters will work, or simply spoon the dough into a small skillet and wait for bubbles. More work to serve many, but very tasty indeed.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.