Pancake Day

This post comes a few days late... in France, 2 February is la Chandeleur (Candlemas), also known as Pancake Day. In the UK, Pancake Day is closely tied to Easter, and therefore moves around the calendar (in 2011, Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday falls on 8 March.) Either way, both days are very much ingrained in the Christian calendar and require the consumption of massive amounts of pancakes or crêpes. I'm not Christian, but if there is a holiday to be celebrated with food, sign me up!!!

Growing up, crêpes were part of the week-end breakfast ritual. Thick, American-style pancakes did not appear on our table until I was about 10, but crêpes were a point of pride in the family: in fact, I think there was a bit of a competition going on between my parents as to who was the better pancake flipper... There are tons of crêpes recipes out in the world -including gluten-free, dairy and egg-free - but the following is my absolute favourite. It is a hybrid of my mum's recipe and the one I use at work. (I actually much prefer my mum's recipe, but it doesn't always go over well with the uninitiated.) These pancakes come out beautifully thin, with a lacy edge, and are perfect for sweet or savoury recipes. The French would probably think it sacrilegious to use wheat crêpes for a savoury recipe -purists use buckwheat galettes for salty treats- but I say pshaw!

A little kitchen lore: I do not consider myself a particularly superstitious person. However, if there ever was a superstition I would stake my odds on, it is the following: the first crêpe in the pan must be offered to the Kitchen God. The first pancake is usually quite imperfect: the batter will be either too thick or too thin; its shape is often imperfect; and its colour will not be even because there was too much fat in the pan. And that is quite alright, the rest of the stack will be perfect. If, on the other hand, the first crêpe turns out perfectly, be prepared to struggle with the rest of the batch.

Makes a pile big enough to feed 4

200g/ 1½ cup (375ml) all-purpose flour
250ml/ 1 cup pale ale, or any blond to amber beer
125ml/ ½ cup milk (you can use all milk -or all beer- if you prefer)
1 Tbs sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp butter or 1 Tbs oil

In a large mixing bowl, make a well with the flour.
Place all the liquids and eggs at the centre of the well, and slowly whisk it all together: the goal is to incorporate the flour gradually into the wet ingredients to avoid forming clumps. However, you can just as easily make the batter in the blender. 
The batter should have the consistency of thin paint or thick cream: if you dip your finger in the batter, it should be coated yet show your skin colour.
Let the batter rest for at least one hour (at room temperature) or up to overnight (in the fridge) before cooking.
Heat a cast iron skillet (best), black steel pan (better), or non-stick frying pan (okay) over medium-high heat.
When the pan is hot, throw in the butter, swirl it about to cover the whole surface and discard any excess. Alternatively, dip a paper towel in the vegetable oil and wipe the pan's surface with it.
If your pan is well seasoned, you should not have to add any more fat to it. (Non-stick pans will require a swipe of fat every couple of pancakes.)
The starch in the batter may have settled while resting, give it a stir before proceeding.
Using a ladle or a measuring cup, pour just enough batter to swirl around the pan and cover it with a thin layer.
Let it cook until the edge of the crêpe is golden brown and its surface is dry, about a minute or two: if the edge colours before the surface dries out, lower the heat; if the surface dries out before the edge browns up nicely, turn the heat up a notch. (If you are using a non-stick pan, it might not give you the same results: just flip the pancake over when the edge pulls away from the pan.)
Using a spatula, pull the edge away from the pan, and flip the pancake over (I usually use my fingers to flip them over).
The crêpe will bubble up and sizzle. It is cooked when the flip side is riddled with brown polka dots.
Serve immediately, or keep warm until breakfast is served.

Being Canadian, I often reach for the maple syrup, but crêpes can be garnished with just about anything. I actually really enjoy sprinkling them with sugar, and the occasional spritz of lemon juice, folding them in four, and eating them with my hands. Anything goes really. Jam, jelly, chocolate spread, apple sauce, cheese, ham...

Bon app'!

P.S. By the way, Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the beginning of Lent, is also known as Mardi Gras: in France, one eats fried foods on this day, including fried dough and other variations on the doughnut...


  1. Those look so yummy!! I can imagine them full of some sweet homemade elderberry jam and then topped with some of our own Canadian Maple Syrup. Mmmmm!

  2. Looks like my lovely Russian "bliny" ))

  3. Re Turnbulls: Mmmmm! Any homemade preserve would elevate crêpes from simple breakfast or snack to luscious dessert status!

    Re Pex-plumbing: I didn't know that blinis were supposed to be thin pancakes!?! All the restaurants I've ever worked in made thick-ish buckwheat pancakes and called them blinis...

  4. Hi Dahlia,

    These look so good! I like to layer mine with jam and custard like a mille fieulle.

    Are you entering a recipe to the show Recipe to Riches' open casting in Montreal? It's at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday.



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