Been a bit since I’ve been here. Holidays this year were different for us as they were for a lot of folks. We spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with just our little family unit of 4, which for us is different since we usually are able to visit with extended family and friends. We have one friend that hosts as Winter Solstice party each year that we particularly missed as we get to see and catch up with friends there that we may only see that one time a year. Of course, not seeing our extended family left a hole in the holidays for all of us. But, on the flip side of that, it was nice to just relax and spend time together without the rush or need to be anywhere. I made a nice roast duck for Christmas, which I have only cooked one other time in my life. It came out delicious and I took the opportunity to hone my skills with that particular fowl since I don’t cook them often. This Christmas, since the funds were a bit more limited due to a job loss for me, and the need to invest in a new-to-us used car for the boys, we went very low key on the presents this year. I came up with some other ideas so that the gifts weren’t the main focus. I had planned a nice hike in the morning before presents, but as it was raining here, that didn’t quite happen. I had also asked my husband to create a fun sports trivia quiz for the boys, the one with the higher score winning a nice shirt as a prize. We did this in the middle of gift opening and it was a hit. This is something I think we will continue in the future as they all seemed to really enjoy that. The men in the house are all pretty sports obsessed, so it was a fun way to add something new to the tradition of gift opening. It also added lots of laughter and fed right into their competitive natures, so definitely a hit.
During this time, we have also done some college campus visits for the boys. The oldest is going to college next fall, that’s the plan right now anyway, but since the youngest is also going to be choosing colleges and applying to them next fall we have been bringing him along to the visits so he gets a taste of what these schools look like and whether or not he would feel comfortable attending one of those. Most colleges are remote right now, so with the pandemic, it’s a good time to visit them and be able to roam around on foot. The down fall to this is that interviews are non-existent and you can’t really talk to anyone, so the tours are basically self guided tours and we just walk around the campus and see the outside of the buildings and the layout of the school. Though not ideal of course, it at least gives them the sense of the size of the school and the feel of the surrounding town. I will say, it is surreal to be walking around, what would in normal times be a bustling campus full of youth, and having it have literally no one in site. The only people we encountered were people walking their dogs from the community, very weird indeed. Our oldest is still waiting on a few admissions decisions from doing Early Admission, but so far, he’s fairing well with scholarships, which he certainly will need in order to navigate this experience without tremendous debt. The cost of college these days is a topic we could spend hours talking about, but if you aren’t in that phase of your lives right now, you might be utterly shocked at what it costs. It runs the gamut of course, from community college to ivy league (and there are ways around some of it if you get creative), but the average college cost… per year…in our experience…has been upwards of $45,000 a year!! Times 4 years for a bachelor’s degree…Yes, you saw that right…that’s a minimum of $180,000 for four years (times two kids!). When I was going to school, that would have put you all the way through medical school never mind just your average college degree. So, you can see that scholarships will be key for my guys because there’s no way that would be happening otherwise.
I have also been exploring and performing cooking A LOT during this pandemic (does anyone else miss the occasional restaurant dining experience?). I also did a bit of stocking up on food for the pantry as was advised. I have a lot of flour that needs to get used now so it doesn’t spoil before it is used up. Food is a serious investment now with prices soaring on a lot since the pandemic began. So, I decided to try my hand at a few things that I usually buy at the grocery store. We like to have English muffins here and since they are fairly inexpensive at the grocery store, I usually just buy them there. But, in a effort to maintain my goal of using the resources on hand to keep me out of the grocery store whenever possible, I decided to try to make a different but similar breakfast treat. Crumpets are just the ticket! Now, I have made them in the past, and they did come out well, so I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to try my hand at them again, but I figured why not? Thinking that perhaps maybe you would like to do the same and make some of your own, figured I would share the recipe with you. They are quite easy and in the end you have a very tasty treat! They will freeze well also just in the event you made too many or want to bake a big batch and have some to thaw out for later.
It begins by mixing together 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of hot water (you’re going for a bit warmer than luke warm, 85 degrees or so). To this add one egg and mix well. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, measure out 2 cups of all purpose flour. I have also made it with white whole wheat and though very tasty, they are not quite as light in texture. Now, the recipe I used didn’t call for any sugar or salt. But…any of you that actually use yeast in your baking know that a bit of sugar helps to feed and proof (activate) the yeast. So, I threw 1/2 tsp of sugar in there and a healthy pinch of salt, because that amount of salt compliments the flavor so well without being overbearing.
