The ultimate pancake

As much as we love classic pancakes with lemon and sugar, sometimes it’s fun to glam them up a bit. (We usually end up making more pancakes than we need and freeze them, finding other things to do with them later on.)

Crêpes Suzette
These are an old favourite – ideal for those frozen leftover pancakes. In a large frying pan melt 85g butter with 30g caster sugar, grated zest of an orange, 2 tablespoons of each orange juice and orange liqueur (Curaçao or Grand Marnier). Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes before adding cooked pancakes to the pan and carefully folding them into quarters, coating them well in the liquid as you go. Keep adding pancakes until the pan is full, topping up with some water if it’s looking a bit dry. Sprinkle the pancakes with caster sugar and a generous glug of orange liqueur or brandy, flambée with a lit match (standing back) and serve straight away.

Harry’s Bar’s custard pancakes
Better still are these from Harry’s Bar in Venice, a recently discovered recipe from Simon Hopkinson’s excellent Second Helpings of Roast Chicken. Possibly the best sweet pancakes ever – decadently creamy, yet crunchy with a boozy kick, they are fabulously luxurious and you can rustle them up with store cupboard ingredients (as long as you have plenty of eggs and some orange liqueur or brandy). The recipe is much easier than it looks and the pancakes and custard cream can be prepared in advance.

For the batter:
100g plain flour with a pinch of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
finely grated rind of half and orange
250ml milk
50g butter, melted

For the custard cream:
400ml milk
100g caster sugar
2 pieces of pithless lemon zest
3 large eggs
40g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the pancakes:
a little extra caster sugar
100ml Cointreau (or Grand Marnier/brandy)

Start by making the batter. Put all the ingredients in a liquidizer or food processor and blend well. Pour through a sieve into a jug and allow to rest for at least half an hour. Melt a small knob of butter in a small pan (ideally 15cm) and cook the pancakes as thinly as possible, laying them on a clean tea towel as you go. You shouldn’t need much more butter to grease the pan as the melted butter in the mix helps keep the pan lubricated. You should have about 12 pancakes. Wrap them in foil while you make the custard cream.

Put the milk, 40g of the sugar and the lemon zest into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for several minutes. Discard the lemon zest. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, gradually adding the flour until the mixture is smooth. Keep whisking while you add the milk in a slow steady stream until well blended. Pour back in the pan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook slowly until very thick and just beginning to bubble. Keep stirring and allow it to continue cooking for a couple more minutes, add the vanilla extract then let it cool before filling the pancakes.

Finally, preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8 and add a tablespoon of custard to the centre of each pancake, spreading it around a bit. Fold each pancake in half, then half again and arrange in a buttered ovenproof dish. Lightly sprinkle the pancakes with caster sugar and bake for 5 to 10 minutes until the sugar has melted and become crunchy. Don’t worry if the edges are bit burnt as you can snap them off if they are too dark. When you are ready to serve them, douse with the orange liqueur or brandy and flambée, swirling the dish around so everything mingles well. Serve immediately, making sure all the liquid is poured over. You could serve the pancakes with vanilla ice cream as they do at Harry’s Bar, although they are perfect as they are.

Pancakes 2

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