We’re all now analysts of how countries and communities have reacted to the complexities of a partitioned world. Like many, I have been surprised by two recurring words: New Zealand. Never before have I been so proud, or so homesick, and this sends me into the kitchen.
An unforeseen boom (and boon) has been pandemic baking. In some countries (including Japan), this led to flour and yeast shortages as home gourmets perfected artisanal boules. Sourdough skirts this issue entirely. I live only 20 kilometers from the epicenter of the 2018 Atsuma earthquake in Hokkaido, and even without electricity we had fresh, naturally leavened treats hot from a pan.
Crumpets — a Kiwi favorite inherited from the United Kingdom — are a soda-risen, pan-fried bread with crisp bottoms and craggy tops. They can be eaten fresh or, if you make them ahead of time, easily reheated. Though traditionally served with golden syrup (a sort of light molasses), any sweet toppings work. Here, I use them for a whimsical, semi-savory spin on dorayaki (red bean-stuffed pancake “sandwiches”) in place of castella cake. This recipe was originally intended to use up surplus starter, but nowadays I make excess just for the crumpets.
Makes 6-8 crumpets
Prep: 1 week + 5 mins.; cook: 15 mins.
If you already have a sourdough starter, skip straight to Day 4.
For the sourdough starter:
Day 1: In a container, mix 25 grams of water with 25 grams of bread flour. Wave around your house to catch microbes. Loosely cover with a tea towel and leave on a counter.
Day 2: To the initial mixture, “feed” it with another 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour, loosely cover and leave. Hopefully, bubbling is evident. If not, repeat this step for an additional day.
Day 3: Add another 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour. Provided it has bubbled, you now have a sourdough starter! Refrigerate 50 grams for future use.
Days 4-6: Leave the remaining 300 grams of mixture in your container. It should be beginning to smell sour. Do not feed your starter during this time.
For the crumpets:
- Silicone or metal rings
- 300 grams Day 6+ extra-sour sourdough starter
- 1 tablespoon kibitō cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
- Anko bean paste and butter, to serve
1. Mix all ingredients (besides the bean paste and butter) in a bowl and wait for the baking soda to react with the sourdough. It will inflate to the texture of soft whipped cream. This will take a couple of minutes. The dough should slip off a spoon easily. If not, add a little water to loosen the batter.
2. Heat a large frypan. Place 1 teaspoon of oil per ring and half fill with batter. Fry on low heat in the rings in batches. Cover with a lid, checking regularly. Resist the urge to turn them.
3. When done, the crumpets should be crisp on the bottom with popped bubbles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops lightly with oil from the pan. Eat immediately, sandwiching anko and butter in between, or cool to store, then toast.
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