Oh yes, it is the most wonderful time of year: Pancake Tuesday!
A day when no one looks at you funny for having pancakes for breakfast, pancakes for lunch and then pancakes for dinner again – or the flaunting of multiple strands of colored beads, either.
And the good news is that pancakes are super easy to make, and super fun to vary – you can add chocolate, fruit, or savoury ingredients, make them gluten free with a substitution of flour, or vegan with mashed bananas or paleo with a couple eggs and bananas. They can be decorated with sprinkles and frosting, stacked into a cake or even eaten the old fashioned way – with quickly melting butter and maple syrup.
Instant Just-Add-Water types, or complicated flax seed with honey and yogurt types, raspberry flavoured or chocolate chip speckled or hell, even the potato sort – mashed or grated, with some goat cheese and smoked salmon. I just think pancakes can solve even the heaviest of melancholy.
Growing up, pancakes were a weekend treat – a huge deal every Staurday or Sunday morning to be accompanied by fruit salad, some sort of breakfast meat and usually some hash browns. My Mom and Dad were always early risers, and I was always a light sleeper, so I got to learn my Mother’s Pancake methods from the counter she worked at. My Mom was, and still is, a firm believer of “Scratch Cooking” – that is, cooking from scratch – in all things. Her pancakes were made with flour, greek yogurt with some sort of fruit (Blueberries if my Dad got to her before I did, I always chose strawberry), and milk instead of water.
Growing up, moving out and making weekend breakfasts on my own, I fell into that sort of philosophy. So, when I make pancakes, I add a cup of greek yogurt with fruit bottom, a little vanilla and milk instead of water.
The Boy seems to like it. He is always on flipping duty (we can all remember what happens when I try and flip things …) and makes the blobs of dough that I mix up into the yummiest pancakes.
Lately I have been reluctant (re. Lazy) in the mornings, and so instead of making everything from scratch all at once, I have started to mix up a Dry Prep jar of Pancake mix that I then add wet ingredients to on the weekends to speed up the process!
The dry mix is basically 1.5 cups of flour to 1.5 tbsp sugar to 1 tbsp baking powder to a pinch of salt. You can make more or less, depending on the size of your storage jar, of course. Anyways, you mix it all thoroughly, keep it in an airtight jar and bring it out when you want to make pancakes.
And when the need for pancakes strikes, you scoop out a cup of the dry mix and add to it: an egg, 1/4 c melted butter and a cup of milk. Add a milk little by litter if the mix isn’t liquidy enough. Then you can add anything else your heart wishes – a cup of ripe blueberries, some cinnamon and nutmeg, a half cup of raspberries or a carton of greek yogurt like I do.
Then you just do what you would always do with a pancake: pour the batter out onto a greased, hot skillet, wait for those bubbles, then flip and cook the other side. Don’t get distracted by Saturday morning cartoons either – or they can burn….
So that takes care of traditional pancakes, smothered in syrup imported from my home country!
Now, what about something like a pancake, maybe french – can be made savoury or sweet, and stuffed full of things good for diner or dessert?
Oh yes, the mighty crepe.
My Mom’s recipe for crepes is still the one I follow to this day. She has a main recipe that can be adapted to sweet or savoury, basically by adding sugar. Her recipe does require some foresight – the batter needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour, but preferably overnight, in order to reach a good consistency. My Mom went on a bit of a crepe craze a few years ago – we had sweet crepes with ice cream and chopped strawberries, savoury crepes with pan-fried shrimp and asparagus, and so on. She bought a crepe pan and went to town mastering her own skills.
When I moved out with the Boy, for Xmas, I got a crepe pan and I started on my ow skills. This is what I learned:
1. Be patient. If the edges of the crepe are not curled up – don’t try and flip it.
2. Be patient! If the top side of the crepe still looks “wet” – don’t try and flip it.
3. Spatulas are great … but use a butter knife – it gets right under the batter without breaking the crepe and flips easily.
4. Use butter. Just … use butter. Yes, the calories. But use butter to unstick the pan. You’ll thank me.
5. And again, be patient: put the heat on low and make sure the batter is poured very thin.
Those are my general rules – now here’s my Mom’s basic crepe recipe:
1 c flour
pinch of salt
1 cup of milk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
In a bowl – mix together the flour and salt, then make a well in the middle and add the eggs and milk and melted butter, mixing it well. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or longer, until the consistency is like cream. Then heat up your pan and lay out the crepes. For the sweet variation, just add 2 tbsp of sugar to the mix at the same time as the eggs and carry on with the rest.
I like crepes because of their versatility and the lightness of how they taste. They really can be used for anything from breakfast to dinner, and any snack between. For a crispy or Japanese street crepe, cook it a little longer after the initial cooking (i.e. cook normally until both sides are cooked, then cook a little longer, until the edges start browning).
For this Pancake Tuesday, I plan on making some yogurt-chocolate chip flax seed pancakes for the morning, some savoury scallop or shrimp (I have trouble deciding) buckwheat crepes for lunch and finally, a batch of crispy potato pancakes with goat cheese and salmon for dinner – along with some equally crisp white wine.
However you’re celebrating – from New Orleans to Brasil to your own living room with the sound system up – have fun, eat pancakes and dance like no one’s watching!