Unwrap bought crumpets for the first time and you might wonder what possessed you to add these to your shopping trolley. They're rather heavy and leathery, and biting into a cold one is NOT a pleasant experience.
But add a little warmth, lashings of butter and a pot of freshly brewed tea and you could be excused for thinking that this is a completely different thing altogether.
Crumpets are more bread than cake.
They're excellent with just fridge-cold butter, with butter and your favourite jam, or even with a large dollop of fragrant lemon curd. And what's more... toasted, topped with mature cheddar cheese, and placed under the grill until hot and bubbling they must be one of the speediest suppers ever invented.
And while home-made crumpets are as wonderful as you a treat as you can devise, there's no need to get your baking hat on all the time. Most people in England buy their crumpets and just pop them in the toaster before enjoying them with tea.
© Joe Gough | fotolia.com
But if you have a little time on your hands, maybe at a weekend, why not try to make them yourself?
It's ridiculously easy. If you can make pancake batter, you can make these ... guaranteed.
Don't attempt them when you're in a hurry or starving hungry, though. It takes about an hour for the yeast to work its magic on the other ingredients. But after that it's as easy as making pancakes.
And to get the traditional round shape, it's best to cook your crumpets in well greased Norpro English Muffin Rings.
The recipe below is from Delia's Complete Cookery Course, which is an excellent reference source for novice chefs and experienced cooks alike. If you have heard of Delia Smith, you will know that all her recipes are so well tested that they work like a treat.
So give it a try and surprise your family with a home-made treat at teatime!
You will also need a thick-based frying pan, the above-mentioned cooking rings and a little oil.
Something else I've recently re-discovered is Mason Cash stoneware. There's something about stoneware that just feels right in the kitchen. Maybe because I remember growing up with it around and, once upon a time, simply everybody had it!
Mason Cash offer all manner of bowls, of course, but this batter bowl is my favourite. I love the colour, even though you can go much more traditional than Baker Street Gray! But I think it looks smart and it makes pouring the batter into the rings so much easier.
Heat the milk and water together in a small saucepan till they are 'hand hot'. Then pour into a jug, stir in the sugar and dried yeast and leave it in a warm place for 10-15 minutes till there is a good frothy head on it.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. When the yeast mixture is frothy, pour it all into the mixing bowl.
Slowly work the flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon. Beat well at the end to make a perfectly smooth batter.
Cover the mixing bowl with a tea-towel and leave to stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes - by which time, the batter will have become light and frothy.
When you're ready to cook, grease the insides of the cooking rings very well and add a little oil to your frying pan before placing it over a medium heat.
When the pan is hot, arrange the rings in the frying pan and spoon 1 tablespoon of the batter into each ring.
Let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes: first tiny bubbles will appear on the surface and then, suddenly, they will burst, leaving the traditional holes.
Now take a large spoon and fork, lift off the rings and turn the crumpets over. Cook on the second side for about 1 minute only. Re-grease and reheat the rings and pan before cooking the next batch.
Serve the crumpets while still warm, generously buttered and topped with anything that takes your fancy. Strawberry jam or lemon curd are particularly good.
If you are making your teatime treat in advance, then reheat them by toasting lightly on both sides before serving. (Bought crumpets need toasting on the highest setting of your toaster to give you a similar result).
Or check out these pages for more ideas for your afternoon tea: