Well, crêpes really I suppose. I think of ‘pancakes’ as being the thick, stodgy affairs my mother cooked on Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras) when I was a kid, or those things served in American diners. Which are fine and which I love with maple syrup and butter and bacon, but crêpes are finer, more delicate.
At catering school we used to compete to see who could make the most from a one-litre batter (that is, a batter made with one litre of milk, not one litre of batter itself). I managed 28 and a half; David, my arch-rival at school, managed 32 but only by cheating – some of his crêpes were undersized and full of holes. So I won.
The recipe is pretty simple: 1 litre of milk, 450g flour, a pinch of salt, 50g of sugar, 6 whole medium eggs and 50g of melted butter.
If you do this properly and your catering school teacher is standing over you, you cream together the sugar and eggs and gradually stir in the flour and salt, and then the milk and butter; if he’s not watching you dump everything in the mixing bowl at once and whisk it all together. I then leave it for half an hour and give it another going over with the electric whisk – until all the lumps are gone.
Next, cooking your crêpes. Many will know the maxim that “the first one always sticks” and has to be thrown away; this is either because your pan isn’t hot enough, or because you didn’t add a little oil to the pan, or both. Basically, get your pan hot – leave it to warm for at least five minutes – and then just before adding the batter wipe it over with a paper towel dipped in your oil/butter/fat of choice. I use a mix of butter and sunflower oil and never have any sticking. I have a 5cl ladle which is the exact size necessary for one crêpe, but don’t be afraid to add in a bit too much batter and swirl it around the pan before tipping out the excess – just don’t make them too thick or they’ll taste claggy.
And then it’s just a question of churning them out. Keep two pans going, more if you have them, and don’t let your attention wander. Also, don’t have your stove too hot – on my electric hob the rings are at 7 on a scale of 1 – 9, which means the crêpes get about two minutes each side.
Stack them up and serve them with, well, whatever you like; Nutella’s a big favourite here as is a sugar/lemon mix; sometimes they go for butter and maple syrup, too.
And chantilly cream, obviously.
This is a half-successful attempt at chantilly cream – it was hot (over 30°C today) and I hadn’t chilled the cream, bowl or whisk as I’d normally do as a matter of course. The problem when it’s hot is that the cream separates quickly into a solid and milky liquid, but it still tastes good albeit a little heavy.