Next Tuesday, millions will be enjoying a pre-Lent crepe or pancake feast. Traditionally, a necessity – to finish all the ingredients people would be giving up during Lent – now, an epicurean indulgence. Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, whatever you call it, chances are you have experienced the phenomenon that is first pancake failure. But why is it that your debut pancake seems to inevitably be a dud, and is there a way to avoid this? We asked our experts.
- The batter. Resist the urge to overmix your batter. The usual instinct is to beat batter until it is perfectly smooth but with crepes or thin pancakes you only want to mix until just incorporated so as not to overwork the gluten; a few little flour lumps are perfectly normal.
- The pan. A well-greased vessel is essential in perfecting your pancakes. But it is all about balance. This is one time when less is more: lightly ‘season’ your pan so that there is a very shallow coating that encompasses the surface but does not drown it. When metal gets hot it expands (hello seventh-grade science), so you want to make sure the fat fills the open spaces created by that expansion. If the fat does not, the batter will, ultimately sticking to the pan and tearing upon removal. But too much and it will darken and fry, resulting in uneven cooking and dark spots on your pancake.
- The heat. Resist the urge to crank your heat up to high too quickly get your pan hot. Set your heat to medium and wait patiently for your pan to get there so that it holds an even heat and will, therefore, cook your pancakes evenly.
- Prepare for failure. As with anything in life the more you do it, the better you will get but even professional chefs accept that first-crepe-failure is sometimes unavoidable. So if you are cooking for a crowd just make sure your recipe makes enough for the first couple not to make it to the table. Use these to practice your flipping technique and then file them under ‘Cook’s Perks’, to be enjoyed standing over the sink with lemon and sugar, naturally.