Recently I’ve been craving crumpets. The iconic soggy gloopy sponge saturated in moisture, molten butter running through each vein of this holey dough. Cratered like a lunar landscape as though the moon had just been squashed between two palms to craft this perforated puck of oozing wells.
But unfortunately German supermarkets don’t stock such a food so I knew that I would have to turn to the world of homebaking to satiate this hunger.
But as failed batches line my counter top, limp attempts stack in a deflated pile of fried dough, no thicker than American pancakes. A shameful comparison that no crumpet should never have to endure. And while some bubbles might tickle the surface of the frying bread, teasing me with their rounded top, the batter cooks into a perfectly smooth surface, no holes in sight. And what after all is a crumpet without it’s quintessentially perforated texture, whispering gently to the butter as it begins to melts: let go. I’ve got you.
I realised then that my craving for crumpets was in fact a craving for holes and became more and more sceptical at my inability to recreate them. Someone wasn’t telling me something. Perhaps a tool that the community of crumpet makers were keeping behind closed pantry doors, eager to maintain the legend of the crumpet. Or perhaps a capitalist ploy to keep us hooked on Kingsmill’s 60p 6 pack. Just imagine the crumpet anarchy if people thought they could actually make them at home! And doesn’t part of their allure lie in the fact that we don’t fully understand how the holes are formed. The alien of the bread world who’s mysterious texture leaves us baffled every time. How are they formed? Where do they come from? No one truly knows. Yet.
For I suspect there is a whole sector of work, a job title as secretive as a role in MI6 and yet the most underrated of jobs because no one knows it exists; the crumpet hole maker. They walk amongst us undetected everyday, you might spot them exchanging a conspiratorial wink with the crumpets as they pass through the bread aisle. But they never stop. No, that would give them away. Maybe you’re wondering how one acquires such a job, maybe even how you might do so. But the truth is you don’t get to chose to become a crumpet hole maker for it lies far beyond the realm of CV’s and cover letters. It is the work of destiny unraveling and fate selecting it’s chosen few. And you probably would never know if you met a crumpet hole maker, because they always have the most quotidian of professions, hiding behind alibis that wouldn’t warrant any further questioning. What do you do? Oh, I’m a sales associate. Ah, nice. No more questions asked. But really they are craftsmen, lined up at their stations with crumpet awls in hand awaiting the breads as they emerge from the oven because of course they are not crumpets yet. Then delicately and meticulously, the crumpet hole maker must place each of their 139 holes in a carefully considered randomness, maintaining the appearance of order without looking too precise that it might warrant suspicion. It is in a delicate line, and one that could devastatingly undermine the sanctuary of the crumpet if gone wrong. Each crumpet can take up to 5 minutes to perforate, which might not sound like much but when scaled up to mass production, makes it a craft of immense contemplation and care. Rumour has it that the only way the factories are able to keep the prices of their goods so low is only due to a mysterious funding body set up by an anonymous benefactor when crumpets were first popularised. It is said it that the funding pot contains enough to cover the wages of every crumpet hole maker for the next 400 years!
However speculation has it, that with crumpets first invented in the 17th century, the grant would not be able to sustain the wages of the crumpet hole makers unless they innovated the production process imminently. Thus they would gather the most prestigious inventors and engineers in the whole country to devise a tool that might drastically cut production times. The crumpet hole press went through a rigorous testing process until it arrived at what is suspected to be it’s final form. Below is an image of a replica released released earlier this year illustrating what we believe the crumpet hole press might look like. But of course there is no way of knowing for sure.