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Crumpets, Tea & Co.

Everybody likes hot breads.

November 01, 2000|MARCY GOLDMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's never an occasion when I can't find an excuse to pop something in the oven. And no one at my table--blood-related or otherwise--has ever said, "No, I couldn't possibly have another fresh, hot crumpet." Baking a my house is not just a sometime thing.

That's especially true for breakfast. Bagels, brioches and bialys, croissants and crumpets--there are so many traditional breads you can happily make, bake and serve between the hours of dawn and noon.

Breakfast breads are traditional and comforting. There's little need to reinvent the wheel or push the envelope; the old favorites have sufficed for years and will continue to do so.

Crumpets are a great example. A good crumpet is like a cross between a pancake and an English muffin, though it's really a mistake to compare them to anything else--especially to store-bought crumpets. If you have never had a homemade crumpet, you're in for a treat. It's puffy, golden and moist but crusty.

Then there's pain au chocolat, the favorite treat of millions of French schoolkids. My recipe is a shortcut version of the classic, but it's still sweet and buttery, made from a very rich (but easy) sweet dough hiding a cache of chopped-up chocolate that melts just a touch during baking.

Sally Lunn Bread is an American (and English) classic much like a brioche. This buttery, slightly sweet loaf is wonderful whether it's served fresh or toasted with butter and honey.

To listen to people from New York, it's the only place where real bagels can be made, because you have to have New York City tap water. I disagree. This recipe gives resoundingly authentic-tasting bagels no matter whose water you use.

On the other hand, nothing beats a good biscuit. A combination of leaveners--yeast, baking powder and soda--makes these extra-light, and an overnight rise makes them ready to bake when you are. It's traditional to keep a big batch of batter in the refrigerator so you can cut off and bake portions as required.

The one twist on tradition here is the English muffin bread. I first noticed it in a book by James Beard and was intrigued by the idea of fiddling with two leaveners, baking soda and yeast. It's a triumph--a coarse and grainy loaf that combines English muffin texture and taste with a traditional quick loaf's ease and toast-ability.

Best of all, nothing special is needed for these recipes--just the basic flour, yeast, butter and sugar. Add a hefty mug of coffee or a proper pot of tea and it's cue reveille. Sound the chuck-wagon bell. Dig in.

*

Goldman runs the Baker Boulanger Web site at http://www.betterbaking.com.

Crumpets

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes plus 1 hour 15 minutes standing

You need a cast-iron griddle or large skillet for these or an electric griddle. Crumpet recipes call for baking soda--and this is stirred in near the end of the batter's rest time. Crumpet rings are not necessary. Once these are done, toast them, then serve them with whipped butter and honey.

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

About 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water

Butter, for greasing

* In large bowl or bowl of an electric mixer, stir together yeast and water. Let stand a few minutes then add warm milk, melted butter, salt, sugar and most of flour. Stir with paddle to encourage batter to become slightly elastic, but do not add too much flour. It should have the consistency of batter. Cover and let rest 45 minutes. Stir in dissolved soda, cover, and let rise 20 to 30 minutes.

* Grease griddle and heat over medium-low heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto griddle, spacing 2 inches apart. Reduce heat to low, cover griddle and cook crumpets until tops look dry, about 15 minutes. They will look a little gummy, but will be done; do not turn over. Repeat until batter is used up. Toast before serving.

14 to 18 crumpets. Each of 18 crumpets: 113 calories; 317 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.77 gram fiber.

French Chocolate Buns (Pain au Chocolat)

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes plus 1 1/2 hours standing

YEASTED PASTRY DOUGH

5 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 cup warm milk

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest

4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups flour

Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing

* Stir together yeast and water in large bowl. Let mixture stand 10 minutes to proof yeast. Whisk in warm milk, then sugar, salt, egg, egg yolks, butter, vanilla and lemon zest. Combine until dough is too stiff to mix, adding just enough flour so that dough holds together and is still a bit moist. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

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