After whisking the dry ingredients until well combined, pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until smooth. Don’t over whisk or you chance making little hockey pucks instead of delectable little butter and jam vessels.
Then, it needs to be covered to rest and activate in a warm place. Our home is kept at 58 degrees all winter, so it is not warm enough for this to do much of anything. Since I didn’t have the woodstove going that day, I decided to use the newfangled button on my stove, “bread proof”. I was discussing making bread with my friend, Diane, and she asked me if I had this setting on my oven…ummm…not that I had ever noticed (or used obviously). I usually rise bread in my breadmaker…which sadly went to breadmaker heaven recently…so I never needed it. But there it was, in all it’s useful glory on the stove panel, so I tried it and it works splendidly! If you, too, have this setting on your stove, its great!! Give it a go!
I covered this with my favorite tea towel before putting it in the oven. Do you have a favorite tea towel in your kitchen? This one is about 15 years old and has a mate that is bright green. These two towels are reserved for this type of function, and they have also seen plenty of flour spread to roll pizza crust, pie doughs and anything needing rolling out. Flour the towel well and go to work! They keep the mess much more contained than spreading flour out all over the countertop, which then needs to be cleaned up. Just gather your towel and head for the compost pile. Voila! But, I digress…let’s get back to crumpets, shall we?
So, this recipe is best made with crumpet rings…but… I don’t own those. So, I just use the large rings from wide mouth canning jars. They work pretty well, but the only caveat to them is that you have to grease them very well so that the batter doesn’t stick to them when you flip the crumpets over and try to remove them. You wouldn’t want to see the crumpets I learned that lesson on, believe me. I actually think I threw them away, ring and all, I was so mad. These rings have ridges in them, which are necessary for their intended purpose but don’t help with making crumpets. So, heed the warning and grease them well. I actually keep vegetable shortening in my kitchen just for this because I don’t cook with it normally.
After your batter has risen for an hour, it should look just like this. See all those wonderful bubbles? That’s the yeast partying down and happy and ready to take a flying leap into a hot pan. I find that these cook so well in cast iron pans, which is a good thing because it’s just about all I use in my kitchen. Set the temperature on the stove to medium, butter your pan well (or spray, or bacon grease, whatever you chose to use to keep them from sticking), place your rings down and pour the batter carefully in each ring. Use care when putting the batter in the rings so that you don’t have a big mess on your hands with batter dripping everywhere.
Let them cook on medium until they start to look like this. You want them drier on the top before you flip them then is shown here. See all those big bubbles and craters? Oh, those are the butter and jam holders! So good! Once they are pretty dry on the top, flip and cook on the opposite side for about 1 1/2 minutes. When you flip them, the rings may come loose if they are greased well, it is fine to remove them and cook after the flip without them.
Sorry this is a blurry picture, but I include it to show you how the crumpets should look when they are cooked. These don’t look like they have risen much, but that’s partially due to the rings with ridges in them, and partially because they could have used a bit more batter. Once they are cooked, apply whatever your favorite topping is…ours is lots of butter with a jam or jelly or even maple or apple butter. Our favorite this year has been an amazing concoction called “tangerine butter” that my sister and her family (who live in Florida) sent us for Christmas. Oh, heavens! It is fantastic stuff!
I pair it with my favorite chai for an afternoon snack, but it would also make a wonderful breakfast food. An egg sandwich made with two of these and your favorite meat and cheese would make a hearty breakfast for sure. Any that didn’t get devoured when they came out of the pan (growing teen boys can eat a lot) went into the freezer to be enjoyed later. I did place a piece of waxed paper between them before freezing so I could separate them easily. I’ve put the recipe below so you can follow that more traditionally. I hope you enjoy them!!
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 tsp fast rising yeast
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp sugar or honey
pinch of salt
Mix water and milk and add egg, whisk until well combined.
In large bowl, put yeast, flour, sugar (if using honey, add to the wet ingredients), and salt. Whisk until well combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Do not overmix.
Grease rings well. Place rings in pan on medium heat and spoon or pour batter into each. Cook until the top is bubbles pop and the top is pretty dry.
Carefully flip over and cook for another 1- 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from pan and remove rings if they haven’t already come off. Place on rack to cool slightly and then enjoy. If freezing, let cool on rack completely, place waxed paper squares between each and place in freezer bag. Makes about 12 crumpets.
Time to end here. I hope you are all fairing well during this pandemic and political turmoil. Please remember to take a break in nature if it all gets to be too much. I hope to be in touch soon. Until then, be well, be kind to each other, blessing to you all.