I once spent a considerable time in Brittany, France. In a granite cottage facing the Atlantic ocean, near Plouhinec to be exact. It was there that I was able to indulge in my love of Quatre Quarts and crepes (and the great American novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville). I don’t think anyone can make pancakes quite like the Bretons. But I try. And Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day – is the perfect opportunity to get out my trusty French crepe pan, mix up a large bowl of batter, dress the table with copious bowls of lemons and gather my family for our annual pancake-tossing competition.
When our tummies are full with freshly made pancakes served simply with lemon juice and sugar, the pancake tossing begins with great hilarity. The aim is to toss a pancake from the frying pan, as high as you can, and to catch it again in the pan. Needless to say, we step outside to do this. Dropping the pancake means instant disqualification and the pan is passed to the next eager contestant much to the children’s joy. Sometimes the pancakes are tossed and fail to return – they end up on the roof, or high in a tree to be devoured by a quizzical possum or the birds at dawn. Once everyone has had a turn, young and old alike, the winner is announced and a ‘press release’ drawn up to spread the news to those that couldn’t join us.
My tips for successful pancakes or crepes (we’re not talking the American version here):
Make your batter thin – like pouring cream; have the right type of pan (thin metal base, low-sides); only put enough batter in the pan to spread a thin covering (you are aiming for a crispish-golden outside and moist, tender inside – not a thick, pale, doughy disc); make sure the pan is hot; wipe your pan with a paper towel each time you have removed your pancake; wipe the pan with the tiniest amount of butter before cooking the next pancake. Sound difficult? Not really. And the results are well worth the effort. Serve them warm and as quickly as possible after they have been cooked. And eat them however you like them.