“I decided to go into the kitchen and snaffle some of our cook’s pikelets. I loved them, and Mrs. Kipling always made them up for afternoon tea.”
– A Mad, Wicked Folly (Viking) by Sharon Biggs Waller.
I first encountered the pikelet when I lived in England. I was watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV show Treats from the Edwardian Country House, which highlighted goods from the Edwardian era. In the show, Hugh was making the pikelet, a type of pancake enjoyed at teatime. As a writer I loved the word, but I also loved the simplicity of this teacake compared to the other complicated Edwardian recipes such as the elaborate ice cream molds, called bombes, and the molded gelatins, called jellies. Right then I knew that my main character in A Mad, Wicked Folly, Victoria Darling, would adore pikelets. I loved them too, and so I included the recipe in my author’s notes at the back of the book.
Some would say the crumpet and pikelet are the same, especially those from the north of England. But traditionally, crumpets are cooked in a ring, which prevents them from spreading out, so they are thicker. Because pikelets spread out and are thinner, they tend to be crispy on the edges.
According to Merriam-Webster, the origin of the word pikelet stems from the Welsh bara pyglyd or pitchy bread, which was a dark, sticky bread. The word spread north into England and was anglicanized to pikelet.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe calls for fresh yeast (or dried yeast) and cream of tartar, but the self-rising flour in the following recipe simplifies and quickens the process.
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- Sift the flour into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and crack in the egg.
- Stir while pouring in the milk slowly until the batter comes together. Add more milk if you want thinner pikelets. (THK Note: We added an extra 1/4 cup of milk here) Stir in butter.
- Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat, and coat with a small amount of cooking oil or spray. Drop a large spoonful of the batter onto the hot skillet. Flip when bubbles appear.
- Cook until browned on both sides. Serve warm pikelets with butter, honey or jam. Stored in a plastic bag, they will keep for up to three days. Best rewarmed before serving.