Consider the English muffin. It is likely, if you are any self-respecting lover of brunch, that you’ve consumed at least one in the last week or so, but the humble base of Benedicts contains many mysteries if you stop to think. Wherefore art thou a muffin? Where do all those nooks and crannies come from? Is it even truly English, or some American marketing scam?
Now consider the crumpet. It is likely, if you are any self-respecting Anglophile, that you have muttered something about crumpets and high tea in a posh accent to entertain yourself, but picture it…wait, have you ever actually seen one? If you haven’t, good news! You don’t actually have to shell out for high tea as they are regularly available at Trader Joe’s.
But back to the matter at hand, are English muffins simply a rebranding of crumpets for American sensibilities or are there actual differences between them?
Beginning with the similarities, both do seem to have an authentic Great British pedigree, though crumpets may be specifically Welsh in origin. Both are attained through yeast-leavening, which helps to impart the butter-loving nooks and crannies that make them both craveable, though the crumpet wears its crannies on the outside (for shame!) while the demure English muffin keeps them contained for later fork-splitting. Both have a similar, mostly unsweetened flavor and are traditionally served with butter and jam (before brunch was invented and Benedict had his say in the matter.)
To summarize the primary difference between them, an English muffin relies on a firm shape-holding dough, whereas a crumpet is made more from a loose batter. Have a closer look at the following make-at-home recipes for the nuance:
Here we see that the English muffin has yeast applied in two different stages, first in the form of a starter, allowing for additional fermentation, which contributes both to the flavor (think sourdough) and structure of the final product. The dough requires rising as well as kneading, which also helps to result in more glutenous, muscular cavities. Individual muffins are shaped and rolled in cornmeal, giving them their signature granular outsides. While English muffins can be oven-baked, they are typically “baked” on a griddle, with a flip mid-way to ensure even development of the crannies from both sides, and even browning. Get the recipe.
The crumpet batter comes together quickly by comparison, with a lower ratio of dry to wet ingredients, and a simple 30-minute rest to let the yeast create some bubbles. Crumpet rings are necessary for the batter to keep its shape and to give each crumpet a surface to rise up against while cooking. The crumpet is traditionally cooked on one side only, the yeast and heat working together to create bubbles that work up through the batter revealing the crumpet’s signature pores. The final texture of the crumpet is more spongy than chewy, but equal to the task of butter delivery. Get the recipe.
Header image courtesy of The Kitchn / The Daring Gourmet.