Pancake Week!

I love Pancakes! Pancake Night was up there with Christmas and birthdays when I was growing up in England. Yes, my non-UK friends, we have a whole night dedicated to pancake eating. Although not many people actually know why we do this anymore, it was like our version of Fat Tuesday. Back in the day when the majority of the population were Christian, people would begin Lent several weeks before Easter which meant, among other things, no dairy. Pancake night (also known as Shrove Tuesday) was a way for them to use up all the milk and eggs in the house the night before Lent. Of course, now it’s just about eating pancakes!

To clarify, in the UK, when we talk about pancakes we mean crepes ..you know, the thin, warm vehicles used for any delicious fillings your mind can conjure.   You can imagine my shock and delight when I arrived in the States for my first visit at age 12 and heard that people have pancakes for breakfast!! Of course I had no idea they were the thick, fluffy, buttery, syrup-drenched kind when we first ordered them but they did not disappoint in transporting me to the same pancake heaven of our once a year celebration. Upon our return to the UK, one of our American friends living in London at the time gave Mum a box of Aunt Jemima mix for our next pancake day and we got to enjoy both types. Although I love them equally, I still have never been able to make crepes for breakfast (it’s a nonsensical mental block, I know). Therefore I will be dedicating this week to my love of the morning (American) pancake and will blog again soon about my first pancake/crepe love as I believe they need to be shown the proper, individual respect they deserve.

Hubby and I do not have many rituals and habits as a married couple but one of them is homemade pancake brunch on Saturdays. Now that I am all grown up and get to decide when and how I eat, I have declared every Saturday, pancake day!  When we first lived in Cyprus together, I was a US pancake virgin and depended on our care package from my mother in-law to include Bisquick until I found a local store that carried it.  Since then, I have found many different  healthy scratch made recipes I like and depending on the occasion (and what I have in the cupboard), I will whip up my own batch every Saturday morning.  While this in and of itself  may not seem very blog worthy, what I have learned is that you can make ‘ANYTHING’ pancakes using pretty much all basic recipes and that makes it worth sharing for a week!

All you need is a bit of creativity and some fun ingredients and (as confirmed by Pinterest) pancakes can be flavoured for any occasion and season. This week I will be sharing some of my favourites from the straight up blueberry to the crazy bacon-chocolate.  Today we shall begin with some good old basic tips and then blueberry pancakes. Not an original variety BUT the tips below are essential to making the best pancakes out there so why not begin with the simple beauty of blueberry pancakes?

Pancake cooking tips:

  • Never over-mix the batter, just stir long enough so everything is combined well.
  • Prepare wet and dry ingredients separately before mixing them together. This will ensure that any spices, salt etc gets well combined into the batter without having to over stir.
  • Do not mix your batter ahead of time. You can prepare the dry ingredients ahead of time but the wet ones really do need to be mixed and added at the last minute. The batter will literally turn grey if left for a while and no one wants grey old pancakes!
  • Grease the pan- I use non-stick spray and re-spray every three or four pancakes to help keep the outsides crispy. (Remember to move the pan off the heat when spraying!) Obviously you can also use a knob of butter if being more decadent!
  • It’s all about the little holes! I know it’s tempting but don’t peak under the pancake while it’s cooking, or try and flip it until you see little bubbles/holes appearing over the entire surface of the pancake.
  • Cook pancakes on medium-low heat. As not many of us have a hot plate in our kitchen like those great American Diners, cooking at home on lower heat is better. If the heat is too high you will run into a couple of problems- 1) the outside will burn but the inside will still have a batter consistency and taste uncooked 2) the surface will cook quickly and, even though you will have bubbles, the pancakes will splatter when you flip them making a horrible mess. if the heat is low they will flip perfectly and only need about a minute on the second side.
  • Pancakes are best enjoyed straight from the pan. I don’t really recommend cooking pancakes ahead of time. Depending on the recipe, they might become a bit spongy or soggy. If you need to keep them warm so you can sit down and eat together with family and friends, place them into a baking/sheet pan, uncovered in the oven on low (about 200 degrees F). If you cover them up, they will steam and become soggy.
  • If you’re going to have them with syrup, it has to be real maple syrup. It’s natural and tastes a ga-zillion times better than the nasty other kinds of syrup. I know it’s more expensive but why take the time and care to make the most delicious pancakes and then not chose the best tasting accompaniment?
  • Buttermilk is really the only ingredient that can make your pancakes truly fluffy. I have seen lots of healthier recipes that call for 1/2 the amount in low fat buttermilk and the other 1/2 in non fat milk and this seems to work fairly well. Even though I have to use all soy milk, I add an extra 1/4 tsp of baking powder and baking soda and that is an OK substitute. But, you can literally see the difference in the batter when using buttermilk both in the mixing and in cooking.
  • There are some really great healthy batter options out there made with oatmeal or wholewheat so you can feel good about a more frequent pancake treat. If going for the wholewheat option, I have found using half wholewheat and half plan flour is the best option for texture and flavour

Blueberry Pancakes

Wash a pound of fresh blueberries and drain on a paper towel. Make sure they are dry before adding so you’re not putting extra liquid into your batter.

Some people prefer to drop the blueberries on top but I like them to be coated in batter so they really form part of the pancake.

These are simple, delicious and I love to watch the blueberries pop when I break into the pancake with a fork. Serve with sliced bananas for an extra fruit punch.

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