Flapjacks… ou les crepes?

Pancakes are my ultimate comfort food. The memory of that warm, sweet smell from childhood haunts me still and brings back the vision of a plateful smothered in home-made brown sugar sauce flavoured with vanilla (a substitute for maple syrup), or corn syrup, which was far too sweet and syrupy for me. Of course the best topping was real maple syrup and for a special treat, added berries. Yum!! Now that was pancake heaven.

Because my mother was English she preferred the European crepe served with a sprinkling of sugar and squeezes of fresh lemon juice. She was happy to make these but found the Canadian pancake far too much. (Probably all the carbohydrates and sweetness.) However, it was the ‘too much’ which appealed to me. I could not get enough of them. As a result, I mastered pancake cookery at an early age. As I developed a more sophisticated palate, I realized the pancake was a versatile recipe which could be used for countless sweet and savoury recipes. Today, many of you will be celebrating Shrove Tuesday with the classic pancake and maple syrup but don’t forget, pancakes are good any day of the week, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Basic Crepe
Crepe batter is best whisked up the night before, covered and stored in the refrigerator overnight. This way the flour absorbs the liquid in the batter and it makes a smoother, stronger crepe. For ease, use a Teflon coated pan seven to nine inches in diameter. Separate each cooked crepe with a piece of waxed paper as you are stacking them. Any leftover crepes freeze well if stored separated by the waxed paper.
You can serve these as my mother did with a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice then served rolled up or folded into quarters. However, do not limit yourself to this flavour. Experiment with chicken and mushrooms, asparagus and cheese or strawberries and whipped cream – the combinations are endless. It is also a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftovers.

1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil

In mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. In separate measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk and oil. Gradually whisk liquid ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth. Cover and refrigerate one hour or overnight. When ready to make crepes, heat Teflon coated pan sprayed with baking spray over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup (50 mL) batter into centre of pan and quickly swirl pan to lightly coat the bottom with batter. Cook for one minute or until the bottom is golden. Carefully turn the crepe ( I do this with my fingers and quickly flip to the other side) Turn and cook another 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining batter. Crepes may be stacked separated by pieces of waxed paper and refrigerated for up to three days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze for up to one month.

Basic Pancake
Many pancakes call for all purpose flour but for a tender, moist pancake, I prefer cake and pastry flour. For blueberry pancakes, add 1 cup (250 mL) fresh blueberries and 1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon zest to the batter at the end. Of course these may be served with the traditional maple syrup, but try a spread of orange or ginger marmalade – really, the possibilities are endless!

2 cups (500 mL) cake and pastry flour
2 tbsp (25 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
1 egg
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In separate measuring cup, whisk together milk, egg and oil. Gradually stir the liquid into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Batter will be a bit lumpy. Spray teflon coated pan or griddle with baking spray. Heat pan over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup (50 mL) batter onto preheated pan and cook until underside is brown and bubbles are appearing on the top surface. Turn and cook for 30 to 60 seconds longer or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Cooked pancakes may be kept warm in a 300˚F (160˚C) oven while cooking the remaining pancakes.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer.

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