When I followed the link on Orangette’s rhubarb compote, I fell into a rabbit hole. I devoured the whole of The Pastry Department in one sitting, admiring its clean prose, tessellated pen and ink drawings and pure pastry chef geekery. Dana Cree’s recipes are from her restaurant, Blackbird, in Chicago, that I would now love to visit. They speak to the professional in their sophisticated flavour combinations, in her pared-down instructions. But they are inspiring to a home cook as well – that raw passion and intensity, the idea that you need to experiment, to taste and taste again. Reading through made me feel like a small child, allowed to eat at the grown-up table for the first time. Wide eyed and determined to live up to the trust placed in me. The list of components in the Blackbird crepes – chicory streusel, coffee mascarpone, teff crepes, rum bling, chocolate cremeux, and more – sounds like a challenge of the best kind.
I want to write to the younger version of myself, and tell her everything I’ve discovered along the way…. This blog is written for her, that wide eyed girl making the untethered leap into her first pastry chef position, and for anyone like her pushing forward into pastry careers of their own. – from the about page
It feels like discovering an Ottolenghi of desserts: when you want to make every recipe, right now, today, despite the long list of ingredients. A generous chef – who lists all of her formulas rather than keeping them secret – and one with a sense of humour. I especially liked the recipe for Mr Darcy’s sourdough crumpets. Since I have named my houseplants (Dorothy and Alfred) I am surprised it didn’t occur me to name my sourdough starter as she did hers. An English name for an English breakfast. And since I was on my way home from England with a stash of tea and crumpets, since I was wearing a Pride and Prejudice book necklace made by my adorable cousin, since I hate throwing away most of my starter if I am not baking bread when I feed it in the morning… it felt like fate.
(For this recipe, you will need to be cultivating a sourdough starter already. The upkeep is minimal: feed it flour and water every day or couple of days, leave it to bubble at room temperature. Put it the fridge when you go on holiday. Much easier than a kitten. If the promise of golden-brown, flavoursome sourdough loaves AND hot crumpets in the morning is not enough to convince you, then I don’t know what else to say. I am not enough of an expert to explain the whole process, certainly not as a codicil to a blogpost, but I can recommend the Tartine book with all its pictures as a good start.)
I haven’t opened the packet of shop crumpets. I have been experimenting with the Mr Darcy formula in the morning – bread flour or all purpose? do I need rings or will this heart shaped cutter do? how much butter? how thick? – and enjoying the freedom to play around. And the fresh, holey, chewy, butter-soaked crumpets, of course.
recipe adapted from the pastry department – she recommends you feed the starter after 6pm for morning crumpets. Approximately 12 hours before should be fine. She uses plain (all-purpose) flour for her starter but since I mainly use mine for bread otherwise, I use a bread flour. And 100g is the amount I normally throw away when I feed my small starter, leaving only a teaspoon or so behind.. So I’ve just carried on doing it this way. Feel free to scale up: just feed your starter double the night before. If you don’t have buttermilk in the fridge, just add a couple of drops of lemon juice/vinegar to whole milk and let it curdle for a few minutes. And I’ve used baking powder when out of soda. You can use biscuit cutters (heart-shaped or not!) instead of rings for the crumpets. Or if you do them freehand, they will be a little flatter but no less delicious.
makes 2 large / 4 small crumpets
100g leftover sourdough starter
20g plain flour
2g baking soda (1/4 tsp)
1g salt (a pinch)
Whisk all ingredients together and let stand for 30 minutes. Heat up a large flat frying pan, medium heat. It shouldn’t be so hot that the butter burns. If you are using rings, heat them up with the pan. Add a little butter to the middle of each ring. Whisk mixture one more time and tip into a piping bag. When the butter is sizzling, pipe (or spoon) mixture into the rings so they are about 1cm thick. Bubbles will form and the top will set. Keep an eye on them so the bottom doesn’t brown too fast. Eat immediately with butter and flaky salt, or save for toasting later.