Traditional British bakery products – do YOU still ‘know’ about them?

hovis3 Bread?

There are some wonderful iconic products that have been coming out of traditional bakeries in this Country for centuries, but nowadays many of us have seemingly forgotten about them, so the next generation won’t know a thing about them – let alone have ever enjoyed the taste, eh?

Many families now have never even had the experience of eating decent bread so children have been brought-up thinking that supermarket factory mass produced sliced loaves in a plastic bag, and so-called “in-store” products (mostly oven heated foreign frozen dough) is proper bread, when in fact it is full of additives, salt, sugar and water to give it shelf life. The days of going to a town’s proper bakery and buying a freshly baked loaf made by knowledgeable bakers in the early hours of the morning from handmade dough made overnight has long gone hasn’t it?

If you haven’t got a real bakers around your best bet is perhaps to get the ferry and whish over to France, where they still make outstandingly good fresh as a daisy bread using French flour from their superior tasting wheat and real bakers (grab a bottle of their best red wine cheap while you are at it, as well? [Alternatively, bake your own bread at home – it is actually simple, isn’t it?].

Supermarkets using ordinary dough, forming it into a stick and calling it French and labelling it with the name baguette, doesn’t make it anything like the real thing, does it? But then again that is what the British food industry gets away with all the time these days, doesn’t it?

However, there are some other British traditional, specialist kinds of bread that are still available here these days, and are not to be missed are they?

Let’s start with the humble English crumpet, shall we? It is similar in some ways to Yorkshire pudding as its made with batter, but is cooked on a griddle/frying pan (not in the oven), a thickish, soft, spongy, type of pancake from over a hundred years past Victorian bakers (though it had originated from something like a millennium before that). As you can guess from the name, it looks a bit ‘crumpled’ and that results from the fact that yeast is used in making it, producing escaping gas through fermentation, which when cooking gives the top surface small pores where bubbles have burst through. It is still a popular warm teatime snack, toasted, spread with butter and sometimes jam, honey, or another spread. A variation, well appreciated in the North, is a much thinner version (because it is made without pouring the batter into a ring) is called a pikelet. Both forms are delicious and taste even better if homemade, eh?

Then we have the old fashioned so-called ‘English’ muffin (savoury so not to be confused with the American style version, which is often a sweet cupcake laced with blueberries or similar). Our current muffin is a specialist oven baked ‘yeast’ leavened bread product, which is based on one that was extremely popular with the ordinary classes in Victorian times, and is now usually served split, toasted, and spread with butter (and also sometimes jam) as a snack. It is also widely used as a favourite breakfast accompaniment in a cooked fried meal, or even better in the form of ‘eggs Benedict’ when topped with ham or bacon, poached egg, and a butter based sauce (Hollandaise). Muffins have a unique taste that must be savoured by us all, don’t you think?

In pride of place we have the renowned versatile British scone, a single serving of cake type bread formed using a rising agent (baking powder) rather than yeast, which certainly as a name of a food goes back more than five hundred years in this Country. The Scots probably now claim the name itself, as they had both an ancient capital of Scotland with that name and had also stone worked the famous ‘Stone of Scone [Stone of Destiny or Coronation Stone] ’ used in ceremonial crowning of past Scottish kings and now the monarch of the United Kingdom at Westminster (but held currently in Edinburgh Castle).

It comes in many different guises, but possibly the most well known use of the scone is on British tea-tables in the form of the basic component of the Devon cream tea, when it is plain, lightly sweetened and served with jam and clotted cream, so that is the favorite with the sweet toothed, isn’t it? Then of course we have also fruit scones, normally including currents and raisins. Real scone connoisseurs though will tell you that you can’t beat the warm savoury cheese scone spread with a little butter.

Scones are widely available commercially in the UK these days (because we are a lazy lot constantly buying convenience foods?), but many little teashops make their own wonderful large fresh ones. Shops bought scones are problematical and full of additives, so are best avoided, and certainly you will find it hard to find cheese scones, let alone decent ones. The best bet is of course home baked ones and recipes are readily available and dirt easy to follow (and the scones you end up with are cheap to boot).


[Some basic recipes are included below for those interested in a little bit of easy baking to amaze their family with some scrumptious homemade food. (Use either imperial or metric measures in a particular recipe –to get best results don’t mix)].


BASIC BAKING – CLASSIC SIMPLE BREAD RECIPY for a small loaf (2lb) to make in little more than an hour [Posted before on June 27, 2014]

  1. Mix 500g plain flour in a bowl with 1 tsp sugar (if using) + 1 ½ tsp salt + 2 tsp yeast
  2. Add & Rub in 15g butter (or add 15ml vegetable oil)
  3. Add up to 300 ml of lukewarm water to form a soft paste to make the dough
  4. Then the good fun bit (which kids love to join in on) which is to knead the dough (basically pummel it with your hands and use a floured surface if you can) for about 10 minutes or so (this manipulated the grain into forming long chains to make the bread nice and chewy). Finish by folding the dough together a few times to trap air and help the bread rise more.
  5. Put the dough into a bowl if you have one in a warmish place and cover with a cloth or paper (to stop it drying out) so it can expand (rise) – that is the yeast at work you see). It needs to about double in size to be right [takes about 45mins].
  6. Preheat your oven to a high 230c/mark 8 level
  7. Grease a baking tray and shape the risen dough on it (a foot long say and a bit fatter in the middle, or make it round?) [You can make a couple of cuts across the top surface – not to make it look very attractive but to help it rise!]
  8. Pop it in the oven (and the heat will get the yeast going) but after 15mins turn the oven down a bit to only 200C/mark 6 (the hotness will have killed the yeast and now you are cooking the bread) and leave for another 15 or 20mins
  9. Remove from the oven. Your loaf will be a lovely Golden Brown & will sound hollow if you tap its bottom – leave to cool (on a wire rack if you have one

