Heat up the griddle.
Prepare to whisk.
Slightly Bemused writes:
There are few luxuries I allow myself religiously, and pancakes on Pancake Tuesday are some of them. Now, being the father of a daughter brought up in the US, we have the usual discussion every year as to the best form of pancakes: American or Irish. The Stateside variety tends to be sweeter with thicker batter, and provide smaller but thicker pancakes. Not dissimilar to what I would have enjoyed as griddle cakes as a youngster, although those have baking soda.
The Irish style I have heard referred to as crepes, but I personally would disagree. In my experience, crepes are lighter still, and thinner, whereas our pancakes are a little thicker and fluffier, at least the way I make them. I used be able to flip them, but I am not sure if it is a loss of dexterity, or the fear of messing up, but that is a skill that has passed me by since.
I once shared an apartment with an Austrian, and he was really upset at how I made pancakes. They were a staple for a Sunday morning breakfast, and there is a technique, I gathered, to doing them right. For one thing, he made up the batter the night before, and then after sealing the container tight, placed it in the fridge for the night. He told me that the meeting of the frigid liquid onto the hot platter made all the difference. I will say he did make good pancakes.
Little Slightly’s mother once made a repast of crepes for dinner for us. Power was out, and all we had was my emergency camping gas stove. She cooked the chicken and veggies, prepared the sauce, and then the crepes, rolled around a stuffing of the chicken and served with a drizzle of the sauce. Delicious, and by necessity, a candlelit dinner for two.
Then of course there is boxty, that wonderful potato based pancake. A dish I thoroughly enjoyed since my youngest memories, I did enjoy the variations that became popular, with various accompaniments and, unlike those of my youth, fillings. I was more successful making boxty than I was potato cakes, and for some reason never could get my head around making potato farls, for all that all of them are more or less the same.
When I was growing up, boxty was the pancake for the opposite end of the year, made with the remnants of the colcannon made up for Oíche Shamhna. My mother would serve it with a fried egg on top, and sausages to the side. A veritable feast, occasionally enjoyed again these days.
Which brings up the question of how to top your pancakes. My daughter is adamant it should be syrup, and has commented that the maple syrup back home was better than that we could get here. Butter was an option too, but she has her own personal discussion as to whether or not to put the butter first, then the syrup, or vice versa.
I felt good in a way about that yesterday as I was in the local supermarket. I noticed a lone bottle of maple syrup on the top shelf, and ‘hah’ed out loud. A lady beside me, of slightly shorter stature looked at me from down the aisle, where she was scanning the various honeys, Nutellas, jams and such. So I pointed and said ‘Given the time, I am surprised there is any maple syrup left!’ To which her face lit up and she asked where. So I pointed. It was this treat she was looking for. Oddly placed away from other similar sauces and spreads, that may be why one survived to be scooped up by the lady. And off she went to the little robot tills to bring a little joy to her wains.
Last night, I found out that my Little one and her Floppy also differ. She likes her pancakes stacked in the classical presentation on menus so the butter and syrup drips down the outside, and she can top off as she gets closer to the plate. Floppy prefers them spread out around the plate, and the syrup, or occasionally, jam, spread out over them all equally. From previous visits to her, she had all the relevant restaurants classified by quality of pancakes, and french toast.
Yesterday, my local radio station touched on the issue, and had a chef on giving advice on all sorts of options from ice cream and strawberries (vanilla, we were assured was best for this version), through berries and honey, and other ice creams with syrups. Salty caramel flavour was suggested topped off by butterscotch sauce,
I am more of a traditionalist, and go down the sugar and lemon juice route. Lately, I have been adding butter, and sometimes substituting honey for the sugar. But it is that wonderful mix of sweet and tart that I love, all rolled up in fluffy pancakey loveliness.
Now, in recent years I have had less and less time to prepare up the batter properly, so this year, as in some previous ones, I decided to go for convenience and got one of those premade bottles, just add water or milk. Naturally, I got the ‘add milk’ variety, and found out once more that 2 minutes of shaking vigorously to ensure a good, smooth batter, takes longer than it seems. I wonder if this is where they got the idea for that exercise unit where you shake it and a weight moves back and forth inside, officially toning arm and wrist muscles. If this is true, can I have more pancakes, please?
But I live alone, when my Little one is not visiting. So here I am with a bottle of pancake batter to make seven large pancakes. Being no longer able to flip, I used my small frying pan – just 5 inches and great for frying sausages and a single egg (separately, of necessity). I think I got eleven pancakes, not much more around than the American style loved by Little Slightly, but thin and, later, slightly crispy at the edges. Note to self: don’t ignore the cooking pancake while munching on the last one.
My dinner was a feast of sweetness wrapped in fluffy, crispy edged loveliness. I tried all my regular combinations, and even tried one with a bit of ice cream. Very tasty, but messy as the frozen dessert melted on the warm round pancake even as I rolled it up. No strawberries, though.
So as I studiously ignored how much sugar I just ate, and metaphorically clapped myself on the back for my inadvertent good deed in the supermarket, I think I must plan for the boxty, for when Little Slightly comes visiting again.
And think of what I will give up for Lent. I have never been successful at that, with one exception. The first year I was ‘allowed’, at 7 years old, I gave up sugar in tea. To this day I still have it unsweetened, unless I am ill, or it is served in a particular way where I cannot avoid it.
For now, though, I need to figure out how to give up these calories, and off for another cuppa!
Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday