The traditional English pancake has been found in cookery books dating back to the 15th century, with the age-old practice of flipping recorded as early as the 1600s when the phrase ‘flat as a pancake’ was also coined.
The beloved recipe is still rolled out every Pancake Day to a joyous reception. However, in recent years the pancake has undergone a bit of a makeover with some of the UK’s top culinary minds working their magic on this much-loved treat.
While Delia Smith prefers to stick with the staple pancake topping of lemon and sugar, the Hairy Bikers have dipped their toes in rehashing the old favourite by adding a thinly sliced banana into the batter before topping it with fresh berries and drizzling honey or golden syrup over the top.
Some of the UK’s finest chefs have altogether changed the recipe: Heston Blumenthal swaps the water and butter from the traditional recipe for lemon curd while Gordon Ramsey uses coconut milk in their place and finishes the pancake with fresh mango and lime syrup.
The traditional thin pancake is also being challenged by delicious alternatives from around the world.
Does the English pancake still stack up?
Thanks to their simplicity, delicious pancakes have long been a favourite in many countries with endless numbers of regional variations, both sweet and savoury, found in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. But are any of them as good the traditional English pancake?
We’ve scoured the globe and come up three of the best alternative pancakes:
1. The American-style pancake
Known in colonial times as a hoecake, johnnycake or flapjack was made with buckwheat or cornmeal and was much admired by President Jefferson. Today, they’re known for being fatter, laden with syrup with the addition of baking powder making the difference.
Top recipe: Jamie Oliver’s recipe is well worth a try for a taste of the States.
2. Dutch Babies
Dutch Baby is the American name for a German dish called ‘Apfelpfannkuchen’, a giant pancake made with apples. Legend has it that the name ‘Dutch Baby’ was allegedly coined by a restaurant in Seattle called Manca’s after one of the owner’s children mispronounced the word ‘Deutsch’.
Dutch babies are likely to be the easiest pancake you’ll ever make as the ingredients are blended together before being poured into a hot frying pan which is placed into a pre-heated oven. The result is a delicious Yorkshire pudding-like pancake which you can load with any topping you like.
Top recipe: take a look at Martha Stewart’s Dutch baby recipe here.
3. Australian pikelets
Australian pikelets, which very likely descended from the Welsh crumpet, are a small pancake made with a bit of sugar added into the batter mix. Pikelets are traditionally served with afternoon tea instead of scones and topped with jam and cream or butter – we’ll leave the cream first/jam first debate for another time.
Top recipe: Australian chef Bill Granger’s pikelet recipe is a worthy pancake alternative.
Traditional English pancake recipe
There’s plenty of pretenders to the throne but little can be done to improve on the perfect English pancake topped with lemon and sugar. Here’s the traditional recipe, to make pancakes for two you’ll need:
- 55g plain flour
- Small pinch of salt
- 1 large egg
- 100ml semi-skimmed milk mixed with 35ml water
- 25g butter
- Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl
- Break the eggs in and whisk thoroughly
- Add small quantities of the milk and water mixture gradually as the mixture thickens and keep whisking until all the liquid has been added
- Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter into the batter and whisk it in
- Get your frying pan really hot, then turn it down to medium and do a test pancake to see if you’re using the right amount of batter
- As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook
- Flip the pancake over with spatula or toss it if you’re feeling really confident.