Tuesday 8 March 2011

pancakes: they're not just for breakfast

It's Shrove Tuesday (AKA Pancake Tuesday), which gives me an excuse to make pancakes in the middle of the week. And when I say "pancakes", I mean the fluffy kind of my childhood, possibly with a side of bacon. I've got nothing against the crepe-style ones traditionally served here (especially when smeared with Nutella), but they just aren't pancakes to me. We like to do everything in North America bigger and fatter because we're awfully good at it. I loved Shrove Tuesday. The idea of pancakes for supper was incredibly exciting, and I'm not sure who was most excited about it - me or my Dad. It was one of the first things I ever cooked on my own at around age 7.

I've been using the same pancake recipe for decades now, from a very worn and much-loved copy of "The Joy of Cooking". In fact, the pancake recipe page fell out of the book from overuse and is now in another recipe folder. This recipe makes around 10 teacup saucer-sized pancakes, or 6 of these utterly amazing Star Wars pancake molds from Williams Sonoma.You can make the batter ahead of time; I don't think it really matters and it doesn't seem to "improve" it (I have the same philosophy about Yorkshire pudding batter). You don't have to separate the eggs and whisk up the whites if you don't have time, but I find it does make the pancakes much fluffier. You can't get double action baking powder here, so just use regular baking powder if you don't have it. The double action variety does make the pancakes quite a lot lighter, but they'll still turn out fine with regular baking powder.

Now for my Canadian secret tip: knowing when the pan is the right temperature. Warm up your pan over medium heat, and when you think it's ready, flick some cold water onto the surface with your fingers. If the water sizzles and disappears immediately, the pan's too hot. If the water sits there and does nothing, it's too cold. If it forms into a plump bead that merrily sits there and sizzles a bit, it's just right. I use a nonstick pan or griddle, so I just put a little rapeseed/sunflower oil on a paper towel and grease the surface very lightly.

Big Fat American Pancakes
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 3/4 tsp double action baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 cup milk

Into a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder (you can then sift it again, if you like). Add the sugar and salt, and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they're dry, but not stiff.  In a large measuring jug, stir together the milk, melted butter, and egg yolks. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk by hand until most or all of the lumps are gone. Carefully fold in the egg whites with a spatula until combined. The batter will be quite thick - like drop scone or crumpet batter - so don't be tempted to add more milk. I usually scrape the batter back into the large measuring jug and use it to pour the batter into the pan. 

Pour the batter into the hot pan in whatever shape or size you'd like - it will spread a little as it cooks. When the top is covered in bubbles and the sides start to look dry (or lift the pancake and check it to make sure it's not burning.), flip it over and cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Put a little butter on top, drown it in maple syrup, and watch your kids go nuts on the sugar rush. And enjoy.


Melanie said...

We shall be having British pancakes tonight, and they'll be savory ones - none of your North American oddities ;)

Lisa said...

I have double action baking powder (from Sainsbury, because they didn't have the normal stuff). And we, too, had proper British thin pancakes tonight even though we loves an American-style fluffy one for a weekend breakfast :)

Mrs Dee said...

Oooh Lisa, thank you! I'll check it out. Is it Sainsbury's own brand or another named brand?