Pancakes have been the traditional pre-Lenten meal for centuries. Pancake Day is preceded by Collop Monday, when the last of the bacon and ham was fried up for the evening meal, usually with some eggs. The fat in the pan was then retained for frying the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
There are almost as many pancake tradition as there are households. In my childhood, we had sugar and lemon juice on our rolled pancakes, which I just assumed was the one and only way to serve them. Only when I went away to college did I learn about jam, syrup, honey, treacle also being options, puffy American pancakes with syrup AND bacon, and in more recent years Scandinavian æbleskivers and Dutch poffertjes.
This recipe comes from a Georgian manuscript recipe book, and is a charming twist on regular thin pancakes. Filled with a spiced custard and glazed with egg-white and sugar, they are then baked in the oven until crisp. There’s no ratafia flavouring in them, so I’m assuming that the name comes from the crunch of the caramelised sugar and the crisped pancake edges. The combination of warm, spiced custard, crisp pancake and crunchy sugar glaze is delicious. For an adult flavour, you can add a tablespoon of something alcoholic to the custard – cream sherry is probably the closest to the sack that was much in vogue at the time, Madeira, Marsala or Mead are also good choices.
You can use your favourite recipe, or the one below, and if short of time, use ready-made custard, or indeed ready-bought pancakes for that matter. The quantities given below are very modest, enough for four pancakes and filling. Increase the quantities to suit the number of diners you’re serving.
For the pancakes
1 large egg
1 large yolk
60g plain flour
Butter for frying
For the custard
2 large yolks
50g caster sugar
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground mace
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
fresh grated nutmeg to taste
1tbs cream sherry/Marsala/Madeira/Mead (optional)
For the glaze
1 large egg white
caster sugar for sprinkling
- Whisk together the ingredients for the pancake batter.
- Melt a little butter in a pan and fry ¼ of the batter at a time to make four, thin pancakes. Don’t worry if they’re uneven – the folding/rolling will neaten everything.
- Set each cooked pancake aside to cool.
- Whisk together the yolks, sugar, spices and cornflour.
- Heat the milk in a pan and when almost boiling, pour over the egg mixture, whisking briskly.
- Return the mixture to the pan and stir over medium heat until thickened.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool. Stir in the alcohol, if using.
- Cover the surface of the custard with plastic film and chill until cold.
- Take ¼ of the custard and lay it in a log shape along the bottom edge of a pancake.
- Fold the left and right sides of the pancake inwards (to contain the custard) and then roll up the pancake, keeping the custard filling well wrapped.
- Lay the rolled pancake on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with the free edge of the pancake underneath to keep it from unrolling.
- Repeat with the remaining pancakes and filling.
- Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Whisk the egg-white until frothy and brush generously over the rolled pancakes.
- Sprinkle the caster sugar over the rolled pancakes.
- Bake the pancakes for 15 minutes to caramelise the sugar and crisp the pancakes. Add an extra 5 minutes more, depending on how brown/crispy your tastes are.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving – the custard inside will be very hot.