Let’s Talk Food: The difference between crumpets and English muffins

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Original Thomas English muffins.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON English muffin dough.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON English muffin dough in the mixer.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Toasted English muffin with jam.

Our son, Dean, and I have conversations during dinner, talking about, what else, food. On Sunday night, we were talking about the difference between crumpets and English muffins.

Crumpets are commonly served with high tea in the United Kingdom. But when you ask them about English muffins, they chuckle and call them American muffins.

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Samuel Bath Thomas went from Plymouth, England, to New York City in 1874. In 1880, he opened a bakery at 163 Ninth Ave. This is where he invented what he called “toaster crumpets.” No wonder the British call them American muffins — they were created in New York!

Crumpets are made with a soft, thick, porous bread and are cooked on the griddle. They are cooked only on one side, while the English muffins, also cooked on a griddle or in a cast-iron pan, are cooked on two sides.

English Crumpets

Makes: 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 cup warm milk (85 degrees)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup warm water (85 degrees)

Softened unsalted butter for brushing tops

Whisk flour, yeast and salt together in medium bowl.

Heat milk and sugar in a small pot to 85 degrees.

Make a well in the flour mixture, pour the warm milk, stir until evenly moistened. (It will be a little stiff).

Cover and let stand in a draft-free area, until billowy, about 2 hours.

In a small bowl, stir baking soda into warm water until dissolved.

Using a handheld mixer, at low speed, beat the liquid into the dough until smooth.

Let batter rest 30 minutes.

Preheat a cast-iron griddle or large nonstick pan over moderate heat.

Brush pan with butter. If it browns right away, turn the heat down.

Working in batches, brush the inside of 2 1/2-inch shallow ring molds with butter and set them on the griddle.

Spoon 2 1/2 tablespoons batter into each ring, allowing it to flow to the edges. Cook over moderate heat, about 5 minutes, until bottoms are golden and bubbles appear on the surface. Brush tops with butter. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 more minutes. Transfer the crumpets to a rack and carefully remove the rings. Repeat with the remaining batter.

• • •

Bon Appetit magazine claims this recipe for English muffins is the best.

Bon Appetit’s Best English Muffins

Makes: 12

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup warmed water to 85 degrees

1 cup buttermilk, warmed to 85 degrees

4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Cornmeal for dusting

Whisk yeast, sugar and 1 cup warm water in bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add buttermilk, butter, vegetable oil, salt and flour.

Beat on low speed until shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and beat until dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but is very wet and sticky, about 5 minutes.

Spray a medium bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill overnight. (The cold rise makes the dough easier to handle, produces better flavor and creates more nooks and crannies).

Dust two parchment lined rimmed baking sheets and generously scatter with cornmeal.

Spray a clean work surface with nonstick spray. Turn out dough, then spray dough.

Using a bench scraper, divide dough into 12 equal pieces, each about 3 ounces.

Working with one piece at a time, and using the bench scraper, fold dough inward onto itself on 4 sides. Turn dough over with bench scraper so that folds are underneath and transfer to prepared sheets.

Repeat with remaining dough, spacing them evenly on the baking sheets.

Sprinkle each piece with cornmeal.

Spray plastic wrap with nonstick spray and loosely cover baking sheets, oiled side down.

Let sit at room temperature until dough is nearly doubled in size, about one hour.

Heat a large skillet or cast iron griddle over low heat.

Place another rimmed baking sheet in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Working in 2-3 batches and keeping remaining dough covered, slide two thin metal spatulas from opposite sides underneath dough, also getting underneath the cornmeal to avoid sticking or deflating the dough and transfer to skillet (do not overcrowd).

Cook until bottoms are dark golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is dark golden brown, 5-7 minutes.

Using spatula, transfer muffins to preheated baking sheet in oven and bake until cooked through and sides are dry to the touch but still springs back, about 5-10 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Let muffins cool at least 30 minutes before splitting with fork and serving.

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Muffins can be made one day ahead. Let cool and store in a resealable bag at room temperature. Toast lightly before serving.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.