March is a bridge…an emotional life raft..it’s the month that takes me over and away from winter and into spring. Sure, I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I just can’t wait. The sun is warming up; the air feels different. Robins are trickling back north to us, and the juncos are thinking about leaving to head further north to the boreal forest. And yes, I’m fully aware of winter’s last hurrah that usually comes in April – there’s always a final dump of snow just when the crocuses think it’s safe to poke out of the soil – but I still believe in March and March gives me hope…
Yes, March is also the time for green beer and excess, but not for me. I mean, the excess, sure, just not the green beer. I’m less St. Paddy’s and more Shrove Tuesday, and not in a religious sense. Again, it’s all about the pancakes.
Oh, and if the ground is soft enough, March is also the time to dig up any sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) not harvested in late fall, before they start to sprout in April and May. But back to those pancakes, flapjacks, crepes, Dutch babies…whatever. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sweet or savoury. Pancakes are pretty well perfect.
This year, Pancake Day falls on March 5th, and for the uninitiated, it’s a feast day on the Christian calendar that falls right before the fasting or deprivation days of Lent. Kind of a fun way of stuffing up before going without! Mardi Gras – French for “fat Tuesday” is the way some, more excitable folks celebrate the last chance to pig out before Lent. Once again, I’ll just have the pancakes, please, and leave that bottle of maple syrup right where it is!
In the UK, folks partake in Pancake Day relay races, where contestants race each other to the finish line, all the while flipping a pancake in a pan. Sounds oddly amusing. I’ve never been to one, but I’m going to assume there are pancakes after all the running around.
As far as I’m concerned, the only race I shall be running is down to the kitchen to whip up some pancakes. I tend not to follow a recipe, just mix some flour, milk or kefir, eggs, melted butter or olive oil, and whatever flavourings I fancy at the moment, until I’ve got a nice runny batter, thick as molasses. If you’re more comfortable with a recipe and measuring, here’s one from a friend of mine, Chef Claire Tansey. It’s from her book, Uncomplicated, published by Penguin Random House. Happy Pancake Day!
Makes 9 to 12 pancakes • Make ahead
Prep Time 10 minutes or less
Ready In 15 to 20 minutes
Excerpted from Uncomplicated: Taking the stress out of home cooking by Claire Tansey. Copyright © 2018 by Claire Tansey. Published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
2 cups (310 g) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed (optional)
1½ teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1½ cups milk
½ cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, melted, or canola oil
1. Whisk the flour with the sugar (if using), flaxseed (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (if using) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, yogurt and vanilla, if using. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until it’s barely combined. There should still be a few streaks of flour in the batter.
2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan or flat griddle over medium heat.
Let it get it hot, then spray or wipe the pan with a little butter or canola oil. Use about 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Once lots of little bubbles appear on the uncooked side, flip the pancakes and cook until the golden side (now facing up) loses its shininess and appears matte. Do not flip pancakes more than once and never press down on pancakes while they’re cooking.
3. Serve immediately or transfer in a single layer to a rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven.
Make ahead Mix the dry ingredients together and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Switch it up After pouring batter into the pan, you can sprinkle each pancake with fresh blueberries or mini chocolate chips. This method is better than mixing the extras right into the batter—this way each pancake gets the same number of add-ins.