‘I’m an official crumpet scorer at Warburtons – counting exact holes and size each day’

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A lot goes into creating the perfect Warburtons crumpet at Europe’s biggest bakery – with a ‘magic’ recipe and rigorous scoring system

L-R) Luke Arnold, official crumpet scorer, and Vas Nicolzouzos., general manager
(L-R) Luke Arnold, official crumpet scorer, and Vas Nicolzouzos., general manager

Crumpets are a breakfast staple in Britain and in this quiet, guilt-free period between Christmas and New Year, you might have become more extravagant with your toppings.

While you’re probably more concerned about how much butter or Nutella to add, you might not realise just how much detail goes into making the humble crumpet itself.

Staff at the Warburtons bakery in Enfield – the biggest bakery in Europe – have considered every single detail about every crumpet and even have a team that scores them each morning – ensuring they have the right colour and number of holes before being shipped out to supermarkets across the country.

Luke Arnold, who is an official crumpet scorer and technical manager, says the perfect crumpet is “nice and holey,” while general manager Vasilis Nicolouzos agrees: “Soft and fluffy, a good colouring, and lots of holes”.







A sample is scrutinised each morning to ensure the production is running smoothly
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar/daily mirror)

The pair have both worked their way up at the family-run business, which began in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in 1876 by Thomas and Ellen Warburton, who ran a grocery shop.

Luke, 37, started out 14 years ago in operations and Vas, 53, has been there “since day one” at the age of 33 and says he’s done every role there is.

Earlier this year, they invited the Mirror on a tour of how the crumpets are meticulously made – revealing their special ‘magic’ recipe and rigorous process for maintaining a consistent quality.

Although there are around 250 staff working in the bakery with a further 220 in distribution, the factory is surrounded by automated metal machinery from Germany – which has been programmed to perform every instruction with speed and precision.







Just one of the robots picking the crumpets ready to be packaged
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar/daily mirror)

They even scan the crumpets under a camera lens, analysing whether they have the right number of holes and are the correct size and shape.

Although they can rely on the robots to carry out a bulk of the work, staff are there to oversee their performance, just like managers would with human staff.

While ad-hoc checks will take place if something isn’t quite right, a thorough run-through on the factory floor will also take place every thirty minutes.

Crumpet scoring







Luke is ready to judge his crumpets
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar/daily mirror)

Each morning at 6am, one of Luke’s team will investigate random packets of crumpets to assess how they look against a set of criteria.

They score the outer packaging, the base of the crumpet to see if there are signs of grease, the lip, colour, height, and more.

If it doesn’t hit the mark, amendments are put in place as soon as possible.

“The perfect crumpet has 250-300 holes,” Luke begins, who says it’s impossible to estimate the probability of how many might not make the cut as it’s different each week.

“We take a pack of crumpets from each plant and we will look at it with a critical eye; packaging, quality aspects and score all of those sections.

“A lot of the parameters are against a visual standard – we focus on height, colour, base colour.

“The operatives are trained to do this and they can very quickly tell if it’s a good crumpet or not.

“A lot of effort goes into it.







A lot goes into creating the perfect crumpet – including ensuring there are at least 250 holes
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar/daily mirror)

“There will always be a bit of a lag time between spotting the fault and putting the action in place so it’s so important to catch it early.”

Vas adds: “If it’s not right, our customers will tell us straight away. We do all these checks to reduce any potential of complaints.”

We’re shown the process from start to finish with the batter first landing on hot plates in circular moulds before being grilled as a finishing touch to make them look more aesthetically pleasing.

They are gradually cooled and then sealed in plastic packaging ready to be delivered to supermarkets across the country – 1,300 to be exact.

‘Magic’ recipe

Vas says there is ‘magic’ to making a crumpet – and they follow the same recipe today from when they first exploded onto the market in 1988.

He says flour is mixed with water, yeast, and a little bit of bicarbonate of soda in a high-revolution blender.

Seeing as the batter has a 125 per cent water to flour ratio, it starts to generate heat which activates the yeast – which is hugely important in the making of a ‘holey’ crumpet.

Once it reaches 37-42C after two minutes of mixing, yeast is then at its most active, Vas says.







Vas explains how crumpets get their holes
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar/daily mirror)

The yeast consumes the sugars in the flour and as a natural byproduct, the yeast gives off carbon dioxide – which generates bubbles.

The batter mix is then held in a fermentation tank at 42 degrees for about 20 minutes, which optimises the yeast further.

Once it’s deposited on a heat plate – at 200C – the first thing that happens is that the smooth base is set.

The natural boiling of the water generates steam and the bubbles expand; the steam pushes them up through the crumpet, which is what they call flutes, leaving holes at the surface.

“There’s a bit of magic there… chemistry, essentially it’s about activating the yeast”.

The Enfield site in north London operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year – with only Christmas Day off.

They make five million crumpets every week, around 700,000 crumpets each day, equating to around 36,000 an hour.

If you want to spruce up your crumpet toppings, you can take a look at Warbutons’ new crumpet recipes, including a breakfast stack and cheesy crust pizza – which they created to mark National Crumpet Week back in October as Brits turn to comfort food in the colder months.

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