FOOD HISTORY: Crumpets and English Muffins

Crumpets are an Anglo-Saxon invention. Initially, they were hard pancakes baked on a griddle.  The term  has Celtic origins and dates from the 1600's and is related to the Breton "kranpoez" ( a thin, flat pancake) or the Welch type of pancake called, 'crempog". The 1649 Oxford dictionary referring  to "crumpet", describes it as a mixture of buckwheat flour, beaten egg, milk and baking powder. These were different from the more familiar crumpets of the Victorian Era when yeast was added to the dough and the crumpet was baked in a ring mold to hold the batter while it baked. Crumpet makers of the British Midlands and London developed the characteristic holes which appear on top of the crumpet when it is cooked the by adding extra baking powder to the dough. Thus,the more familiar soft, spongy crumpet of the Victorian Age, with their characteristic holes on their top to "hold" butter and other popular toppings, evolved..

The British "muffin", which was  originally made from left over bread and biscuit dough scraps and mashed potatoes, which the cook fried on a hot griddle to produce a light, crusty muffin, were eaten by the "downstairs" servants in England's Victorian society .When the "upstairs" family learned about these tasty morsels, they began to request them, especially for their afternoon teatime snack. Because of this, these muffins became the most "fancied" bread in England and muffin factories, each with their own recipe for making their  muffin, sprung up all over. These muffins could be split and toasted over an open fire and served with various toppings. They became so popular that "Hawkers" sold them on the streets of London and the song , "Do you know the Muffin Man" became a big hit.

The MODERN English muffin is, in fact, an American invention created by Samuel Bath Thomas, a 1874 immigrant to New York City from Plymouth, England. Thomas, who worked in a bread bakery, opened his own bakery in 1880. It was in this location that he created a "toaster crumpet"; a flatter version of the English crumpet which did not contain baking powder used to create holes as in the traditional crumpet. However,Thomas' secret process did retain the "holes" that crumpets have on their outside to trap butter and other toppings  but the Thomas English muffin's "holes"( his, "nooks and crannies") are on the inside of the muffin. "Fork splitting" his muffins before toasting retained this "crumpet"characteristic.Thomas English muffins became very popular in the U.S.and their popularity spread to the world wide market even introducing "English" muffins to the British.