The Tuesday before Lent begins is known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday and – somewhat less officially – Pancake Day. Lent is a period of fasting in many Christian traditions, so the day before it started was a time when people set out to use up all the milk, butter, eggs and other items that they couldn’t eat during Lent. Buttery crepes or pancakes that used a lot of these ingredients were a natural choice to use them up, and the tradition of Pancake Day was born.
Pancake Day itself is certainly not a religious occasion, but it is a good excuse to enjoy a batch of homemade pancakes for breakfast or even for dinner. I typically celebrate Pancake Day by getting up a little bit early (it is a weekday, after all) so that I have time in the morning to make pancakes from scratch. Here are a few favorite pancake recipes for inspiration to help you celebrate Pancake Day in your kitchen, too:
Pancake Day is one of the few food holidays that has its roots firmly planted in tradition and was not simply named on a whim to celebrate the tasty breakfast food. Pancake Day is better known as Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, the period of fasting and prayer that preceeds Easter in many Christian traditions. The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday began as a way to use up ingredients including butter, milk and eggs that were not supposed to be eaten and would go bad during the period of Lent. Pancakes, particularly thin and buttery crepes, were a great way to use up these ingredients in one easy and indulgent dish. The tradition of eating pancakes is accessible to many regardless of religion, and the idea of a Pancake Day gets a little more popular every year.
These days many people opt to celebrate Pancake Day by eating pancakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner and the celebrations are decidedly non-religious for most. For instance, in the towns of Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England hold a pancake-flipping race, where women run down the streets of each town flipping pancakes, in a tradition that actually dates back hundreds of years. I personally just use Pancake Day as an excuse to eat pancakes for dinner and to try out a few new recipes, like the Passion Fruit Coconut Pancakes pictured above or a batch of Bacon Pancakes! Savory crepes are even a nice way to celebrate Pancake Day. You can eat pancakes any day of the year, of course, but having a holiday spring up around them just makes things seem a little more festive!
For those who celebrate Lent, Shrove Tuesday is a pretty important day because it is the last day before Lent, traditionally a period of fasting. The day is also known as Pancake day, because foods like milk, eggs and butter needed to be used up before Lent began and pancakes were a great way to do just that. And a day celebrating pancakes is something that everyone can get behind, regardless of religion. IHOP is even giving away free pancakes this morning in acknowledgment of the day!
But even if pancakes elsewhere are free, I still like to make my own. The pancakes pictured above are my Brown Sugar Pancakes with Brown Sugar Maple Syrup. Other good pancake options include:
Don’t forget that maple syrup is a must-have ingredient for enjoying pancakes and nothing can compare to the real thing. And if you want to spice up plain pancakes, you can always add in some fruit to take advantage of whatever you might have in the kitchen.
This recipe is from Tante Marie, a famous French cook who, according to some “set new standards for French cuisine”. With a name like “Aunt Marie”, however, I find it rather difficult to believe that there actually was such a person. I could be wrong here, but it probably isn’t unlikely that the name was a creation of someone trying to sell a cookbook. Not that there’s anything wrong with that because the recipes that originated with Tante Marie’s French Kitchen(now out of print, I think) are some french classics.
Take this crepe recipe, for example. It is lighter than most, using a combination of water and milk in the batter. It comes together amazingly fast, is versatile and delicate in taste and texture. The crepes are also very easy to work with, which makes them ideal for rolling or folding around different fillings, both savory and sweet. This recipe was also chosen as the best pancake recipe by a group of chefs who include Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and Heston Blumenthal (of the Fat Duck) . I’m still partial to the fluffy american style of pancakes, but these are excellent.
Let me stress that you do not need a crepe pan to make crepes. All you need is a good skillet, lightly greased. I think that a lot of people have never made crepes at home because they thing they need special equipment to do it, but this is definately not the case. Once the batter is in the pan, use the handle to lift it up and swirl the batter around to create a crepe of uniform thickness.
My absolute favorite way to eat crepes is with jam, for either breakfast or dessert. The ones in the photo above have raspberry and cloudberry jam in them, and are topped with a bit of confectioners sugar. Other sweet fillings that are good are butter, sugar and lemon juice or Nutella and banana slices. For savory fillings, I recommend leaving out the brandy or vanilla extract, which is a good substitution if you do not want to buy a whole bottle of brandy to use one teaspoon. Try filling the crepes with peppers, cheese and shredded chicken or a sauté of peppers, onions and mushrooms, with or without feta cheese, for a great main course.
(recipe from Tante Marie)
200 ml. milk (2/3 cup)
100 ml. water (1/3 cup)
100 g. all-purpose flour (3/4 cup plus 2 tsp)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp brandy (optional)
Place flour in a large bowl, add milk and water gradually, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs, salt, vegetable oil and brandy (or vanilla extract), if using. Make sure batter is very smooth, then set aside to rest for at least 20-30 minutes.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease and pour a measure of batter onto the skillet (I used a scant soup ladel full, about 1/4 cup). Pick up the skillet and swirl the batter around until it even coats the entire bottom of the pan.
Cook until the edges come away from the pan and the top of the crepe looks almost dry, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for about a minute.
Fill with jam (or other desired filling) and serve immediately.
Makes about ten 10-inch crepes (can be doubled or tripled)