Whether you like them sweet, savoury, simple and traditional, or bursting with different fillings, we’ve some flippin’ great tips to help you create perfect pancakes for all the family this year...
Why Pancake Day?
Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day as it’s more affectionately known), is traditionally a day of celebration and feasting in the Christian calendar. It precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which begins the 40 day countdown to Easter. This year, Pancake Day falls on the 17th February (2015), and many people will use this as a time of self-reflection and evaluate how they could change the way they live their lives for the better. Pancakes were traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday to use up all of the rich, perishable foods before the Lenten period – where fasting and abstinence from festivities would happen. To mark the occasion today, many people will still give something up they enjoy, such as cakes, television, chocolate or alcohol — although how many make it through the full forty days is another story!
It’s All In The Batter
The most crucial element for pancake perfection is the batter – get that right and you’re laughing. It’s all too temping to just guestimate the quantities of eggs, milk and flour, but this can lead to a big disappointment — quite literally. Always follow a recipe to the letter and we always rest the batter for at least half an hour before we use it.
There are many variations on the traditional pancake batter, but Beauty Fresh love Delia's recipe, which is simple to follow and makes light, fluffy pancakes. It’s our perfect pancakes recipe! You’ll need:
- 110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
- 50g/2oz butter (for pan)
This really can be the difference between a terrible pancake and an award-winner. Seriously. It may surprise you to learn that some people actually just keep a single pan exclusively for pancakes and there are some who swear by not washing it, EVER! Not sure if we’re that devoted to pancakes, but it’s also advisable not to wash the pan it in-between pancakes either— it’s best to just keep them coming…
Practice Makes Perfect
As with most things, practice will put you to the top of the class, so don’t be disheartened if your first effort looks like one of the kids made it; while blindfolded. A good tip is to use unsalted butter (or you can use oil), but not too much as it will quickly brown — just enough to prevent it from sticking. To ensure you don’t use too much, try adding the butter or oil to some kitchen towel and then wipe over the pan for the perfect covering.
Also, ensure the batter is not too thick and you only spoon a small amount into the pan. Unlike American pancakes which are thick and fluffy, these pancakes should be thin and crisp — and plenty of them. It’s best to use a ladle and add the mixture to the centre of a really hot pan and then quickly tilt the pan to ensure the mixture covers its entire surface. If any holes appear, fill them in with a teaspoon full of batter.
They only need cooking for 30 seconds – so the whole process is really quick!
Tips for Flipping
All part of the Shrove Tuesday fun, the tossing of the pancakes is a source of much amusement in our house, with warm memories of my mother getting one stuck to the ceiling when I was small. Once you get going, you’ll be surprised at how good you get — but until then, be prepared for some botched-up offerings destined for the floor (or the dog).
If you’d rather not risk throwing them all around the kitchen, Mrs Beeton (who is famed for writing the 1861, Book of Household Management — one of the most famous cookery books ever published), offers some sage advice to ‘unskillful cooks':
“Pour only a small quantity of batter, and so making the pancakes thin, the necessity of turning them (an operation rather difficult to unskillful cooks) is obviated.”
Keep them Warm
Because they are very thin, pancakes tend to cool down very quickly, so if you’re making a large quantity for the family, keep them piled-high in a warm oven, or on a plate over simmering water, until you’re ready to serve.
Traditionally they are loved with sugar and lemon, but the list of fillings and toppings for pancakes is endless. We love warmed chopped bananas and Nutella; Greek yogurt and honey; berries and cream and maple or golden syrup. For younger children, try making a face out of fruit using the pancake as the base, with maybe banana slices for eyes, a stawberry nose and blueberries to make a mouth. You can create some hair by drizzling (or piping) on some honey or even chocolate sauce. Yum!
To give them a savoury twist there are some tasty combinations to try such as feta and spinach, mince bolognese, cheese and ham, creamy chicken and mushroom, chicken, spinack and pancetta — or Beauty Fresh's favourite pizza pancakes (see recipe below).
We Heart American-Style Pancakes,
These are a favourite on our house all-year-round and delicious if you scatter in a few blueberries (or any other berries you may have in the fridge). Rather than being thin, the baking powder and self raising flour makes them thick and spongy — amazing drenched in maple syrup. We’ve tried a few recipes but this one from BBC Good Food always delivers light, fluffy pancakes the kids adore.
- 200g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
- 300ml milk
- knob butter
- 150g pack blueberries
- sunflower oil or a little butter for cooking
- golden or maple syrup
1. Combine the self-raising flour, baking powder and pinch of salt (you can omit the salt for the kids) and make a well in the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and then slowly whisk into the well you’ve made in the dry ingredients, until you get a glossy batter. Beat in the melted butter and gently add the blueberries.
2. Add a knob of butter to a large non-stick frying pan and drop in enough batter to make a pancake about 7.5cm across. Cook for around 3 minutes over a medium heat (you should fit about 3-4 in the pan at a time). Serve with maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, banana, strawberries — up to you!
If you’d like to serve pancakes as a main meal on Pancake Day there are some delicious filling combos you can try out with the kids.
A big winner in our house is to fill pancakes with our favourite bolognaise sauce and lay in an ovenproof dish topped with parmesan cheese, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil and then bake for around 20 minutes.
Another nice idea is to serve a big pile of plain pancakes and have toppings laid out in bowls for the kids to make their own. You can either eat these right away, or pop in the oven to finish — like these yummy pizza pancakes we’re planning on having this year:
Pizza Pancake Recipe:
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 400g passata (or you can use a tin of chopped tomatoes)
- Red pepper
- 1 tsp. oregano/Italian herbs
1. Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil on a low heat. Add the passata (or tinned tomatoes), a chopped red pepper and a teaspoon of oregano and leave to simmer for five minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and whizz up until smooth.
2. If the kids are helping, allow the sauce to cool a little and then let them spoon the sauce onto the pancakes and spread around. Add grated cheese and sprinkle over any other toppings they like (we will be adding ham and sweetcorn). Roll and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Will You Be Trying Pancakes Art?
Finally, we just wanted to share something with you that we think is pretty amazing! Not only are pancakes delicious to eat, some people have turned them into an art form, recreating everything from Peppa Pig to Despicable Me’s Minions — and a whole host of other animals in-between. Watch this super-talented dad create some incredible ape designs (with help from his little monkeys). You won’t believe how good these are!