Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Defence against the Dark Art of Pancake Making

As domestic goddesses (and gods) across the land created magic and wonder with pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, the Almost Average household fell into a state of disorder, disappointment and disarray.

The culinary bliss of the previous weekend with shouts of milky puddings and other British fayre might have given the impression that I'm a dab hand in the kitchen but the truth of the matter is my experience in that very small space is more like a practical lesson in the Defence against the Dark Arts...

...especially when it comes to pancakes.

If I can just bung in ingredients and cook it according to taste - great! If I have to measure, sieve, mix and cook at just the right temperature, then I'm in need of a magic wand and a few charms.

You see Pancake Making - due to its need for precision - is normally Mr A's domain. But he'd been tied up at a meeting in London - figuratively speaking of course - and wouldn't be back in time to meet the the demands of tradition.

So with rolled up sleeves, I opened my old beginners recipe book - circa 1986 - and followed the recipe with my limited patience, even taking into account Mr A's adjustment to add more milk to make the batter less dense. Well he is the expert you know, so I followed the instructions and whisked and with the aid of my blender created the smoothest batter I could have asked for.

And with the pan suitably greased and hot, I poured in the mixture and watched as it bubbled and frothed. That's right - FROTHED. It was as if a dark demon had injected an Engorgio spell onto my creation and my call of Reducio had little effect.

I'm afraid, this was no pancake.

I tried again, the boys looking on in disappointment as I poured the results of another flopped attempt into the rejects bowl.

I judged the batter was too thin so I added some extra flour to thicken it up. That'd do it.

And in a way it did.

But it could have gone better if I had poured a little less mixture into the pan, with a good dose of patience to go with it.

That might have resulted in proper pancakes....instead of what resembled something more akin to "Creatures from the deep" with their wrinkly bodies and slimey appearance.

Thank goodness I had the sense to melt some chocolate as a topping. At least it meant my failed attempts were eaten.

And thank the Lord for wild bird seed, because the real rejects were quickly disguised as bird food and put out into the garden.

So despite my misadventures, nothing, absolutely nothing went to waste...

...except for the spare flour that had been scattered on the stair carpet by my four-year-old, as he smuggled the bag from the kitchen up into his bedroom.

Defence against the Dark Arts, eh.

Perhaps I should become a master of the Imperious spell.



John Costigane said...

Hi Mrs A,

Hard luck with the pancakes. It is something untried by me yet, though my late mother was an expert. I definitely remember a smoke filled kitchen - high heat, little oil.

Letsrecycle mentioned an Easter Egg package reduction, yesterday. Seems like the egg companies are aiming for Zero Waste, in some cases anyway.

Karin said...

Oh dear, but practice does make perfect.

I've made some less than perfect pancakes in my time. Experimenting with the temperature of the pan (hot, but not too hot) and quantities of mixture (cover the base of the pan, but fairly thinly) should mean that you achieve perfection in the future. It helps to let the mixture stand for a while, but if it stands for too long the flour absorbs more milk so can get a bit thick.

Have another go when there's not too much of an audience and I bet you'll master the art in next to no time. Besides, if they are edible that's all that counts. There's too much emphasis on perfection these days.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have used up your bathtub full of milk, but if not and you want to try more pancakes - but not use them in a shrove tuesday lemon and sugar kind of way - you can use them as a pretty good substitute for lasagne sheets, in a pancake lasgane (or maybe a pansagna) or as subs for tortillas in enchiladas.

The trick to pancakes is a very little oil, quite hot pan (I have to use a non stick) and don't pour in as much batter as you think it needs. But if you make mutants it doesn't matter if you're using them for either of the above ;o)

Sam said...

Oh dear! Lol! Practice, practice, practice! :-)

I personally prefer scotch pancakes, and they're much easier. Spoonful of the (thicker?) batter in the pan, turn over when you see the bubbles.

Well done for not wasting any though. I didn't realise birds would eat pancakes.

Baba said...

If it makes you feel any better, ours were a bit of a disaster too - a very long story for another time, but I've decided that the best pancakes this year were the worst looking ones so that makes you and me stars!!! X


Hi John - I remember my own mother too being pretty good at pancakes. Perhaps we should have made a trip to Wales :-D

Thanks for the news about the Easter Eggs. There was progress last year so hopefully this year will be much better :-D

Hi Karin - yep, I'd better not wait until next Pancake Day. Practice does make perfect and I'll be glad to follow your tips. Thank you :-D

Hi Alanna - thanks for visiting and for spending the time to comment. It's much appreciated as the regular commenters will know. Do visit again and feel free to share some words :-D

Hi Fi - that's brilliant. My mutants will hopefully get better, but what a great way of using them properly. As for the pan, oil and batter, you should have seen Mr A's face when he gave me similar advice when he got home last night LOL :-D

Hi Sam - Scotch pancakes sound much safer, thank you. Now as for the birds...I am indeed keeping my fingers crossed. :-D

Yay Baba - I'm feeling better already in the nicest possible way of course :-D x

Anonymous said...

I have a tip. One of the most important things about mixing the pancake batter is not over-mix! You WANT it to be lumpy! Adding flour might only make it denser and chewier and adding baking soda or baking powder might add more air and lift, but that depends on your recipe.

But next time, really just mix to moisten and drop the batter into the pan on low flame. Be patient and wait for it to bubble in the middle before flipping. As new pancakes are being made, put the finished ones under a wet towel in a warm place like an oven or other kind of insulated box.


Anonymous said...

Oh and I like my batter thick, making thick, fluffy pancakes, so I need to use low heat to make sure it cooks all the way through without burning the outsides first.



Wow Jen, thank you. It must have been the overmixing you know, because I used the blender to mix it up and didn't let it rest enough. It looks like patience is also the key. Right...guess what we're having for dinner tomorrow. Thanks again. I appreciate it :-D x

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