When I’m asked to bring something to munch on for a group gathering, I’m not one for chips and dip. Now don’t get me wrong, I love both of those things – more than any totally sane person should – but I love even more to cook something to share. After all, it’s less fun cooking for one.
Sometimes I get a little carried away and I spend hours making mini cheesecakes. But more often than not, something comes up, and I have to whip something up quickly at 7am before heading off. Depending on what kind of mood I’m in, there are a lot of choices but to hit two birds with one stone I usually go with breakfast foods, that is to say pancakes.
People here in France don’t eat many pancakes, they tend to stick to crêpes, which is a pity because light, fluffy, buttery pancakes, still hot out of the pan, can do wonders for a bad mood (for us non-morning people). With moderation, of course… ;)
I rarely cook with only one recipe, I tend to look around, compare, then mix and match. Imagine my surprise when I did some research and found that there is not an international consensus on what a pancake really is! What is called a pancake in the UK, is actually known as a crêpe in most other countries. The recipe for the two is very similar, the main difference being that american pancakes have a rising agent as well to make them thick and fluffy.
I therefore decided to post a couple different recipes here : american pancakes, french crêpes, and blinis (a savoury alternative to pancake goodness).
It’s really easy to dress up pancakes, be it by adding extras into the batter, or when you serve them. You could put blueberries, bananas or any chopped, semisolid fruit into the batter for a healthy kick, or you could add choc chips, if you’re looking to indulge. You could even make full chocolate pancakes by adding in some cocoa powder. To serve, pancakes are delicious with lemon and honey, maple syrup, fresh strawberries, or even bacon. Actually, pancakes are good with pretty much anything. They’re even good plain – especially if you put some vanilla essence into the batter!
As for crêpes, as a sweet treat, they go with all of the same things as pancakes. However, if you replace the plain flour with wholewheat or buckwheat flour and don’t add sugar, you can turn them into a savoury meal, served with egg, tomato, ham, cheese, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Albeit, it won’t be a traditional Breton meal, but it’ll sure taste good.
Last but not least, if you must bring chips and dip, but you want to be a little more original, you always have blinis. They’re tiny savoury pancakes, that are eaten with dips like tzatziki, taramasalata, tapenade… Yum!
Makes 10-15 pancakes
- 120g (1 cup) plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 250mL (1 cup) milk
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tsp honey or sugar
- one large egg
- 2 tbsp butter plus extra for frying
Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl then add in other dry ingredients (salt and sugar if you’re using it).
In a larger bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (milk, egg, 2 tbsp butter).
Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until barely combined. If you’re worried about lumps, you can put your mixture through a sieve, but be careful not to over-mix.
Heat a saucepan on medium heat with a dollop of butter. At this point, I like to pour my mixture into an old sauce bottle to make more regular pancakes, but you can always use a ladle or just pour directly from the bowl. Pour slowly and let the mixture spread by itself until the pancakes are about 10cm (4 inches) wide.
When the bubbles that appear on the surface start to burst and form small holes, you can use a spatula to turn them over. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, until the underside is nicely browned, then remove from the heat and wrap in foil or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. You may need to add more butter for the following batches.
Makes approximately 20 crêpes
- 240g (2 cups) plain flour
- 6 tbsp sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 250mL (1 cup) water
- 500mL (2 cups) milk
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup melted butter plus extra for frying
In a large bowl combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt). In a smaller bowl, whisk together the water, milk and eggs.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Combine by whisking in circles, from the center outwards. Once the batter is smooth, add the melted butter and whisk. Cover and allow the batter to rest in the fridge for at least one hour and up to a day. *
Once the mixture is properly chilled, heat a small knob of butter over medium heat in a shallow non-stick pan. Use your right hand (or your left if you’re left handed) to lift the hot pan up, while you pour approximately ¼ cup (a small ladle), swirling and tilting the pan simultaneously to cover the surface with a thin layer.
Cook for about 1 minute until lightly browned. At this point you can either flip the crêpe using a forward-upward motion, or turn it over gently with a spatula or a palette knife. Then cook for another 30 seconds or so before removing from the pan. Put under tin foil to keep warm while you cook the rest of the crêpes.
Serve warm with : chocolate, bananas, jam, lemon and sugar, strawberries, or so many other things …
You can prepare crêpes up to 24 hours in advance by storing them in the fridge once cooked. You can reheat in the microwave or in a frying pan.
*Now, it’s not absolutely necessary to wait – I rarely have the time – but you should keep in mind that your crêpes will be better if you do.
Some recipes include amber rum in the recipe. I’m not a big fan, but if you like you can always substitute approximately 1 tbsp of water for 1 tbsp of rum.
- 120g (1 cup) plain, whole or buckwheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 190mL (¾ cup) milk
- ¾ tsp salt
- one large egg
- 115g butter plus extra for frying
Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients.
Heat a small knob of butter in a pan over medium heat and put approximately one tablespoon of batter into the pan for each blini. I put the batter into an old sauce bottle to make rounder, more uniform blinis but you can just use a spoon.
Cook until bubbles form small holes on the top side of the blini (1-2 minutes) before flipping with a small spatula and cooking for one more minute, until lightly browned and slightly crisp around the edges.
You may need to add more butter to finish all of the blinis.
Serve warm with dip.
You can keep the batter in the fridge for 24h, and you can make the blinis up to 2 days in advance then reheat them in a microwave or in a pan for extra crispiness.