Women still wrestling with rationing at the end of World War II would use snow instead of eggs in their pancakes. If you happen to gaze out of the window whilst beating your batter and notice that it has started snowing then you could always pop outside and collect a cup of fresh snow to add to the recipe above. Don’t use it instead of the eggs but as well as and your pancakes will be even lighter. Do make sure though that you only use snow which is as pure as, well, driven snow.
Snow aside, pancake ingredients and technique have hardly changed at all over the years – that is, if you don’t count the introduction of surely one of the most pointless convenience foods ever: ‘ready-made’ pancake mix. Which barely saves any time or effort – and surely the fun of Shrove Tuesday is in the doing?
I like it best when people are gathered around the hob when it comes to frying time, all taking their turn and vying to be the best. The pancakes sugared, lemoned and eaten as fast as they’re being made.
Know this before you start – the first pancake will be rubbish. Don’t worry about it.
Ingredients for around a dozen (or maybe a baker’s dozen) pancakes:
110g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
275ml semi-skimmed milk
30g unsalted butter
1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a dip in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it.
2. Whisk it all up and add in the milk gradually. Carry on whisking. As Mrs Beeton says, you are aiming for the consistency of thick cream. Leave it for an half an hour or so before making the pancakes.
3. You are definitely best off using a small frying pan (7 inches) and put it over a high heat. Melt some of the butter in the pan and when it is fully melted pour the butter out into a bowl. You just want the lightest covering of butter on the base of the pan.
4. Pour in 2 tablespoons of pancake batter. Quickly tilt the pan from side to side to spread the batter out thinly.
5. Leave it for around 3 minutes and then just carefully lift up an edge to see how it is going underneath. You want it a nice brown colour.
6. Now the fun bit – and don’t be a chicken. You need to turn the pancake over to brown the other side, so get tossing. Lift the pan off the heat and jerk it to flip the pancake out of the pan and catch it with the other side down. Really go for it. See how high you can throw it in the air – what’s to lose except a pancake and maybe a tiny bit of pride?
7. The pancake only needs about 30 seconds on the other side and then slide it out of the pan to be eaten straight away.
8. As already mentioned, your first one is bound to not go well so just get going on the second one. You may not need more butter into the pan until the third go round. When you do, just repeat the butterring process in step 3.
Mrs Beeton – who I so rarely find useful but in fairness to her she does seem to have hit something with pancakes – suggests flavouring the batter with a little grated lemon rind. She also advocates using egg whites only to achieve super-light pancakes.