One of the silliest souvenirs we ever bought came from a snug little tearoom at the top of the Pike Place Market in Seattle. It was aclock in the shape of a full-size toaster; as the second hand went around, two pieces of artificial toast rhythmically rose from and receded into the slots on top. It was an odd way to remember some of the tastiest morning meals we ate in Seattle, none of which featured toast from a toaster.
What those memorable meals did feature were crumpets: thick, warm, toasted little muffins laced with holes dripping honey. Crumpets are like English muffins but chewier and richer-flavored. Made from batter and cooked on a griddle, they have a lush consistency and a craggy-textured surface that just begs to be heaped with butter and fruit-clotted marmalade. Traditionally, crumpets are served at tea time; the really old-fashioned way to do it is to hold them on a long-handled fork over the fire in the fireplace to warm them up just before spreading them with butter and strawberry jam.There aren't many places in the United States that serve crumpets. That is why Seattle's Crumpet Shop is a special treasure. Here crumpets are made and served for breakfast, brunch and lunch. You can get them simply buttered, or with a choice from among nearly two dozen different kinds of preserves and honeys, or as the foundation for open-faced sandwiches of cheddar cheese, ham, cream cheese and cucumber, or smoked salmon. On the side, have a cup of cappuccino or, better yet, imported tea. It's a great way to start a day of exploring the Pike Place Market or to take a civilized mid-morning breather.
And do bring home a souvenir. If a tacky toaster-clock is not your cup of tea, the Crumpet Shop does sell dozens of kinds of truly exotic teas from around the world, as well as a fabulous assortment of honeys and preserves, oatmeals, grains and cereals from the Northwest and the British isles. The crumpets are available, too: sold by the six-pack, ready to take home, heat and eat.
Unless you are the type of cook who is scared by any recipe that calls for yeast, crumpets are easy to make at home. Few morning treats are as delightful as a crumpet that is freshly made and served hot off the griddle. The only special equipment you need is crumpet rings; but if you don't have them, don't worry. Large cookie cutters, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, or cleaned tuna cans with their tops and bottoms removed do the job just fine. The only thing to remember is to start the recipe a few hours before you want to eat crumpets, as the batter needs to rise at least an hour before the muffins are poured into their rings and baked.
The Crumpet Shop at the Pike Place Market, 1503 First Ave., Seattle, WA (206) 682-1598.
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1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm (110 degrees) water
1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Combine sugar and yeast in small bowl. Stir in warm water. Let set until yeast begins to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat together milk and egg. Stir in yeast mixture, then flour and salt and melted butter, beating hard as batter becomes smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in warm place until batter has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Stir batter to deflate it.
Generously butter the crumpet rings or tuna cans and heat additional butter in a skillet or on a griddle over medium heat. Place rings on heated skillet or griddle, then spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons of batter into each ring (depending on ring size), enough to cover bottom entirely. As crumpets begin to brown, remove rings and turn crumpets to cook other side. Serve warm with butter and jam.
Makes 8 to 15 crumpets, depending on size.