Having pancakes for dinner was always an exciting treat when I was a kid, but c'mon - who wouldn't like pancakes for dinner? I'll admit, having pancakes for dinner wasn't a once a year occurrence. It probably happened 2 or 3 times a year, but one of those times was always on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday. Growing up in Canada, it was also quite common to hear Shrove Tuesday referred to as Fat Tuesday by our Southern neighbours in New Orleans.
I was a bit surprised to see how popular Pancake Tuesday was in the UK when I first moved here 3 years ago. In Canada lots of people celebrate Shrove Tuesday, but there's not really any heavy marketing or promotions around it at all - at least not on the West Coast where I'm from. But here in the UK, they're pancake crazy! For the last few weeks grocery stores have had their special Pancake Day displays all set up. They feature everything you'll need to make the perfect pancake - from syrup, flour and eggs (if you plan on making your own), to "just add water" pancake mixes. And sometimes even the frying pan!
I was really excited to see how popular pancake day is here. It seems like a lot of people throw pancake parties and invite their friends and family over to share in the fun. It wasn't until I was invited to my first pancake party 3 years ago that I discovered there is one major difference between North American and UK pancakes! The pancakes I grew up with were the fluffy buttermilk variety. The kind that you stack up high and put lots of butter and syrup on. And the syrup had to be Aunt Jemima syrup - nothing else would do! So imagine my surprise when I found out that the most popular topping for pancakes in the UK is lemon juice and sugar! Ack! What happened to the syrup??? (and I'm not talking about Lyle's Golden Syrup!) I just didn't understand how anyone could actually like their nice fluffy pancakes soaked in lemon juice with a bit of added sugar. What I didn't realise was that the pancakes here in the UK are completely different than the pancakes I was used to back home. You see, a UK pancake isn't really a pancake at all - well, not to me at least. A UK pancakes is actually much closer to a crepe than it is to a North American pancake. They're really thin, and not fluffy at all. And you know what? They actually do taste pretty good with lemon juice and sugar! Because a UK pancake isn't fluffy and spongy like a North American pancake, they don't soak up whatever topping you put on them. So, when you add a squeeze of lemon juice and a few spoonful's of sugar on top of a UK pancake, you're actually left with a deliciously sweet and tangy version of a simple syrup. The end result is almost like a freshly squeezed lemonade syrup (that's "cloudy lemonade" to the UK people reading this!).
I've made the UK variety of pancakes several times now, and each time I like them more and more. Because they're not as big and fluffy as the North American pancake, they're also not as filling, which I think is why a lot of people here that I've talked to have pancakes for dessert and not for dinner, but I do know people that have them for dinner as well.
See how thin they are!
Because the UK pancake is similar to a crepe, it also lends itself to be stuffed, coated and topped with hundreds of delicious flavours - savoury or sweet. Other popular pancake toppings include Nutella, ice cream & caramel sauce, caramel sauce & apple, whipped cream & fruit - the possibilities are endless. I choose to stick with lemon juice and sugar, as I find it really nice and refreshing - especially after considering that I'd also made a batch of fluffy North American pancakes studded with a handful or two of chocolate chips. I've been using both these recipes for quite a while now. I can't even remember where I got them from originally, but over the years I've made several tweaks here and there, and am very happy with the way both of these turn out. So, here are two fabulous pancake recipes. I'll let you decide on which one you want to make, but just be sure to make them tomorrow - Tuesday March 8th, 2011 - Pancake Day!!!
Perfect UK Pancakes
Makes nine 8 inch Pancakes
55g (just under 1/2 Cup) Flour
150ml (5oz) Whole Milk
1/2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Pinch of Salt
1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl and make a small well in the center. Add in the egg, oil and about 25ml of the milk. Using a whisk, start mixing the ingredients together, working your way from the inside out until all the ingredients are incorporated into a smooth thick paste.
2. Add in 1/3 of the remaining milk and whisk again until incorporated. Now pour the remaining milk into the bowl while whisking, and continue to whisk until everything is incorporated. The consistency should be very liquidy.
3. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat an 8 inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray such as Pam, or pour in a teaspoon of oil into the pan and spread it around with a paper towel. When you're ready to cook your pancakes pour 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Quickly tilt the pan, and rotate it so the batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Cook for 30-40 seconds on each side. Repeat until you've used up all of your batter.
4. Serve your pancakes hot with a wedge or two of freshly squeezed lemon, and a tablespoon or two of castor sugar.
Fluffy North American Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Makes eight 4 inch pancakes
3/4 Cup (180ml) Whole Milk
2 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 Cup (125g) Flour
2 Tbsp (28g) Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Melted Butter
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 Cup (approx 2 handfuls) Chocolate Chips
1. Combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to sour for 5 minutes.
2. Combine your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. After the milk has sat and soured for 5 minutes add in the egg, melted butter and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Pour the milk and egg mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Whisk in the chocolate chips, and let the batter sit for 5 minutes until the top gets frothy and bubbly. DO NOT STIR AGAIN! Leave the batter alone - you want it to be bubbly and frothy.
3. Pre-heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once the pan is ready pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Once bubbles start to appear, and then pop on the tops of your pancakes it's time to flip them. Cook until both sides are golden brown.
Serve with butter and syrup. Whipped cream and berries is another one of my favourite toppings. Enjoy!