Pancakes are a traditional British dessert, eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is known as Pancake Day. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent, when Christians are supposed to remember Jesus fasting in the wilderness. People used to fast throughout Lent, avoiding certain foods. Pancakes were supposed to be a way of finishing up eggs which weren't eaten in Lent. This seems unlikely (since the egss wouldn't keep). It seems more likely that this was when the hens started laying again. By the way, other nationalities call these crepes.
oil for frying
spatula (plastic if non-stick pan)
- Weigh the into the bowl. Break the egg in as well. Stir it all a bit with the fork. Add the milk slowly, stirring with the fork. This is a very runny mixture called a batter.
- You can beat the mixture if you wish, or some people leave it in the fridge for a while to get rid of the flour lumps. I find it easiest to sieve the mixture, then rub the lumps through the sieve. You can certainly prepare the mixture beforehand and leave it in the fridge until you need it.
- The difficult part of making pancakes is the cooking. It is essential that your frying pan doesn't stick. Make sure the pan is clean. Heat up a little oil in it, then swill the hot oil all round the pan, and pour the oil away, or even swab it out of the pan with some kitchen towl (careful not to burn yourself!) The heat of the pan is very important. It should be hot but not too hot. Usually some pancakes cook perfectly, then it starts to go wrong, either because the pan is too hot or too cold. Start with the heat full up, then remember to adjust the heat level down as necessary (and up again too, later).
- Pour a small amount of batter into the pan - about half a ladle if you have one. The batter should just cover the bottom of the pan if swilled round, but no more. Leave the pancake to cook for a minute or two (adjusting heat level if necessary). The top of the pancake will set, and the edges may start to curl up slightly and perhaps go a little brown. If you like, lift up the edge to see if the underneath is brown.
- When cooked on one side, see if the pancake is loose. Move the pan quickly from side to side. The pancake should move separately from the pan. If not, it may need a little more cooking, or it may be stuck. Try sliding the spatula under the pancake all the way round to see where the sticking point is, and try to prise the pancake off the pan. Do not try to toss the pancake unless it is loose from the pan!
- To toss a pancake, hold the pan away from the stove, hold onto the handle with both hands, drop the pan slightly, then flick it upwards. You'll need practise to get the right amount of flip! It's not the end of the world if it goes round two times and ends up where it started! (It's not even the end of the world if it ends on the floor, or even the ceiling! Pancakes are supposed to be fun, and going wrong is part of the fun.) Anyway, it should end with brown side uppermost. If you don't care to toss the pancake, it can be turned over using the spatula.
- Cook the other side. This takes less time than the first side, and cooks slightly differently, in spots. You can peer using the spatular if you don't trust your sense of timing.
- Turn out onto a waiting plate, put some filling in, roll up or fold over, and eat immediately.
- The traditional filling is lemon juice and sugar. Maple syrup and small bits of butter is very good as well. So is jam. Some people use savoury fillings.
- Some people suggest cooking pancakes, then keeping them warm before eating. I think it's best to eat pancakes immediately they're cooked. Since one frying pan's worth is for one person, then it does tend to mean that the cook risks getting none for herself! (Yes - usually a woman!) It does make the whole process an informal affair as well, with people rushing in and out of the kitchen with empty or full plates, helping themselves to fillings, dodging the cook wielding a hot frying pan. But I do suggest that the cook insists on a pause now and then or she (or he) may end up getting none.
- Frying pans come in different sizes. A medium rather than a large pan means you get more, smaller pancakes, which is probably a good idea. The recipe is for about two people, or more if they're not too greedy.
- I suggest using milk only. You can also use half milk, half water.
- Tossing pancakes is great fun. Unfortunately, young children may find the pan too heavy, and anyway, they do risk burning themselves. For example, there is often a piece of bare metal on the handle next to the pan. If the child holds the handle too close to the pan, he may touch this piece of metal and get burned (and it's easy to do, as the pan balances better held like that).
© Jo Edkins 2007 -