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#1042 - Scones, Crumpets and English Muffins
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Several weeks ago we were talking about High Tea as served at Downton Abbey, the popular BBC show, and the subject of scones and crumpets came up. We thought this might warrant a show of its own since English muffins, scones and crumpets are delicious to eat and also, quite easy to make
English muffins are made from a yeasty dough, scones and crumpets from a batter. In fact, the scone resembles quick bread in many respects, while the crumpet is very similar to a pancake.
The English Muffin
The English muffin is very bread-like in its makeup. The form we now know goes back to the late 1700's, when the "Muffin Man" was a familiar figure. The standard muffin dough requires not only yeast, but shortening which will weaken the gluten formation in the dough, making it more tender. The dough is allowed to rise twice, and then rolled out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Circular cookie cutters, or other device, are used to cut out rounds. Place these on a sheet of wax paper dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle cornmeal on the tops as well. When ready to cook, heat up a greased griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Cook each muffin for about ten minutes each side, then set aside to cool.
Properly pronounced to rhyme with "gone," Americans make it rhyme with "cone." Either way, it is a small, quick bread cake, levened with baking powder, and mixed most frequently with dried fruits. It is not far from our American short cake. The standard scone shape is sort of like a diamond, and it is about 1 1/2" thick.
Originally the scone was flat, round and about the size of a bread and butter plate. It was referred to as a "bannock," which was then cut into four quartered wedges, which were called the "scones." The bannock used to be cooked, unlevened on a griddle, but with the advent of baking powder, they were baked in an oven. Today the quadrant wedge shape is still to be found, but the smaller biscuit shape is more popular.
The dough is made with flower, eggs, baking powder, sugar, milk, a touch of salt, and most importantly: cold butter as the fat. This will give you a flakier cake.
Scones are an excellent way of acquainting yourself with dried currents, a staple fruit in older days. They are a perfect addition to the dough, as are raisins, dried berries of all kinds, and if you must, chocolate chips. We think the currents are perfect.
It does sound like a food out of a nursery rhyme, or alternatively, Jane Austin. The crumpet is a round, chewy, spongy cake cooked on a griddle in a ring mold. As it cooks, the top side of the crumpet develops hundreds of bubble holes, much like a half cooked pancake. It is turned on the griddle to firm up the top, and then served hot.
The crumpet is made from a batter, a more liquid form of dough that is leavened with yeast, but not blended with fat. It is not a spur-of-the-moment dish, since the batter needs to rise for about an hour and a half. Overnight would be better. To cook it, you will need a ring mold at least 1 inch deep, and a hot, greased griddle. Place the ring mold on the griddle and fill about half way. Cook it until the topside shows a lot of bubbles and starts to cook through. Remove the crumpet from its mold, and flip the crumpet and cook the top briefly until it turns golden brown. Serve with butter and jam.