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Background Information

It is Shrove Tuesday, also known as pancake day! And I am planning on making pancakes. However, my little brother made pancakes at school and he used a different recipe to what I normally use; it was still composed of the three basic ingredients: flour, egg and milk, but he used different quantities. Also, the website that I had previously gotten my pancake recipe from also changed its recipe and I have seen other websites use different quantities as well, which has caused me to wonder what the best quantities actually are.

Recipes I have encountered

Recipe               | Flour (g) | Egg | Milk (ml)
---------------------|-----------|-----|----------
Website's old recipe | 200       | 2   | 350
---------------------|-----------|-----|----------
My brother's recipe  | 115       | 1   | 300
---------------------|-----------|-----|----------
Website's new recipe | 100       | 2   | 300

Question

How does the quantity of different ingredients affect the properties (such as thickness, frailness and taste) of an English pancake?

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More flour: Thicker, cakier

Less flour: Flatter, more custardy

More egg: Chewier

Less egg: Breadier

More milk: Flatter

Less milk: Thicker

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Not a fully comprehensive nor completely scientific method of evaluation, but let me pass on some brevet learning I did last night ;)

I usually make pancakes using the same proportions as I do for Yorkshire Pudding batter, just slightly thinner. When I say "usually" I mean about every 10 years or so, if we decide to have them on that one day a year & if it's me that volunteers… so, not all that practised really...

  • 3 oz plain flour
  • 3 fl oz milk
  • 3 fl oz water [2 for Yorkies]
  • 1 large egg.
    Imperial measurements because that's what we had when I first made them nn years ago ;)

Let it stand for 2 - 4 hours before cooking.

So, last night I realised as I was making the first two, that because I'd chosen two 30cm pans I wasn't going to get the quantity I'd been hoping for. I'd normally use 20cm pans, but I only have one at the moment so it wasn't an option to swap.

These came out …edible - slightly doughy, cakey as they were too thick & just a tad rubbery. A good colouration, light crackly browning to the edges, slightly robust texture with plenty of stretch, quite crêpe-like. I don't think I had the pans quite hot enough overall, so I turned up a bit for the next batch.

In a flat panic as I was getting the first two going, I threw more flour, milk & water in on top of my last quarter of remaining batter. I really had badly underestimated quantities, so this second batch with approximately the same proportions of flour & milk, now had far less egg & a fair amount more water.
I'd estimate my initial 3:3:3:1 ratio was now more like 3:3:5:¼. Also, only part of the mixture had been rested.

Still had some of the stretch of the first batch, better edge browning, thinner so felt more lacy & delicate. Overall, less 'defined', more likely to break when flipped. Less successful, but still edible.

You guessed it - in my panic, I'd still not made enough batter, I'd seriously underestimated how much bigger a 30cm pan is compared to a 20, so I went all in for mix three, having learned a lot from the first two.
3:3:6:1 - twice as much water to get the thinness I'd got in the second batch, another whole egg, but my pans were completely settled at temperature & I'd also turned both up a bit to get these last ones out quicker.

This was the perfect batch.

Light, airy, crispy, slightly bubbled edges. They cooked quicker, were easier to spread the batter in the pan. They were quite delicate; a result, imo, of being thinner & not having had the resting time before-hand.

As a result of that field testing whilst under fire, I now know my recipe for next year…

  • 3 oz plain flour
  • 3 fl oz milk
  • 6 fl oz water
  • 1 large egg.
    Let stand for one hour.

This should regain some of the elasticity I was missing from the last batch, but retain the airy crispness I was getting round the edges.

So, egg gives robustness & some elasticity. Resting gives more elasticity still. Lots more water means they'll spread much thinner in the pan, cook faster & have a better 'crust'.

Let's see if I can live up to that estimate next year.

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I have noticed that more eggs you have the tougher the pancakes would be. and majority of people likes them fluffy and light.

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  • 'Fluffy and light' sounds more like a Scotch or American pancake to me.
    – OJFord
    Feb 26 '20 at 17:26
  • I would be very careful with statements like “everyone likes them this or that way. Taste is not only subjective, but also depending in cultural expectations. I remember serving sticky rice (just as it was supposed to be) to an elderly relative, who was wondering what on earth I may had done wrong (her expectation being rice with individual grains).
    – Stephie
    Feb 26 '20 at 20:25

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