For the next challenge with my sister and my friend, Hibiscus Kook, to make a dish three different ways, and each of us trying something new, we decided on pancakes for pancake day today. Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, whatever you want to call it, is the last day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent, being a period of fasting, prayer and penance leading to Easter in the Catholic faith, is traditionally a leaner period culinarily. Many know it now as being the period during which people tend to try to give up chocolate, but for many centuries it was, and for many it still is, a period when richer foods are given up until Easter. Shrove Tuesday was therefore a good time to use up eggs and fats which remained, and so pancakes became traditional in the UK.
I had grown up celebrating the feat of Mardi Gras, but had never heard it called Pancake Day until I moved to Scotland for University. I was completely mystified, especially as no one could explain the significance of the pancakes, they were eaten for supper rather than breakfast, and most of my friends who celebrated pancake day were in no way religious and weren't going to be observing Lent or Easter. I still don't necessarily eat Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and certainly eat them at other times of the year, but once in a while, it is a fun tradition to embrace. My sister's suggestion, therefore, of making Pancakes our next recipe to coincide with Pancake Day suited me to a T. Here are our three different Pancake Experiments, and a bonus Whipped Cinnamon Honey Butter recipe.
For my friend, HibiscucKook's recipe for vegan pancakes on her blog, click here.
Sahlep Pancakes by me
Pancakes are something I grew up with. My dad would make them for a weekend breakfast treat. I have enjoyed playing around with them recently (see my fenugreek pancakes, peach pocket pancakes, and apple pancakes, for example). For me, pancakes are relatively small and quite thick and fluffy. British pancakes, which I encountered notably on Pancake Day, are more akin to what I grew up calling crêpes, but a little thicker. Despite these being made in honour of Pancake Day, I am sticking with my conception of pancakes for this, and testing an idea I've had for a while.
When I was little, my dad used to take regular trips to Istanbul. As a result, we often had Sahlep around to be had as a special treat. Sahlep is a hot drink made from ground orchid tubers in warm milk, often with cinnamon too. It has been drunk since Roman times at least, and Paracelsus even wrote about it, considering it to be a strong aphrodisiac. I have no knowledge of any such properties but have always really enjoyed it as a special treat. Today it is still drunk across Turkey and Greece.
I have wondered for a while if it could be substituted for part of the flour content in a recipe, or added to others to make sahlep pudding or cookies, for example. As such, I decided that now was my chance, and made Sahlep pancakes, substituting one third of the flour with sahlep powder (which may or may not be cut with powdered milk). I soaked the sahlep in the milk overnight and then mixed the pancakes as normal. Drop-down to see the recipe!
1/2 c sahlep powder
1 c flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
3/4 c milk
(Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon)
1) Soak the sahlep in the milk overnight. In the morning, mix these with the flour and baking powder and sugar. Add the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
2) Pour a heaping tablespoonful of the batter onto a buttered skillet over medium heat. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and it turns matter. Flip and cook the pancake for a few minutes on the other side. Serve hot!
I had no idea before starting how these were going to turn out. Sahlep is not flour, and aside from being an off-white powder, it has little in common with it. I am quite impressed, therefore. These pancakes had a subtle but distinctive flavour to them. The batter was a little thinner than regular pancakes made with this recipe (but keep ing all three thirds of flour, instead of one third sahlep). This led to the pancakes themselves being a little thinner. They remained very light and fluffy but... flatter. To compensate for this, I tried adding a little more flour to the batter to thicken it, about 1/4c worth, but although this thickened the batter and made the pancakes fatter again, the consensus was that the sahlep pancakes are better as originally tried.
We also tried them with some cinnamon added to some of the batter. Cinnamon complements sahlep wonderfully, but I do find in pancakes sometimes that it leads to a dry mouthfeel. That was the case here, and it detracted from the subtle flavour of the sahlep. In future, therefore, I will keep to the recipe as above written.
We often have a whole panoply of goodies to put on pancakes. Although this was the case here, we discovered, after a little trial and error that the delicate sahlep flavour came through best with just a little smear of butter and nothing else on the pancakes. They were sweet enough on their own, and needed no other flavours to come in and muddy the flavour waters.
Piggy Pancakes (AKA Hamcakes) and Whipped Cinnamon Honey Butter by my Sister
For the past several years, I have made bacon pancakes more often than regular ones. It is a super easy variation, and well worth it. All you have to do is cook the bacon on one side, flip it, and pour the pancake batter over it. After that, it is the same as making regular pancakes. The bacon flavour permeates the pancakes, and they crisp up nicely from the sizzling bacon fat...
So, that was the starting idea for this challenge. After playing with flavour pairings, I decided to try to incorporate some applesauce and maple syrup into the batter. Those are among my favourite toppings for bacon pancakes, and I wanted to see whether they would enhance the batter any. I cut the regular amount of sugar and substituted in the maple syrup, and cut the amount of milk to make up for the added liquid in the form of applesauce.
Unfortunately, bacon prices have recently jumped to obscene levels, so I was disinclined to buy any yesterday. Rather than scrap the idea entirely, I decided to try making them with ham and kielbasa instead of bacon, and I am so glad I did! Drop down to see more!
1 1/2 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp white sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
Bacon, kielbasa, ham, or other piggy morsels
1) Whisk together the dry ingredients.
2) Add the wet ingredients and stir well.
3) Fry the desired piggy base on one side on medium-low heat.
4) When cooked, flip it over, and pour a ladle of batter over it.
5) When your batter starts to bubble, flip the pancake, and cook the other side until golden brown.
6) Add toppings and eat hot.
These were delicious! The changes in the batter consistency were minimal, and the flavours came through without being overwhelming. I think if I were to do it again I would cut the sugar entirely and add a tad more maple. They were particularly good with some of the whipped cinnamon honey butter I made the other day, so I will include a bonus recipe for that too:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp cinnamon
1) Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer.
2) All done - it really is that easy!