Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Ma's Pancake Men from The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is the second time I have made pancakes as part of this Fictional Food Adventure, and these thick, puffy pancakes are very different from the thin, crepe-like ones from Pippi Longstocking. 

Sundays, for me, are a perfect day to come down to the kitchen and make pancakes in a leisurely fashion. 

While Andy had a little bit of an extra lie-in (he'd heroically fed the cats early and brought up hot drinks, bananas and homemade hobnobs for us both), I pootled downstairs and started on the pancake batter. 

The cats were very intrigued about all the items I was bringing out from the cupboards and kept watchful eyes on me, both while I made the batter and while we cooked the pancakes. 

This batter differed from any batter recipe I've ever used before, because you begin by melting butter in milk and setting aside the pan to cool before adding it to some beaten egg. That mixture is then added to the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder to finish the batter. It makes quite a thick, bubblish batter, which the recipe advises you not to over-mix, and I think I should have left it well alone but I got tempted by a desire for a smooth batter when mine seemed lumpy after adding the wet ingredients to the dry. I sieved the whole lot back from the big mixing bowl into the jug, which had the benefit of being easy to pour straight into the frying pan. Although this made my batter smooth, I wonder if it over-mixed it rather, and whether the pancakes would have otherwise been a little thicker. They were, however, quite nicely thick so maybe it's not a big deal. 

I heated the pan and began to create my pancake men. The idea of this is charming. In the book, it describes Ma calling over each child to the stove in turn, to stand by with their plate ready, watching as Ma ladled the batter into the hot pan; a round tummy to begin with, then legs, arms and a small round head. I'm not quite sure what Ma's would have looked like, but here are mine. I think they are charmingly podgy.

I know you can get pretty clever with pancake batter, if you plan ahead, and have a nice squeezy bottle with a fine nozzle. I've seen some impressive artworks created in the pan, and people make it look so easy. 

Having no little ones of my own to call to the hob, I called for my sweet Andy man, who stood excitedly by, waiting for his pancake man to emerge. 

I love watching the bubbles rise up and burst from the batter as the pancakes fry. Once they're nearly all popped you can flip them, and when you turn them onto your plate, the holes are perfect for absorbing plenty of syrup. They actually taste just like crumpets and are pretty filling. 

We started out with just some syrup but then decided we really needed bacon too, so quickly got some frying while we cooked more pancakes. 

We've made fluffy pancakes before, Canadian style, and I'm sure there are countless methods, but the one we are used to involves properly whipping up the eggwhites separately and gently folding the fluff into the rest of the batter, producing a very thick mixture. Pleasing, but slightly faffy, especially as the mixture starts to go flat if it sits there for long, so before you've finished frying, the mixture is deflating before your eyes. This recipe from Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts, inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilders' Ma, is really easy and quick to make and I think the results are pretty pleasing. Perfect for lazy Sundays.  

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