Pikelets Or Crumpets? A History Of English “Pancakes”

Published Categorized as Journal

Although the difference between these two foods may seem asinine, it can be hard to distinguish whether something is pikelets or crumpets. At least to the uninitiated, that is…Which is why I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about these wonderful pancake-esque breads! So, lets begin.

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Pikelets Or Crumpets? The History Of English Crumpets

What Are Pikelets?

Essentially, a pikelet is a crumpet – at least in batter.

They’re both unsweetened, pancake-like breads that are traditionally cooked on a griddle.

However, they differ in form. As they are spooned or poured straight onto the pan, pikelets are often a little shapeless. They tend to be flatter than crumpets for this same reason.

What Is A Crumpet Like?

Crumpets, on the other hand, are poured into a ‘ring’ (think circular cookie cutter) on the pan. They are poured until filling the ring, then slowly cooked.

This results in a bread that is a little thicker than pikelets and pancakes. This is also why crumpets have air holes on top.

Crumpets are generally quite bland, either eaten with cream or salted butter. Many liken their taste to English muffins, but much lighter. In texture though, they’re quite different. Crumpets are a little spongey, with holes all along the top to absorb toppings.

The best way I can think of to describe it is somewhere between American pancakes and bread – or if a pancake was stretched out from top to bottom.

Pikelets Or Crumpets? A History Of English “pancakes”

Crumpets vs Pancakes

Crumpets differ from pancakes in their batters and the resulting textures and flavors that they produce. Whilst Scottish pancakes or American pancakes are typically sweetened with sugar, crumpets are void of this. Crumpets also tend to contain a higher ratio of raising agents than pancakes.

They are also cooked differently, which affects the texture a little differently. Crumpets (unlike pikelets and pancakes) are poured into a metal ring to cook. This means they cook much slower, and cook more from the heat that rises from the pan rather than the surface of the pan. As the batter cooks on the bottom, bubbles form on the top as batter rushes to fill in the gaps left at the bottom. Overall, this results in an airier, lighter bread.

Like pancakes and crumpets, they are best cooked in cast iron or non stick cookware.

Scotch pancakes dark background pikelets or crumpets

The History Of Crumpets Or Pikelets

Crumpets have been around for ages – in fact, the earliest dated mention of crumpets comes from the Anglo-Saxon period!

However, they weren’t always like the crumpets we know today. Crumpets have gone through many incarnations during their long, long lives.

But, what about pikelets?

Well, to learn about those, we also have to look back to the history of crumpets. So let’s start!

This video by YouTube channel Townsends delves further into the history of crumpets before following a historical ‘crumpet’ recipe.

The earliest forms of crumpets were a lot more crepe-like in nature, usually made of buckwheat and cooked on a hot stone. They were essentially hard pancakes, minus the yeast.

The name ’crumpet’ comes from the word ’crump’, meaning crooked. This was likely used as it referred to the way that the edges of the crepe would crump, or curl up.

The most recognizable historical version of the crumpet only came about in the Victorian era due to the invention of chemical raising agents. This allowed the Victorians to make crumpets that rose during cooking.

Likely to allow the crumpet a better chance at rising, they began to cook crumpets in circular poachette rings (check out the link if you want to make crumpets!). This brought the same spongy texture and circular uniformity we expect of crumpets today.

The Origin Of Pikelets

Pikelets, on the other hand, are believed to be of Welsh origin rather than English. They were first called ’bara pyglyd’ meaning pitchy, dark or sticky bread. Later, they were spread to the West Midlands (a region of England) where the word was anglicized and became ’pikelet’. It then spread to Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and so on.

This video by YouTuber Lynne Fairchild explains a little more about the history of pikelets, and also goes through a historical Welsh pikelet recipe!

It is likely when these cultures crossed that the pikelet became a mix of the British crumpet and the Welsh bara pyglyd, as in the modern day both use the same batter. In fact, pikelets are often called ‘poor man’s crumpet’ as they used to be made by those who couldn’t afford the steel rings used to make crumpets.

This is where the biggest distinction between crumpets and pikelets lies – pikelets are thinner, flatter, and not quite as spongey as crumpets.

Pikelets Or Crumpets – The Differences Summarized

Crumpets, pikelets, crepes, and pancake variations from around the globe are united by the same two distinguishing factors; they are made of batter rather than dough, and are cooked on a hot surface. Despite this, there is a whole world of difference between each kind of flat cake – many are served with different things, or a savory instead of sweet.

This is why it can be so difficult to tell the difference between crumpets and pikelets – they’re incredibly similar, even when compared to other similar foods. In fact, you can even use the same recipes to make batter for both! This is because the only true distinction between them – other than their countries of origin – is the way that they are cooked.

As a result of their cooking process, pikelets are flatter, maybe a little less airy, and not as perfectly circular as crumpets. This is because they’re cooked straight on the pan, whereas crumpets are cooked in a mold of sorts.

And that’s all there really is to it! I hope that this guide has helped you learn the differences between these two foods.

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FAQs

Why is a crumpet called a pikelet?

Crumpet-variations or homemade crumpets may sometimes called pikelets. This term was actually originally Welsh! It is generally used to mean a homemade crumpet, or a crumpet made without a ring. This is why pikelet’s are also called ’the poor man’s crumpet’, as the working class could not afford the rings used to make them.

What are crumpets called in America?

Crumpets, when encountered in the states, are usually referred to as English muffins. However, actual (English) muffins are distinct from crumpets! The two breads are just put into the same group in the US.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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