Today is pancake day. Growing up in Canada, I took part in this traditional day of overindulgence; a day to feast upon pancakes or donuts. As a kid, I wasn’t sure why and I didn’t question it. Especially when Mum would put coins in the hot cakes. Not very hygienic but we survived. I knew it had something to do with religion but you don’t have to be Christian be partake.
Catholics call it Shrove Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday and the last chance for Christians to feast and celebrate before shriving their sins to receive absolution and giving up luxury foods and festivities until Easter.
Pancakes (and donuts in some countries) were made to use up all the rich foods like eggs, butter and sugar in the house before Lent. The custom stuck through the years with feasting and parties developing into well-known traditions around the world.
In England, not only do they eat pancakes, they race them too. Long ago, an English woman was making pancakes when she heard the shriving bell ring. She was so concerned that she would be late that she ran to the church with her fry pan and pancakes. Apparently, that is how the pancake races began and continue to this day. The race is also now popular in parts of the USA where Shrove Tuesday has influenced other festivities.
Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday, has grown into week-long plus parties and celebrations in New Orleans, USA and Sydney, Australia throughout the month of February. On the island country of Madeira, sugar-coated donuts called malasadas are served from streets vendors. People love an excuse to eat, drink and be festive whether you are Christian or not.
So tonight, eat and enjoy pancakes for dinner. Here’s my own family recipe (always serve with Canadian maple syrup.
Canadian Pancakes * can be made dairy-free
1.5 cups of plain flour
3 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
2 TBSP sugar (optional)
2 TBSP vegetable oil* or melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup + milk (*rice milk makes them lighter)
Combine all the ingredients together. Add more milk as you see fit, the thicker the batter, the heavier the pancake. They should hold their shape in the pan (not thin like a crepe). No need to use beaters, just mix by hand. If time permits, let the mix sit for up to 30 minutes to activate the raising agents.
The key the perfect pancakes is the correct temperature of the pan. Use a non-stick or heavy cast iron pan. You can use a bit of oil or oil spray to prevent sticking. I always test the temperature with a very small amount of mix before creating large pancakes. I call this the tester and my son usually is the recipient.
Allow bubbles to form and most of them burst before flipping over. One flip is enough. The colour should be even brown or golden. Practice makes perfect. Enjoy!!