Monday, March 3, 2014

Something From Nothing #22: Observing Shrove Tuesday with an Easy Basic Pancake Recipe

Tomorrow, Shrove Tuesday, marks the last day before the beginning of Lent which starts on the following day, Ash Wednesday and extends to the week of Easter. From now until Wednesday, observant Christians around the world will be doing their best to use up the ingredients that they have chosen to give up for the six weeks of the Lenten season.

In the past, many ingredients that we now look upon as basics, were seen as rich, luxury foods and were given up as a way to pay penance for sins through self-denial. To avoid wasting food, these ingredients were used in many different ways, but at some point it became popular to prepare pancakes.

Personally I don't know anyone who gives up eggs, milk or flour for Lent anymore. It is usually things like cola, alcohol, meat and chocolate, but the pancake tradition on the day before Lent begins, lives on. As with many traditions, the original meaning of Shrove Tuesday has been somewhat diluted and is known to many around the world as simply Pancake Day.

Tomorrow, people from all over the world, religious or not, will be flipping and eating millions of pancakes. Whether you observe Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, or the local elementary school's fundraising pancake supper, everyone should have a good pancake to start their own tradition no matter what their beliefs. I think you'll find that this one will certainly do the trick.

Easy Basic Pancakes

This is a wonderful base recipe as is, or for you to build on and create your own favorite flavors. Before you flip your pancake you can sprinkle the uncooked side with chocolate chips, pecans, berries, bananas, or even bacon to make your own unique pancake. The possibilities are limited only by your own imagination.

1 - 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt ( or 1 teaspoon kosher salt)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 - 1/2 cups milk, plus a little more to thin the batter if needed
1 large egg
2 tablespoons oil

Place flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium size bowl or spouted container. Stir well to combine; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and oil. Slowly pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring until they are blended. Don't worry if there are a few lumps as they will disappear during cooking.

Preheat a flat bottom non-stick pan over medium high heat. Oil lightly if needed. When the pan is hot, pour about 1/3 of a cup of the batter into the center of the pan. This will produce a pancake that is about 4 - 5 inches in diameter. If desired, at this point you can add any berries or other ingredients by sprinkling them onto the pancake before you flip it.

Cook until bubbles start to form and pop and the outside edges are set, approximately 2 - 3 minutes. Carefully flip the pancake and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until nicely browned on the other side. Transfer to a heat proof plate and store in a warm oven while you repeat the process with the remainder of the batter.

Serve pancakes while warm with butter and warm maple syrup.

The longer the batter sits, it sometimes begins to thicken. I find I often have to add a splash of water or milk to the batter to keep it the desired creamy and pourable consistency of very heavy cream. The thicker the batter, the thicker the pancake.  If you like thinner, bigger pancakes, add more milk or water, just a little bit at a time.

Makes 6 - 8 pancakes 

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