Enjoy your loaf. If you have had years of eating processed excessively aerated cotton wool type bread you will find it a different & tasteful eating experience –real bread.


BASIC BAKING – SIMPLE CRUMPET RECIPY for 4 or so ring-size crumpets to make in little more than ½ hour plus up to an hour’s proving

  1. In a jug add ¼ pt + 4 tbsp (200 ml) warm water to 1 tsp (5ml) dried yeast
  2. Mix 8oz (200g) plain flour in a bowl with 1 tsp (5ml) salt (an essential flavour for yeast dishes)
  3. Pour-in the yeast liquid to the bowl and mix well.
  4. Gradually beat in ¼ pt (125 ml) warm milk to make a thick paste batter
  5. Place the bowl in a large oiled plastic bag (or similarly cover) and place in a warm place to prove for ¾ – 1 hr so the yeast to develops
  6. Place a number of greased metal or silicone rings (or use egg rings) on a well greased griddle (or heavy frying pan) and fill with the prepared batter to a depth of about 4/10 inch (1 cm)
  7. Fry until the crumpets are well risen, the tops are dry, and have been covered with burst bubbles
  8. Remove the rings, turn over the crumpets, and brown on the bottom side for a couple of minutes

Serve immediately warm, or lightly toast later, topped with butter etc



BASIC BAKING – SIMPLE MUFFIN RECIPY for about 12 medium muffins to make in little more than ¾ hour plus 1½hrs proving

  1. In a jug mix ¾ cup (6fl oz/170ml) warm (hand-hot) milk with 2 tsp dried yeast and 1 tsp caster sugar, stir, and leave it for about 10 minutes to get frothy.
  2. Mix 10½oz (300g) strong plain flour with 1 rounded tsp salt and add ½oz (15g) small pieces softened butter, 1 medium egg beaten. Make a well in the centre, pour in the prepared milk frothy yeast mixture, Then combine together and beat to form a soft dough, adding up to 1/8 cup milk (1g/30ml) as necessary.
  3. it should leave the bowl cleanly but if still a bit sticky, add a little more flour. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes until shiny, soft, smooth and stretchy.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased oiled bowl, cover it with a lightly oiled polythene bag), and leave in a warm place to prove for about one hour, or until doubled in size, and beat lightly again.
  5. Rollout the dough to about ¾ in (2cm) thick on a flat work surface dusted with a mixture of flour and semolina/cornmeal [¼ oz (7g).
  6. Lightly dust two baking trays with semolina/cornmeal [¼ oz (7g)].
  7. Cut out muffins with a 3½ in (9cm) plain cutter, and space out on each of the dusted baking trays, then lightly dust on top of the muffins with a little semolina/cornmeal.
  8. Then leave in a warm place to prove for another 30 minutes until puffed-up.
  9. Preheat a greased griddle or a heavy-based frying pan on the hob to a very low heat. Griddle the muffins in batches for approximately 5-7 minutes, then flip over and griddle for another 5-7 minutes on the other side.

Once tasted for tea will you ever want shop-bought muffins again? {the correct way to eat them is to lightly toast them on both sides, just to pull them apart without cutting and insert a thick knob of butter and servive straight away].


BASIC BAKING – SIMPLE SCONE RECIPY for 8 large scones to make in little more than ½ hour (even for a man)


  1. Put-in 16oz (400g) self-raising flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl
  2. Rub-in 4oz (60g) butter (or margarine)
  3. Add up to ½ pt (200ml) of milk to form a soft dough and lightly knead
  4. Cover bowl with a t-towel for 5mins
  5. Roll-out dough on a floured board to about 1 in (2½ cm) thick, cut into rounds, and brush with beaten egg or milk to brown
  6. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 20mins on the second shelf of a pre-heated oven at 200 C (gas mark 6)


Simply add 2oz (50g) currents or sultanas plus 1oz (25g) caster sugar with the milk


Slightly different to get a savoury taste – so to make it easy the recipe is modified below

  1. Put-in 8oz (200g) self-raising flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl together with ½tsp (½ 5ml) dry mustard and pinch pepper
  2. Rub-in 1½ oz (35g) butter (or margarine) and mix-in 3oz (75g) finely grated cheese
  3. Add up to 1/4pt (100ml) of milk to form a soft dough and lightly knead
  4. Cover bowl with a t-towel for 5mins
  5. Rollout the dough on a floured board to about ½ in (1 cm) thick, cut into rounds, and top with a little grated cheese
  6. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 20mins on the second shelf of a pre-heated oven at 200 C (gas mark 6)


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