The Hole Truth About Crumpets

Back in my youth, before I hit my terminal oatmeal phase, crumpets were my daily breakfast staple. Run through the toaster just long enough to warm through, but not crisp, nothing could beat that speed and versatility. These were the dark ages before good vegan butter existed, so I would usually opt for a light smear of creamy peanut butter instead. If I was feeling particularly decadent, it would get a sprinkle of cinnamon and sliced banana on top, too. In the spare few minutes I had before running off to catch the train to school, that was the height of luxury.

I don’t know why I stopped eating crumpets. There were no supply chain issues to blame, no big falling out I can recall. I just seemed to suddenly forget about them for two decades.

And then, just as suddenly, that familiar craving came rushing back in a tsunami wave of nostalgia.

The texture is reminiscent of many similar bread products, yet stands alone as its own unique entity. Soft, spongy, and chewy, most people compare them to English muffins or pancakes, but I’d say they’re more like really thick injera made from wheat flour.

They’re very simple, yet surprisingly difficult to perfect. This was not my first attempt at making crumpets; shamefully, I’ve churned out more smooth flapjacks than I’d like to admit. It turns out that the secret is… Cheating.

It’s not anything as terrible as copying your classmate during the final exam. It just feels a bit like trickery when the key to creating that signature network of lacy holes is- Now don’t judge me here- To poke them open with a toothpick.

It’s not all forced, artificially manipulated texture, since they do bubble up naturally. A tiny touch of extra vital wheat gluten ensures that chewy texture, but it also makes the protein network just slightly too strong to burst open without a bit of help. You don’t need to go crazy and jab at the little skillet cakes relentlessly, but give them a little poke while you’re standing over the stove already, and they’ll be better than store-bought.

The holes are really what make crumpets so special. Providing a lacy network of pockets for clotted cream or melting butter to pool, it’s almost like a super soft waffle. They were made to be topped, lavishly or simply, to reach their full potential.

Crumpets are made of humble ingredients, with a downright silly preparation, but that’s all part of the fun. If you’ve ever wanted to relive your childish days of popping bubbles for fun, here’s a more productive way to indulge.

Continue reading “The Hole Truth About Crumpets”

Around the World in 80 Plates: London, England

Roots firmly planted in cozy New England, I hardly fancy myself a traveler, but who could be content to leave so much of the world unexplored? So many cultures to discover, beautiful places to visit, and yes, food to eat. Almost every year, I’ve been lucky enough to make one journey out of my cozy home-based bubble and see just a little snippet of some place different. Wanderlust sets in as temperatures rise, and so I’m feeling that familiar tug on the heartstrings, that longing to hop on a plane and have another grand adventure. Inspiration is always the most valuable souvenir, and these brief but influential trips have indelibly shaped my palate and cooking style as I know it. That’s why I’m so excited about Bravo’s newest Top Chef-esque program, Around the World in 80 Plates.

Trust me, TV shows rarely merit an hour break in my schedule, and not one has ever seemed like worthwhile blog fodder for a new post. However, when asked to participate in a little blogger-based competition driven by the premise of cooking dishes alongside the progression of the show, paying homage to these specific world cuisines, my answer was clear: YES! As the only vegan invited in a group of 5 bloggers, it’s up to me to represent all things meat-, egg-, and dairy-free. The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Around the World in 80 Plates premieres this Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo, and the first location isn’t a vast departure from the norm; Stopping in London, England, dessert was clearly the only worthy offering for such a sweet-toothed country. Torn between the fruity, caramel-coated goodness of banoffee pie and decadent, toffee-flavored spoonfuls of sticky toffee pudding, I decided not to choose between the two. Instead, all the best qualities of each are combined into one, creating a Banoffee Sticky Pudding. Ultra-moist banana pudding is drenched in lightly boozy toffee sauce, and topped with brûléed banana slices. Lightened with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over the still-warm pudding, it hardly needs the final crown of a crispy, dehydrated banana, but it sure does look prettier for it. Not many desserts can be described as messy and elegant all at once, which makes this playful rendition a dessert to remember.

