Ellen Clifford
May 30, 2015 7:45 am

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried is really a picture book for adults into luscious, beautifully laid out photos of food.

What started for Fried as a design school assignment became this beautifully styled photography book. Each new page includes a quote about food from an esteemed book, and a picture of said edibles to go with. My only wish was that this book came with recipes too, but I figured I could fill in the gaps and find recipes elsewhere. As your Book Cook I keep a well-stocked library of cookbooks.

This book is great to read while snacking, since it will make you hungry anyway. Come to think of it I am almost always snacking while reading. Or wine-ing. It keeps my hands busy. Do you read to snack, or snack to read? That is the question.

Of course, some of these fictitious dishes I would prefer not to recreate. There is the garbage enjoyed by Gregor in The Metamorphosis would certainly be the easiest to concoct but least pleasant to eat. Nor did the dirt consumed by Rebeca in One Hundred Years of Solitude perk my appetite. I wasn’t going to go dig up some Los Angeles soil. I did, however go with a Rebecca. In this case I created a food described in Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Have you ever had crumpets? There is a sumptuous assortment of treats described in Rebecca ranging from wedges of toast to angel cake, but crumpets have been on my baking to-do list for a long time. Crumpets are cooked first in a skillet, then toasted in the toaster, which means you can make a bunch and freeze to toast later, if so inclined not to eat the whole batch. They have a nice firm bottom that gives way to a light yet chewy interior ending with a top that is looks spongy and filled with holes. Once toasted those holes soak up butter like a thirsty sailor lost in the urban jungle. That metaphor made no sense. The point is, once toasted and buttered, crumpets are glorious.

Don’t worry if you don’t have ring shaped cutters, the batter is not so unruly and you can easily coax it into a more-or-less circle. I did the trick of cutting out the bottom of a used can. But then I made some without the can and they were fine. Just slightly less circular.

Eat these with butter, eat them with jam, heck, eat them with honey or maple syrup. Just eat.

Crumpets adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

  • 1 package of dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (not too hot though or you’ll kill the yeast)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, warmed (I used cashew milk)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (mine was unbleached)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup warm water

Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup warm water in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and stir. Let sit for five minutes. Add the milk, flour and salt and beat until smooth. I did this by hand. It took a bit more muscle power than using my mixer but was easy enough not to merit having extra things to wash. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and allow to sit for an hour. Supposedly you can also put it in the refrigerator overnight but I didn’t try this. Stir down after the hour. Dissolve the baking soda in the second 1/4 cup of warm water then stir it into the batter. Cover and let the batter rest for 30 minutes. I mean my gosh, it is exhausted.

Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat. Grease your cooking surface and if you have a cookie cutter or can you’ve cut into a ring grease those too. If using the ring set it on the cooking surface then put three tablespoons of batter inside. If not using the ring just spoon it into the skillet or onto the griddle. Cook, undisturbed for about 8 minutes. When the top appears to just be dry and has lost it’s shine you remove the ring mold and the crumpets. Then when ready to eat, put the crumpets in the toaster until lovely and golden. These freeze well, if frozen before the final toasting. Serving with oodles of butter. And jam. And joy.

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