How to make pancakes
1. Making pancakes for the first time, if no one's ever shown you how, can be a nightmare. Yet, once the technique has been properly explained, as with all cooking skills, it becomes a very simple affair. What should a pancake be like? Well, almost transparent, crisp and lacy at the edges, meltingly light. The following quantities will make 12-14 pancakes in a 7 inch (18 cm) pan or 10 pancakes in an 8 inch (20 cm) pan. First of all, measure 7 fl oz (200 ml) of milk and 3 fl oz (75 ml) of water in a measuring jug. Sift 4 oz (110 g) of plain flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl, with the sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break 2 large eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs – any sort of whisk or even a fork will do – incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
2. Next, gradually add small quantities of milk and water, still whisking (don't worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream.
3. Pancakes should always be cooked in butter. Melt 2 oz (50 g) of butter in a pan and add 2 tablespoons of it to the batter and whisk it in.
4. When needed, use the butter to lubricate the pan using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round. Only use the merest trace to prevent sticking – a pancake should never actually be cooked in fat. Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you're using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tablespoons about right for a 7 inch (18 cm) pan and 3 tablespoons for an 8 inch (20 cm) pan. It's also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go.
5. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should only take half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it's tinged gold as it should be.
6. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only. I think tossing pancakes is a lot more bother than flipping them over with a palette knife but, in my experience, if there are any men around, tossing pancakes seems to give them enormous pleasure!
7. Then simply turn it out from the pan on to a plate. The finished pancake should be almost transparent, crisp and lacy at the edges.
8. Stack the pancakes as you make them, between sheets of silicone paper (baking parchment), on a plate fitted over simmering water to keep them warm while you make the rest. If you want to make them ahead of time, cover and store them (as above) in the fridge. To reheat, cover the stack loosely with foil and place in a preheated oven at gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) on a high shelf for 10-15 minutes. Pancakes freeze divinely, stacked as above then placed in freezer bags. If frozen, it's best to defrost the pancakes before reheating.
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