No matter how much we ‘dress up’ a pancake, the most popular topping always seems to be lemon juice and sugar. Following closely behind, will be the request for a liberal coating of Nutella straight from the jar or warmed beside the AGA.
Memories of flipping pancakes for my family are always something I treasure. No sooner has a pancake been delivered to an outstretched plate there will be a cry from someone else who has just finished theirs. I am sure this is a familiar scene in your household, whether your relatives are 3 or 93, everyone loves a hot crepe glistening with sugar. Of course, it is always possible to make a stack of pancakes well ahead of time, each layered between sheets of baking parchment. Simply reheat these in butter when needed, but I feel, planning this far ahead just isn’t the same. For me, part of the joy of pancake day is that rush beside the stove.
If you do need to be organised, try making your batter well ahead of time. It will be fine in the ‘fridge for up to 24 hours. You may also like to make a lemon syrup to pour on the pancakes. This will keep for up to eight weeks and is ideal for other recipes such as puddings, desserts and of course cocktails. Finally, blitz together our list of ingredients for homemade chocolate spread and your pancake feast will definitely be regarded as the BEST EVER.
To feed four little ones, with an after school treat, you will need…
2 medium free range eggs, beaten together
25 g (1 oz) caster sugar
90 g ( 3 1/2 oz ) plain flour
250 ml (9 fl oz ) milk
25 g ( 1 oz ) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground nut (or sunflower) oil, plus extra oil or clarified butter for cooking
Measure all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add the milk and beaten eggs together, then pour the liquid into the bowl and gradually incorporate all the flour until no lumps remain and the batter is the consistency of thick double cream. Rest the batter for at least an hour.
When you are ready to cook the pancakes, preheat a 15 cm (6 inch) frying pan and melt the butter.
Add the melted butter to the prepared batter and mix well.
Pour some oil on to a piece of kitchen paper and wipe the hot pan with this to ensure it is evenly coated. Return the pan to your conventional hob or AGA simmering plate over a medium heat and ladle or use a measuring jug to pour approximately 50 ml (2 fl oz) batter into the hot pan. Swirl the batter around in the pan to make sure that the base is evenly covered and then tilt the pan so that the pancake mix comes around the edges too. Return to the hob and continue cooking for about a minute, depending on your heat source. Using a palette knife, slide this under the pancake to lift the edges and then flip over. Continue cooking for another minute and then serve.
Don’t despair if your first attempt is not successful. This initial pancake is usually regarded as a ‘scruffer’ in our kitchen and the continuing batch will, I promise, become perfect. Repeat the process of adding a little oil or butter to the hot pan until all of the batter is used.
Cook’s notes for perfect pancakes and crepes…
Not just for Pancake Day! If you would love to enjoy crepes more often, then keep a pan especially for the task. Do not wash this pan, simply season* with oil and wipe out with kitchen towel after each use.
Make sure that the batter rests for at least an hour before you cook your pancakes.
It is possible to make and freeze the pancakes before you need them. This is perfect for large groups or parties. Simply defrost in the ‘fridge and then reheat in your homemade lemon syrup or unsalted butter.
The heat in your pan is crucial to a great pancake. Too cold and the pancake will have a leathery texture and look pale and unappetising (this is usually how the first ‘scruffer’ pancake will turn out). If your pan is too hot, the batter will spit and your pancake will take on a lacy appearance and no doubt be burnt. Spend the time making your first pancake adjusting the heat to find the the ideal temperature for your crepes. This will vary depending on the conductivity of your pan and heat source.
We prefer to cook our pancakes in clarified butter as it this allows us to set a higher temperature without the batter burning. If you are short of time, it is possible to use oil, but take care that the pan is only lightly wiped using kitchen towel, else the crepe will be greasy.
To make clarified butter…
Melt a 250 g ( 8 oz ) block of unsalted butter in a pan over a low heat on your conventional hob or put the butter in a pudding bowl and place this inside your AGA simmering oven.
When the butter is completely melted, remove it from the heat, and the milky residue or solids will sink to the bottom. Carefully strain off the clarified butter fat and store in a sterilised lidded container for up to two months. There will be very little buttermilk to use in a recipe but it could be added to scones or a soda bread if you are baking on the same day.
To make lemon syrup …
Measure 1 kilo or approximately 2 lb of granulated sugar and a litre or just under 2 pints of cold water into a heavy based saucepan. Place over a medium heat on your conventional stove or on the AGA simmering plate. Continue to stir until the sugar is COMPLETELY dissolved and then simmer the liquid for at least five minutes so that it becomes thicker and syrupy. If you have a traditional AGA you may prefer to do this in the simmering oven but allow extra time.
Add the juice and finely pared zest of three un-waxed lemons and store in the fridge until required.
To make your own hazelnut and dark chocolate spread…
Melt 25 g (1 oz) un-deoderised cocoa butter in a heat proof bowl resting over a pan of hot water with 100 g (4 oz) 70 % cocoa solids chocolate and stir together. Meanwhile toast 100 g (4 oz) chopped hazelnuts and allow to cool. Measure 50 g (2 oz) golden caster sugar and 25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder with 25 g (1 oz) rice flour and place into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse to combine, then add the melted chocolate mixture and pulse once more until completely smooth. Transfer to a sterilised jam jar and label. Serve gently warmed with your pancakes. This recipe makes an intense chocolatey spread, if you prefer milk chocolate then substitute this instead of dark and add sugar to taste.
To season your crepe pan…
Wash your pan in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Then place on your conventional hob or on the AGA simmering plate so that it gently heats up. Using a paper towel, taking care, gently rub vegetable oil all over the inside of the pan and then wipe this away with a clean piece of kitchen roll. Continue to repeat this method until the paper towel does not soak up any of the excess oil and comes away clean. Take care of your seasoned pan by not washing in hot, soapy water. Instead rinse it in hot water only.