Next Tuesday, the 12th of February, is Pancake Day (a.k.a. Shrove Tuesday). Pancake Day is the only food holiday that I never miss.
I tend to call pancakes crêpes here, to avoid confusion with American pancakes. But Crêpe Day sounds silly (and a bit pretentious), so today they're pancakes.
There are many ways to eat a pancake.
If I'm ordering one at a fair, I tend to go for a slathering of Nutella that bubbles and pales as it warms on the circular hot plate.
Sometimes, at home, I swirl double cream and maple syrup in the middle, then roll it up into a tube. Each slice drips as you eat it, so you have to sweep it up with the next slice - just for the same thing to happen again.
Recently I made a version of this unusual food52 recipe: pancake parcels filled with a ricotta-mascarpone mixture, topped with a honey and blood orange sauce.
Today I cooked a banana with a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a pinch of salt until the slices were caramelised and soft. Piled onto two hot pancakes with a splash of double cream and a touch more maple syrup, they made an oozy, sweet and filling pudding.
But, to be honest, I usually eat pancakes flipped onto a plate straight from the pan, soaked with lemon, sprinkled with sugar straight from the packet and eaten with my fingers, standing in the kitchen, while they're still hot and crispy around the edges. They're perfect as they are - I certainly don't blame you if you never try them with anything other than lemon and sugar.
However. Sometime around the beginning of the year, mum and I were making pancakes when I noticed some leftover thyme on the counter. On a whim, I crushed a few leaves into the sugar with my fingers. It adds a background herbal note that gives it a little edge.
How do you eat your pancakes on Pancake Day?
Pancakes with Lemon & Thyme Sugar
(adapted many years ago from Delia's Complete Cookery Course)
15g unsalted butter
55g plain flour
pinch of fine sea salt
a few spoonfuls of sugar
a few springs of thyme
Melt the butter in a large, sturdy frying pan. Keep heating until the foam dies down and the butter is full of rusty flecks (see brown butter foundation for more guidance). Pour into a bowl to cool.
Tip the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the middle then break the egg into it. Whisk in, incorporating some of the flour. Pour in a bit of the milk and whisk in, slowly incorporating all the flour and milk. Add most of the water, reserving a dash to change the consistency if needed - it should be around double cream. Whisk in the butter. Scrape the batter into the milk measuring jug, to make pouring easier (or use a ladle). Leave to sit for a few minutes while you organise the fillings - in this case, slice up the lemon and briefly rub the thyme leaves into the sugar.
Heat the pan up over a high heat - once you can feel a strong heat when you hold your hand a few inches above the pan, turn the heat down a bit and add a small knob of butter and swirl around (if the pan is hot enough, the butter browns almost immediately after it melts). Holding the pan at an angle, pour a bit of the batter into the pan and swirl into a thin layer. When it starts to brown around the edges, flip. Once that side is done, remove to a plate and serve immediately with the lemon and sugar (or stack on a plate with kitchen paper in between, then reheat when you serve). Adjust the consistency if the pancake is too thick and repeat, melting a little butter in the pan each time. The batter keeps in the fridge for a day (whisk it back together before using).
(Makes 5-6 pancakes, easily multiplied up)
A few more posts about
2012: Crêpes Suzette
2011: Dusky Caramel and Raspberry Crêpe Cake
2010: Wholemeal Crêpes