Friday, Nov 14th, 2014
I’d firmly say I’m the type of gal that doesn’t stray, but when it comes to cuisine I am often tempted to wander. Last September, a dish belonging to another caught my eye. The object of my affections, a sourdough crumpet golden from the griddle peeked at me from under small bits of salmon roe and creme fraiche. This dish, created by Jamie Malone to honor Jeremiah Tower was gone in a few memorable bites, and like any good fling haunted my thoughts for weeks. Those dimples, so numerous and flooded with melted butter! And that mischievous tang of the sourdough. Crispy golden butter toasted joy, I was in full swoon. As preoccupied as a young lady of Austen, I could think of little else.
Luckily for me, I have control of a menu that allows me to curate my obsessions, and the team at Blackbird quickly set to the task of creating a sourdough crumpet that would satisfy my pining heart.
Before we could lift and scent a crumpet with the unmistakable quality of natural yeasts we needed to invite a sourdough starter into our lives. We have kept starters in the past when recipes have required them, and like all good parents named each. We had Rara, named by Janet, the mother that fed her nightly, after one of her heros, Shakira. Shortly there after Rara was used to start a rye flour starter, and begat a little brother dubbed Rye Rye. As the menu progressed, Rye Rye matured into Lil’ Ry, then Ry Guy, and finally just Ryan, before he graduated from our menu and exited our lives.
As our current team paused to consider the name of our fledgeling sourdough, we considered the final product. A crumpet, British by origin surely deserved a starter named in the spirit of that great nation. Not a moment passed before all three ladies of pastry looked at each other and uttered the name, “Mr. Darcy.”
Thus, Mr. Darcy entered our lives, and the helpful chap he is, he worked with us daily to recreate the crumpet that so stole my heart.
It was an easy path to wander down, no more daunting than a stroll through the garden, all the twists and turns delightfully devoured beneath a variety of jams and butters. Despite it’s ease, time it did take, and when we finally mastered Mr. Darcy’s crumpet, we owed our new friend permanent residence on the menu.
The flavor of horseradish and cheddar had been floating around in our minds, and it seemed a fit to house Mr. Darcy’s crumpet in a composed cheese dish.
We griddle the crumpets in the early hours of the workday, and toast them individually as each cheese plate is ordered. The crumpet is popped in the oven until the exterior starts to crisp before the pockets that riddle the surface are flooded with melted butter. Autumn quince, preserved in season and cooked to a ruby red membrillo anchors the crumpet to the plate. Fresh horseradish root is infused into cream and broken it into pearls of butter before being scattered over the crumpet in tandem with crumbled white cheddar. Asian pears are shaved and compressed with quince vinegar, and crown our darling Darcy. Red rimmed disks of breakfast radish dot the plate before petite beet-like amaranth leaves float over the top. Finally, fresh horseradish is grated over the entire plate, a fragrant but mild addition of the assertive flavor.
These crumpets will surely become a regular occurrence for us at any point in time we keep a sourdough. The batter requires a large portion of sourdough starter that would otherwise be discarded in the feeding cycle and a small addition of flour, buttermilk, and baking soda. You too can enjoy these crumpets without creating a composed cheese course, and any that can’t be consumed in a couple days can be tucked into your freezer for future toasting. It takes a little practice to get the bubbles to create pockets. Too thick and they can’t rise through the batter to the surface, too thin and they bubble away before the batter sets. If your crumpet rings are filled too full the bubbles get trapped under the weight of the batter, not enough and they look like little pocked pancakes. The temperature of the griddle is crucial to set the dough at just the right time, trapping the pockets left behind as the bubbles pass through to escape. Too hot and they burn, too cold and the bubbles don’t quite escape.
If you keep a sourdough starter, you’ll find you have a chance each day to master this recipe. I doubt you’ll have trouble finding hungry mouths to take your trials off your hands. Holes or no holes, there’s hardly a crumpet that isn’t made suitable toasted with a little butter and jam. If you don’t keep a starter, this recipe is a great excuse to invite one into your kitchen. Just remember to feed it daily, and to give it a right good name.
Crumbled Milton Creamery “prarie breeze” white cheddar, Fresh Horseradish, Radishes shaved into ice water, Amaranth