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Pancake Day !

Today is Shrove Tuesday so as they say across the pond… Happy Pancake Day ! The day preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) in Great Britain is traditionally known for making pancakes. English pancakes have three key ingredients: plain flour, eggs, and milk. The batter is runny and forms a thin layer on the bottom of the frying pan when the pan is tilted. It may form some bubbles during cooking, which results in a pale pancake with dark spots where the bubbles were, but the pancake does not rise. English pancakes are similar to French crepes.

Pancakes are served traditionally sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and up and down the country their are two pancake races every year. One is Mom trying to keep up with the kids eating them (I remember we used to eat at least 5 each) and the other is the pancake race.

In a “pancake race” each participant carries a pancake in a frying pan. All runners must toss their pancakes as they run and catch them in the frying pan. This event is said to have originated in Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife was still busy frying pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the bells of St Peter and St Paul’s Church calling her to the Shriving Service. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with pancake, and still wearing her apron and headscarf.

I used to dread Pancake Day in the Buckingham Palace kitchens because staff had to have two pancakes each and with 300 staff to feed as well as the Royal table that meant over 650 pancakes. Because of so many, the chefs were taught to use 6 pans at a time and I remember The Queen and her sister Princess Margaret coming into the kitchens one day and watching me make them.

I thought they were going to be impressed that I was using 6 pans at once… until The Queen said ” Isn’t that cheating flipping them over with a spatula ? Aren’t you mean to toss them” So, nervously I put the spatula down and tossed each one in turn, to a round of applause from both ladies and my “Royal Command Performance” over.

Here’s the Royal Family recipe below so that you can be “Eating Royally” on Pancake Day.

English Pancakes

2             cups all purpose flour (8 ounces)
1 1/2             tablespoons granulated sugar (1/2 ounce)
1            pinch of salt
1             egg
2             egg yolks
2 1/2             cups milk (1  UK pint milk)
2            tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2             stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (2 ounces)

granulated sugar, lemons and oranges for garnish.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg and egg yolks, followed by the milk and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Continue whisking until there are no lumps.  In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter until it is golden brown and whisk into the pancake mix. Leave the batter to rest for about 15 minutes.

Heat an 8 inch frying pan until hot and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, tilting the pan to spread the oil across the bottom. When the oil starts to smoke, pour the excess into a small bowl for later use. Return the pan to the heat.  You now have a sheer coating of oil remaining on the pan.

Pour two tablespoons of the batter into the pancake pan, tilting the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Cook until the underside of the pancake is golden brown and then, using a spatula, turn it over and cook the other side. Turn the pancake out onto an upturned dinner plate.  Repeat until there is no more batter, using a bit of the reserved oil if the pan appears to be dry or if the pancakes begin to stick.  Continue to stack pancakes on top of each other on your dinner plate.

When finished, serve the pancakes straight away with the lemon and orange wedges on the side for squeezing on the pancakes and sugar for sprinkling.

If you want to make the pancakes in advance, lightly butter an ovenproof tray and sprinkle each pancake with sugar after you finish cooking it. Fold the pancake in half and then half again arranging them all neatly on the tray. Cover the tray with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with the lemon and orange wedges.  Makes 20 8-inch pancakes

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