Once again, in a flurry of burnt-out frying pans, lumpy batter and more sugary toppings than you can shake a toothache at, Pancake Day has crept up on us — or should that be crêpt?
Shrove Tuesday offers what should be an easy kitchen caper. Simple pancake batter only contains three ingredients — milk, flour and eggs — and the challenge of flipping is always fun. But often, our cakes go down the pan. Gentleman’s Journal have turned to Steve Smith, Head Chef at the Michelin-starred Jersey restaurant Bohemia, to solve our Shrove Tuesday woes. These are Smith’s top tips and tricks to perfect your pancakes…
Tip #1: Keep your ingredients (not just the batter) at room temperature
We all know that your batter shouldn’t be fried fresh from the fridge, but Smith’s advice takes things one step further. “Ensure that you have a good, workable batter by keeping all of your ingredients at room temperature as well.”
This means you should remove your milk and eggs from the fridge before you mix them together. A good basic recipe is 100g plain flour, 2 large eggs, a pinch of salt and 300ml of milk, which will make around 12 medium pancakes.
“Mix the dry, room-temperature ingredients in one bowl,” advises Smith, “and the wet ingredients in another. Incorporate the two bowls of ingredients by making a well in the dry ingredients and pouring in the wet mixture. Stir gently until all of the ingredients are combined and moist.”
Tip #2: Don’t worry about lumps — in fact, embrace them...
Lumps, in everything from mashed potatoes to mattresses, are frowned upon. But, Smith surprises us, they should be embraced in your pancake batter. “Don’t worry about the lumps in the batter,” says the chef. “Once they’re on the griddle, they will cook out fine. If you overwork the batter, the pancakes will turn out tough and chewy.”
Technically, overworking your batter deflates any air bubbles that may have formed, meaning that your light, fluffy pancakes will turn into thin, tough disappointments once cooked. Mixing too vigorously also encourages gluten to develop, Smith tells us — something you want in bagels and pizza crusts, but not so much in your Shrove Tuesday treats.
Tip #3: Add your toppings before you fry — not after
This may sound counter-productive, but trust the professional. Smith recommends that you mix your toppings with your ingredients before you cook — for a different sensation and pancake experience.
“If you’re bored of your usual pancakes, drizzled with lemon and dusted with sugar, I’d add flavour into the batter instead,” he explains.
“My favourite ingredients to add include spices, citrus zest, herbs, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, raisins, cheese — or even sweetcorn, if you’re feeling really adventurous…”
Tip #4: Once mixed, you must rest your batter
We know; you want to start experimenting with audacious and overconfident pancake flips and moves. But all the double spins and two-handed tricks in the world won’t make up for tough pancakes. And, like overworking, letting your mixed batter rest is also key to stopping gluten in its tracks.
“It may be difficult to resist,” adds Smith, “but it is crucial to allow the batter to rest for a minimum of five minutes. This will give the gluten, which you have created from mixing the batter, time to relax and for the bigger lumps in the batter to smooth out. As a result, your pancakes will have a thick consistency and they will turn out fluffier.”
Tip #5: Reheat in the right way — no microwaving
“Pancakes are best enjoyed fresh from the pan,” acknowledges Smith. “But, if you do make a whole batch at once, there is a trick to reheating them a way that won’t leave any warmer than others, or soggy.
“Stay away from the microwave, and instead keep your creations warm by arranging them in a single layer on an oiled cooking rack. Place them in a preheated oven at 80°C for a maximum of 15 minutes — and they’ll taste as warm, fluffy and fresh as when you slid them from the pan.”
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