Barry Sharples on Stanley's Crumpets.

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Barry Sharples on Stanley's Crumpets.

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Stanley’s Crumpets – Harry and Stan Stanley, 1950’s – extract from my autobiography. [Barry Sharples]

Mentioning the earning of money reminds me of the many occasions I assisted, at Stanley’s Bakery and Whip’s Café.
The Stanley’s were very good friends of the family; in fact I always referred to both Stan and his brother, Harry, as uncles. I first started to assist the whilst at Barlick’s secondary school, first on Saturday mornings and then during holidays, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even going with uncle Harry on many of his deliveries to shops all over Lancashire.
In the bake house it was always Stan who made up the batter in a huge round container, which was then covered with a cloth to await fermentation.
This was done under maximum security; he was always concerned about his recipe being discovered. There were two large gas heated hotplates, which were covered with lightly greased crumpet rings, and then the batter would be ladled in. When the surface of the crumpets had bubbled up and just lost their moist appearance, it was time to turn them over. This was done with the aid of a cranked palette knife and a deft flick of the wrist, which I soon mastered.
Once the surface, now at the bottom, had acquired a light golden colour it was time to lift them with the palette, two or three at a time, onto the cooling racks. Five minutes or so later we would lift off the rings and stack the crumpets into piles of approx. eight into tissue lined cake trays.
Occasionally there would be a misshape, which at the end of a shift were given to me wrapped in tissue paper, as well as ‘ten bob’ or sometimes more. Many was the time I ran all the way home with the comforting warmth under my arm and the distinct aroma of impending gastronomic delight and money in my pocket as well! Ah happy days.
No doubt due to these experiences during my formative years, I have had a lifetime love for the humble crumpet, but sadly without the lashings of butter now considered de rigueur.
At the risk of sounding like a granddad! They just do not make crumpets like that any more, now they are smaller, thinner, steamed not baked, and either left pale and anemic in colour or ‘torched’ to give some semblance of colour but devoid of the true flavour.
In addition to crumpets Stan and Walter introduced Scotch Pancakes and Oatcakes to their production range, which like crumpets, I still find irresistible if not somewhat disappointing now.
Scotch pancakes were made with an egg-enriched batter in a similar mode to crumpets except without the restriction of rings or hoops. This gave them a pleasant lack of uniformity, although the practiced hand of the ‘uncles’ ensured fair portion size.
The Oatcakes were made much differently, and not without a degree of skill. A thin oatmeal batter was ladled onto an oat flake strewn, linen belt, which on the immediate flick of the wrist on a wheel, moved the belt and threw the batter out to one side. This was thrown onto a steel sheet also dusted with oatmeal; this resulted in an elongated thin oval, which was then dried in the hot cupboard until rubbery firm.
To consume this delicacy required the diner to dry the oatcake before an open fire until crisp, then break-off pieces, spread liberally with butter and eat immediately.
It was my father who introduced me to Whip’s Café and to the proprietor and his wife, whose names I sadly cannot recall.
The café also incorporated a bakery and shop, which was situated on the corner of the main street, opposite the then railway station, in Barlick. Here I spent many happy hours peeling potatoes, kneading bread for loaves, and passing tartlets through the lining machine and a myriad of other tasks. There was some suggestion that a job was awaiting me when I left school, but I had other ideas.

Morning Bazshar, I think we are still floundering round what is in the batter to produce AN OATCAKE. Your description of the hot plate and the flour coated linen rollers sounds like the one I saw at Nelson and the method is similar, but believe me, just try to make owt like it at home and you'll end up with a 'orrid mess on the kitchen table and stove.
I think in the olden days, the dough for oatcakes was rolled out thin and baked on a Bakstone (Bakestone) at the side of the kitchen and it was the staple diet of the working man who usually worked outside in the fields or on the roads fire.
I suppose all us amateur oatcake bakers must experiment to come up with a batter that will cook an oatcake in a skillet or on a BBQ plate.
Aye Hatepe
Posted - 10 Feb 2005 : 


