It's Pancake Tuesday time of year again. Our last opportunity for a little indulgence before a long, lean Lent begins. I adore pancakes-any excuse really to rustle up a batch!
Pancakes fall broadly into two categories: thin crépe like pancakes or small, puffed up American silver dollar pancakes or 'crumpets' as I know them. The crépes can be made using wheat flour, buckwheat or spelt. The puffed pancakes come in a myriad different forms, the most popular being buttermilk, oaty and berry versions.
Top Tips For Perfect Pancakes:
• Don't Overbeat Batter: The pancake batter should remain slightly lumpy. If you overbeat it, the texture will become tough and rubbery. Use a balloon whisk and beat lightly by hand. Don't use an electric mixer, unless you restrain mixing to a 'pulse' for a few seconds.
• Chill Batter: Chilling batter, especiallly for puffed pancakes, for an hour makes a huge difference to how easy it is to work with. Chilled batter will 'plop' onto a pan much easier and retain its shape.
• Crépe Pan: This is an inexpensive little pan that will be indispensable for making crépes and omelettes. A small, shallow non-stick pan is the ideal. The shallow depth makes it easier to turn out a pancake or omelette onto a plate.
• Clarified Butter: Clarified butter is ideal to cook pancakes in as it doesn't burn. Melt a few tablespoons of butter and allow it to separate. Only use the clear fat that floats to the top, the white bits at the bottom are the milk solids that burn.
• Sunflower oil also works very well as a fat to cook pancakes in. It is flavourless and can reach high temperatures without burning. It is also a healthy cooking oil as it contains Omega 6 esential fatty acids.
• Silicone Pastry Brush: This is the ideal untensil to lightly oil your crépe pan with. You will get an even, light coating of oil. Silicone brushes are also heat resistant and easy to wash, making them safe and hygienic.
• Pallet Knife: This is a long, smooth tool resembling a wide knife but without a sharp edge. Ideal for turning pancakes, but also for pastry, baking and smoothing icing onto cakes.
• Sugar Shaker: A small sugar/flour shaker can be filled with caster sugar, icing sugar, cinnamon or vanilla sugar. Leave on the table for guests to sprinkle on their own sugar, it will ensure a light, even sprinkling rather than a heavy handed blob.
Toppings and Syrups:
• Fresh orange zest or a pinch of ground cinnamon can be added to the pancake batter for a natrual sweetness without sugar.
• When making puffed pancakes, drop spoonfuls of batter onto the hot pan as usual, when you see tiny bubbles form, drop in a few blueberries, raspberries or sliced straweberries onto each pancake. Flip over once golden.
• Caramelised Banana: Melt two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of honey in pan. Add chunky slices of banana and fry until golden. A splash or rum or some cinnamon and lemon work well in addition.
• For a savoury option, serve pancakes with diced avocado and crispy bacon. Drizzle maple syrup over-the salty/sweet/buttery works!
• Taking some dessicated coconut, lightly toast it in a clean, dry pan without any oil until lightly golden. Be careful not to burn!
• Melt two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of honey in pan, add ½ cup of pecan nuts or walnuts and stir until they go sticky and caramelised. A sprinkling of course sea salt adds a quirky twist like salted peanuts and chocolate.
• Cinnamon Sugar: Mix three tablespoons of granulated sugar with two teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Sprinkle on and squeeze over lemon.
• Orange Infused Maple Syrup: Pour a bottle of maple syrup into a small pot. Add the zest of one orange and gently heat for five minutes. Serve warm in a small jug
• Vanilla Infused Maple Syrup: Simply insert one or two used vanilla pods into a bottle of maple syrup. The empty pods will still impart loads of flavour over time.
• Vanilla or Greek Yoghurt: I love thick, creamy plain Greek yoghurt with fresh berries and toasted hazelnuts. For a naturally sweet but sugar free yoghurt, add a teaspoon of natural vanilla bean paste per 250ml of plain yoghurt.
• Lightly whip 250ml of a cream. Add one or two tablespoons of a cream liqueur like Baileys' or Coole Swan, or Frangelico, my favourite hazelnut liqueur.
• Nutella and Salted Peanuts: The most well known brand is Nutella but use your favourite chocolate praline spread. I layer dark chocolate spread then a few blobs of crunchy peanut butter or a scattering of salted peanuts.
• Ballybrado Spelt Flour www.ballybrado.com Tele: 052 74 66 023
• Kilbeggan Organic Porridge www.ballardorganicfarm.ie
• FeirmUr Belgooly Buttermilk firstname.lastname@example.org Tele:087 1674011
• Sowan's Organic Gluten Free Pancake Mix www.sowansorganic.ie
You can catch Rozanne Stevens on Twitter at @RozanneStevens or her website Rozannestevens.com. Her cookbook, Delish is out now!