Rich pancakes perfect for Shrove Tuesday

In England it is called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, and part of the festivities include a pancake race, a tradition dating back to 1445.

By: Pat Tanner


Illustration by Judy Martin

   While many parts of the world focus on wild Mardi Gras celebrations on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent for the Christian community, it is celebrated elsewhere in a quieter, delicious way: with pancakes.
   In England it is called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, and part of the festivities include a pancake race, a tradition dating back to 1445, although pancake celebrations also take place in France, Lithuania, and other Eastern European countries. The idea is to use up those foods that will be banned or limited for the 40 days leading up to Easter. For Roman Catholics, the primary fasting centers on meat, but for other parts of the Christian world, especially Orthodox Christians, it still includes animal products such as eggs, dairy and lard.
   I adore pancakes, fritters, crepes, blintzes, even French toast, all of which use prodigious amounts of butter, eggs and milk. But not for breakfast. I enjoy the following dishes on cold winter nights, especially if snow is on the ground. Shrove Tuesday simply provides the perfect cover.
   Over the years I’ve tried countless recipes and fancy variations, but I always return to the basic recipe for buttermilk pancakes in my battered, 30-year-old "Good Housekeeping" cookbook.
   The extra step of beating the one egg white results in light, fluffy pancakes. I often add half a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and I have used the recipe with powdered buttermilk with excellent results. The stuffed French toast recipe, below, is suitably indulgent and delicious and can (and should) be assembled the night before.
   One caution: Purchase eggs from a source you trust for freshness and sanitation.
"The Good Housekeeping Cookbook,"
1963 Edition,
Edited by Dorothy B. Marsh
   1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
   ½ teaspoon baking soda
   ¼ teaspoon salt
   1 egg, separated
   1 cup buttermilk
   1 tablespoon melted butter
1. Sift flour, soda, salt. In small bowl, with hand mixer, beat egg white until it forms moist peaks; set aside.
   2. In medium bowl, using same beater (do not wash), beat egg yolk and buttermilk just till blended. Stir in flour mixture, then melted butter; stir till smooth. Fold in egg white.
   3. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto hot griddle. Cook until cakes are puffy, full of bubbles, and edges are cooked. Turn; cook other side. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
   Makes about 10 smallish pancakes.
"Stress Free Cooking"
by Barbara Seelig Brown (2002, Lifestyle Designs)
   1 loaf unsliced dense bread, such as challah
   1 pint strawberries, chopped
   1 banana, chopped
   12 ounces whipped cream cheese
   Nonstick cooking spray
   1 cup maple syrup
   4 eggs (or equivalent egg whites)
   1½ cups milk (may use skim)
   2 teaspoons vanilla extract
   ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Slice bread about 1-1/2-inches thick. Cut a pocket in each slice. Mix fruit and cream cheese. Stuff each pocket with this mixture.
   2. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour maple syrup into bottom of pan. Lay stuffed bread on top of syrup.
   3. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Pour over bread. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
   4. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until golden.
   Serves 4 to 6.
"Jewish Cooking in America"
by Joan Nathan (1998 edition, Knopf)
Ms. Nathan gives credit for this recipe to one Lois Greene of Waterbury, Conn.
   1 cup all-purpose flour
   1 teaspoon baking powder
   1/8 teaspoon salt
   3 large eggs
   1 cup milk
   2 large apples
   2 tablespoons butter
   Confectioners’ sugar
   Juice of ½ lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs and milk and beat until smooth.
   2. Peel, core, and slice the apples in eighths. Gently stir in the apples.
   3. Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet on the range. Brush with the butter and pour in the batter. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the pancake puffs up at the sides and is crisp and brown. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice.
   Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Pat Tanner can be heard each Saturday morning on "Dining Today with Pat Tanner" on MoneyTalk AM 1350 from 9 to 10 a.m.