Here you go Bob:
This is a very old recipe
Ilb of Scotch oatmeal
8oz Wholemeal flour
½ oz Baking powder
Take about 2 pts water, warmed to blood heat (90°F.) Stir in ½ oz salt plus 1 oz crumbled yeast.
Stir in the dry ingredients, slowly, beating initially to avoid lumps. The resulting batter should have the appearance of Yorkshire Pudding batter, adjust consistency with either a little more oatmeal or warm water/milk. (Remember when making Yorkshire Pudding batter its like a women - the more you beat em the better they be!)
Let the batter stand in a warm place for 20 minutes to ferment.
Meanwhile grease a griddle plate, when hot, place a ladle full of the batter on the griddle, allow to spread out, this may be facilitated (Immediately) by a quick circular motion of the base of the ladle. Cook for about 5 minutes, turn over to cook the other side, before returning to the first side for a final couple of minutes.
Will keep for 3 to three days before frying, toasting and spreading with butter.
Would be very similar to the Stanley Brothers mix.
Sadly I lost touch with them, I owe them a debt of gratitude for their help and overall kindness. I never got back to see them in their retirement.
They produced, in my humble opinion the best crumpets, oatcakes and scotch pancakes in the north of England.
Perhaps I should post their photographs as a tribute, there must be many who mourn the passing of both them and their produce.
Oatcakes have been a traditional food in Yorkshire for many centuries, dating back at least to the time of the Norse settlement. The common name for them throughout many parts of Northern England was/is
haverbread, a word of Norse or igin – their word for oats, hafre, which also gave us the haversack, a bag for carrying oats. Other names for oatcakes stem from some of the ways they are made: clapbread is made by clapping, or beating, an oat dough into the correct shape with the hands; (much the same way as you may shape pizza dough)
Oatcakes were usually baked on a backstone. This was made of mudstone, a type of stone which splits into smooth, flat layers. When properly prepared, it is resistant to burning, warping and fracturing, and can be placed directly on an open fire or in the oven. The modern equivalent, a descendant of the backstone, is the ‘hotplate’ or griddle.
Oatcake (Haverbread)
The traditional method of making oatcakes is to use a dropping batter. It can be a tricky process but results in thinner, crispier cakes. The batter is dropped on to the riddle - or on to a wooden board known as a backboard - which is covered with a layer of fine or medium oatmeal, and shaken to spread it to the correct thickness. It is then slid off the riddle onto a board covered in muslin to prevent them sticking. When several are ready they are flipped onto the hot backstone.
By gum ar' lad, we are getting somewhere with this oatcake recipe.
I did look in the Internet for the recipe for Staffordshire Oatcakes and this is very similar to what you have given us:-
8 oz of fine oatmeal
8 oz of plain flour or wholemeal flour.
1 teaspoon of salt
Half an oz of yeast
1.5 pints of warm milk and water mixed half and half.
1 teaspoon of sugar.
Add salt to oatmeal and flour.
Dissolve yeast in a little warm liquid and add sugar, Allow mixture to become frothy.
Mix the dry ingredients with the yeast liquid to make a batter.
Cover the batter and leave in a warm place for an hour.
Bake the oatcake on well greased griddle, putting enough batter to make an oatcake of 8-9 inches diameter.
The surface will be covered in holes as it cooks.
Turn the oatcake after 2-3 minutes when the upper side appears dry and the underneath is golden brown and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Now I think where we hard headed buggers up North differ from these Staffordshire Lads, is that we don't eat the oatcakes in a floppy state, we hang 'em over the rack to dry and eat them as "hard".
Apparently the Staffordshire Regiment brought the idea back from India when they ate the local flat bread and tried to duplicate it at home.
So what about us having a go to produce the "hard" and no doubt Stanley will supply the Stew if Jack hasn't wolfed it down!!!
Aye Hatepe
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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