I woke up last weekend with a craving for pancakes. So I dutifully marched into the kitchen with Fannie Farmer stuck under my arm, whipped up a half-batch of serviceable buttermilk pancakes and tucked in, putting three aside for the next day, because it is my opinion that cold, day-old pancakes crisped up in a hot oven are one of life's great delights.
But as I ate my pancake breakfast, I had the dull realization that my craving was not being itched, as it were. The pancakes were fine, but they were so...solid, so thick and fluffy. For once, not in a good way. In fact, I thought I could hear a distinct clang deep in my belly with each swallow. It was rather odd.
This isn't what I wanted, I thought as I chewed. How much of my breakfast do I have to eat before I can throw in the towel? And then I realized what the problem was. What I had in front of me were classic American griddle cakes (as Marion Cunningham calls them). But what I'd really wanted were English pancakes! Thin and light, like crêpes, and topped with nothing but a squeeze of lemon juice and a scattering of sugar. That's what I wanted, right there. (Don't you hate realizing stuff like that just as you're finishing a meal?)
But I am nothing if not patient. (Snort.) The next day, I had to delay gratification once again to make short work of the leftover pancakes, but then! The day after that! I practically flew into the kitchen the moment I woke up.
Flour and salt in a little mound in a bowl, eggs whisked into the mound, followed by a bit of milk and water and a drizzle of melted butter. Delia says you should whisk this mixture manually into smoothness, but I dumped the lumpy mixture into my mini food processor and blitzed it instead. Much less work for a more even, perfect result and zero zero zero lumps in the thin, cream-like batter. (Plus, this way you don't have to sift the flour. Sneaky!)
I wiped some of the remaining melted butter into my skillet and poured in a few spoonfuls of the batter, tilted the pan around and cooked the pancake until spidery lines of caramelization formed on one side and I could flip it to cook the other side. In less than 15 minutes I had a stack of pancakes, all feathery-edged, on the plate.
At this point, Hugo had lost all patience with Freddie, his little bouncy chair and the outrage of not being held, so with Hugo in one arm and a half a lemon and the sugar jar within reach of the other, I finished up the prep work. Each pancake got a generous squeeze of lemon and then a sprinkling of sugar before getting folded up into quarters and plated neatly.
Then, and I admit this with only the slightest bit of shame, I ate every last one with my hands. Or hand, more accurately. Hugo could only look on with what I imagine was a mix of envy and slight shock.
Aggressively sour and crunchy with sugar, but still delicate and barely eggy and light, they were the very best pancakes I've had in a long while. They had the added benefit of being just exactly, precisely, what I wanted to eat. Oooh, don't you love it when that happens?
Delia Smith's Pancakes with Sugar and Lemon
Makes 12 thin pancakes
110 grams (4 ounces) all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
200 milliliters (7 fluid ounces) milk mixed with 75 milliliters (3 fluid ounces) water
50 grams (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs, incorporating flour from around the edge of the bowl. Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking. When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any flour from around the edge into the center, then pour the batter into a food processor and blitz until smooth and lump-free.
2. Melt the butter in a pan. Whisk 2 tablespoons of it into the batter. Use the rest to grease the pan, using a bit of paper towel to do so before you make each pancake.
3. Put the pan over high heat to get it very hot, then turn the heat down to medium and put 2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on your pan size) into the hot pan. 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; you can lift the edge with a knife to see if it's tinged gold. Flip the pancake over - the other side will need a few seconds only - then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
4. Stack the pancakes on a plate as you finish the rest, then sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice.