We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
April 18, 1811
If you are traveling to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this year, you simply must stop by the Jane Austen Centre’s Award Winning Tea Room to sample their amazing selection of Regency delights. Just reading over the menu will have your mouth watering, but what selection will you choose? Will it be Tea with Mr. Darcy or the Austen’s? Perhaps you prefer Lady Catherine’s Proper Tea. Whatever you desire, be it sweet or savoury, you are sure to find it delicious and satisfying!
One delightfully English offering is “Crawford’s Crumpets” (served with butter, honey and your choice of tea) According to An A to Z of Food & Drink (2002) by John Ayto, “The origins of the crumpet are mysterious. As early as 1382, Johy Wycliffe, in his translation of the Bible, mentioned crompid cake, whose name may be the precursor of the modern term, but the actual ‘cake’ itself does not bear much resemblance to the present-day crumpet. It seems to have been a thin cake cooked on a hot griddle, so that the edges curled up (crompid goes back to Old English crump, crumb, ‘crooked’, and is related to the modern English crumple). The inspiration behind its naming thus seems to be very familiar to that of crepe, which literally means ‘curled’. Earliest recipes for crumpets, from the late seventeenth century, continue this theme, standardly using buckwheat flour, and it is not until nearly a hundred years later that crumpets as we know then today beging to emerge…During the 19th century the crumpet–toasted before the fire, its honeycomb of cavities filled with melting butter–established itself as an indispensible part of the English teatime scene.”
Alan Davidson (Oxford Companion to Food, 1999) adds, “The earliest published recipe for crumpets of the kind known now is from Elizabeth Raffald (1769).” Here for your enjoyment, is Elizabeth Raffald’s classic recipe– one which very well might have been served in the Austen home!
To make tea crumpets Beat two eggs very well, put them to a quart of warm milk and water, and a large spoonful of barm: beat in as much fine flour as will make them rather thicker than a common batter pudding, then make your bakestone very hot, and rub it with a little butter wrapped in a clean linen cloth, then pour a large spoonful of batter upon your stone, and let it run to the size of a tea-saucer; turn it, and when you want to use them roast them very crisp, and butter them.
—The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, 1769
If you are looking for a more modern take on this classic Tea Time staple, search no further than King Arthur Flour’s, Butter’s Best Friend: Crumpets.