Three of a kind
The word pancake has different meanings in different cultures. To Americans it is a thin, slightly leavened cake eaten for breakfast with butter and maple syrup. To the British it's what the French would call a crepe. Whatever the variation it is usually delicious and simple to make.
With the following recipes it's wise to cook a 'test' pancake to make sure the pan is at the right heat and the consistency of the batter is correct.
American pancakes (pictured)
This is an adapted recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Fresh buttermilk is difficult to find in Hong Kong but reconstituted dried buttermilk works well. It's thicker than 'soured' milk made with whole milk and fresh lemon juice.
If you use soured milk you might have to increase the quantity of flour slightly. Take care not to overmix the batter or the pancakes will be tough. Eat them with real maple syrup rather than maple-flavoured syrup - there is a vast difference in flavour. You can also drop fresh blueberries or sliced bananas into the batter as soon as you've poured it into the pan.
280 grams plain flour
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
? tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
360ml buttermilk (follow directions on packet of buttermilk powder) or 330ml whole milk mixed with 30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
120ml whole milk
60 grams unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Oil, for the pan
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add to the flour mixture then stir in the buttermilk, whole milk and melted butter.
Heat the pan over a medium heat. Pour in a little oil then use a paper towel to brush it evenly but lightly around the pan. Make a test pancake - use a small ladle to spoon some of the batter into the hot pan. If it spreads too widely, add more flour to the batter; if it's too thick, stir in more milk. It should be about 5mm to 8mm thick. When the consistency is right start cooking the pancakes. Ladle the batter into the pan, keeping the pancakes as round as possible. Bubbles will start to appear at the edges of the pancakes; the bubbles will pop and then fill in with the batter. The pancakes are ready to turn when the bubbles pop but stay hollow. Use a spatula to flip the pancakes and cook for about two more minutes or until the other side is browned. Brush the pan with oil between batches. Serve a stack of the pancakes with plenty of butter and maple syrup.
British pancakes (crepes)
I learned to make crepes when I was doing my pastry apprenticeship at a hotel in San Francisco. We made dozens at a time but I never did become proficient at tossing them with a flip of the pan. I do it the safe (some would say cowardly) way and use a spatula. If you're using a savoury filling omit the sugar. For sweet crepes flavour the batter with a little orange zest, vanilla extract or liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Kirsch, depending on the filling.
180ml whole milk, chilled
180ml cold water
3 large egg yolks
15 grams sugar
140 grams plain flour
75 grams unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Oil, for brushing the pan
Sweet or savoury filling of choice
Put the milk, water, yolks, sugar, flour, butter and flavouring (if using) in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Mix on high speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula then process or blend again briefly. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Heat a skillet (preferably a crepe pan). Pour in a little oil and use a paper towel to brush the oil lightly but evenly around the pan. When the pan is hot, pour in a small amount of the batter (how much depends on the size of the pan). Tilt the pan so the batter coats the bottom of the pan evenly, then quickly pour the excess batter back into the bowl. If the batter is too thin it will form a lacy pattern on the pan and won't coat it evenly; if the batter is too thick it won't coat the pan lightly. Adjust the batter as necessary by adding more flour or water. When the crepe is browned on the bottom, flip it with a toss of the pan or use a spatula. Cook the other side briefly then turn it out onto a plate. Continue to cook the crepes, lightly oiling the pan and stirring the batter between each one.
These are the ultimate pancakes because they're usually served with such elegant toppings. Sour cream and caviar are traditional but they're also good with sour cream and smoked salmon. They should be made small - about 3cm to 4cm in diameter.
60ml warm water (45 degrees Celsius)
7 grams dry yeast (not the instant type)
20 grams sugar
60 grams plain flour
60 grams buckwheat flour
? tsp salt
240 grams warm milk (45 degrees Celsius)
2 large eggs
45 grams unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Oil for the pan
Sour cream, caviar, smoked salmon or other toppings
Whisk the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and let stand until foamy. In a larger bowl, mix the plain flour, buckwheat flour and salt. Whisk the eggs and pour them into the bowl then add the milk and water/yeast mixture. Stir the ingredients together then let the mixture rise, either in a warm place for about two hours or in the fridge overnight.
If you refrigerate the batter, let it reach room temperature before cooking.
Heat a pan and brush lightly with oil. Check the consistency of the batter by cooking one blini. When the batter is right cook the rest. They will take only a few minutes to cook because they're so small. Serve warm with your choice of toppings.
STYLING Leonie van Hasselt