Authentically British? Heck no. But authentically inspired, you bet!

(My original sketch- Came out pretty close to what I imagined!)

Banoffee Sticky Pudding

Banana Puddings:

1 Cup Brewed Black Tea, Still Hot
1 Cup Pitted Medjool Dates, Roughly Chopped
3 Medium-Sized, Very Ripe Bananas
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

Toffee Sauce:

3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
Pinch Salt
2/3 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Dark Rum


4 – 6 Ripe but Firm Bananas
Lemon Juice
Granulated Sugar

French Vanilla Vegan Ice Cream (page 50)

Banana Chips (Optional, for a Shortcut)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 8 4-ounce ramekins and set aside.

Place the chopped dates in a small bowl, and cover them with the hot tea. Let soak for 30 – 60 minutes, to soften the dried fruits a bit. Set aside.

Peel the bananas and break them up into chunks before tossing them into your food processor or blender. Follow them with the vinegar, vanilla, oil, and sugar. Puree until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry goods so that everything is thoroughly incorporated and well-distributed, and add everything into the food processor. Pulse lightly to bring the batter together, pausing to scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Once the mixture is almost completely smooth, finally add in the mixture of dates and tea, and pulse to incorporate. Don’t go too crazy though- You want to keep some nice chunks of dates remaining, and be careful not to overwork the batter.

Distribute the mixture between your prepared ramekins, and set them in a large baking dish or roasting pan, to create a make-shift water bath. Make sure that none of the ramekins are touching; you may need two separate baking dishes to hold everything. Place the ramekin-filled baking dish(es) in the oven, and quickly but carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish. Avoid splashing water into the puddings themselves, and try not to drip into the oven. Add water until it reaches about half-way up the sides of the ramekins, and then cover with foil. This will allow the puddings to steam and bake up delightfully moist and soft.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a pudding pulls out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Use non-slip tongs to pull the puddings from the water bath; leave the boiling hot water in the oven until it’s cool enough to handle, to prevent any disastrous spills.

While the puddings are in the oven, go ahead and start the sauce. Place the sugar, margarine, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and slowly bring to the boil. Once the margarine has melted and the sugar dissolved, let the mixture bubble and cook for a about 2 – 3 minutes before carefully pouring in the coconut milk. Bring the mixture back up to a bubble, and cook for a final 2 – 3 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and glossy. Finally, stir in the rum, and remove from the heat. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

To make the finishing touches, you will want to make the banana chips well in advance, or simply buy banana chips to top off your sweet tower. Otherwise, slice two bananas lengthwise as thinly as possible without breaking them into pieces; any thicker than 1/8-1/4 inch thick, and you’ll end up with chewy banana leather instead (not altogether a bad thing, but not what we’re going for.) lightly brush the strip with lemon juice, and lay them on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Slowly dehydrate at 200 degrees for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Check on them every 30 minutes or so, and don’t expect them to be crisp right out of the oven. They will continue to firm up after they cool. If they’re still not quite crunchy once cool, flip them over, and bake again for 30 – 60 more minutes.

Finally, for the brûléed bananas, slice 4 bananas into 1/4-1/2 inch chunks, ideally on a bias to give you a bit more surface area. Place the pieces on a silpat-lined baking sheet and lightly coat them with lemon juice. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top in a fairly thick layer- Don’t be shy about it. Run them under the broiler in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, until the sugar is melted and golden brown all over. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

To plate up all of these components, start by placing one steamed pudding on the plate. Spoon a generous amount of toffee sauce on top, and place a small ring of 3 – 4 brûléed banana pieces on top of that. Place a scoop of ice cream in the center of the ring, and finish the whole thing off with one large banana chip. For a more low-key presentation, feel free to skip all the fancy garnishes and just throw some toffee sauce right into the ramekin. Enjoy warm!

Makes 8 Servings

Printable Recipe

For participating this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.