You might think that all partnerships of carbs and butter for breakfast are created equal, but there's one marriage to rule them all: butter and crumpets. If you've never had a crumpet, it's easiest to explain what it isn't. It isn't a pancake, a bread, or a cake. It's also not to be confused with its cousin, the English muffin. While both are cooked on a griddle or in a cast-iron pan, English muffins are made with dough, while crumpets are made with a thick yeasted batter.
What makes a crumpet a crumpet are the unique holes throughout the finished product, which form during cooking as a result of the leavening process. It affords a texture that's chewy and a little spongy on the inside, crispy on the bottom. The sponginess is instrumental in soaking up butter, which is the crumpet's inherent purpose.
They're a breakfast staple in Britain, where they can be found premade in supermarkets, as well as in my native Australia (where toasters have crumpet settings!). But, like all good things, they're even better made from scratch. The only special equipment needed are crumpet ring molds, which are inexpensive and easily sourceable online.
Most crumpet recipes require two stages of proofing. But who wants to wait two to three hours to make crumpets for breakfast? I experimented with a holy trinity of buttermilk, instant yeast, and baking soda to achieve the same—if not better—fluffy, spongy, crisp results you want from a crumpet with only 45 minutes' proofing time. Plus, the addition of spelt flour gives it a more satisfying chew and flavor.
Crumpets are glorious vehicles for sweet and savory toppings, but the classic, unadulterated topping combo is butter and honey. From there, you can experiment with a creamy base layer such as whipped ricotta, crème fraîche, goat cheese, or mascarpone. Add sweet toppings like jam, curd, or fruit compotes, or savory ones such as gravlax, pickled shrimp, crabmeat, or poached eggs with ham. Ultimately, there are no rules; the crumpet is your canvas—adorn it as you wish.
Prepare batter as directed; cover and let stand at room temperature until surface of batter is very bubbly, about 45 minutes.
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over low. Brush skillet with oil; spray ring molds with cooking spray, and place in skillet to preheat.
Fill each ring mold halfway with batter. Cook until surface is covered with small holes and batter is dry around edges, about 8 minutes.
Using tongs, carefully lift and remove each ring mold, leaving crumpets in pan. Set ring molds aside for next batch.
Using a small spatula, carefully and quickly flip crumpets.
Cook crumpets until bottoms are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
Crumpets are perfect with just a pat of butter, but try these toppings to take them to the next level.
Bagel Vibes: Crème fraîche + gravlax + chives
First Class: Whipped feta + lump crabmeat + pickled red onion + salmon roe
Honey Plus: Whipped ricotta + honey + thyme
Tart Start: Labneh + lemon curd or orange-rosemary marmalade