Pancakes and A Broken Heart
As I write this now, February will almost be over. How did we even start 2016? I am not one who bares my heart so readily on this blog, because why should I anyway? This is about Thom and Aimee, isn’t it? But I realised how food and cooking heals, and how the chef can translate his or her love through the dish. No, it’s not about Valentine’s (which is long over). It’s about starting the New Year with a broken heart and the healing process.
To be honest, I’ve expected this to happen back in last December. I think we all know how big a procrastinator I am, so I’ve dragged ending an almost-relationship (this term is funny no?) long enough. It is not to say that it hurt lesser by having the mental readiness, because nothing can really prepare you from an actual broken heart. Strangely, it was accompanied with relief and some peace. And then, the rally from loved ones around you that made you understand who actually truly cared.
Nothing comforts one best when your own sister wakes you up with homemade pancakes on a rainy weekend (great for mopping around while looking pretty). Ned makes the Crêpe Suzette almost every day at work, but it’s not about the dullness of routine that mattered. It’s always special when someone creates a dish from scratch for no special reason whatsoever, but just so you, the diner, can at least smile.
The performance that comes with a Crêpe Suzette is alluring and magnetic. Maybe it was my emotional state that made the dish more romantic than it seemed. Yet, to watch the blue flames dance upon the delicate golden pancakes and the bright caramelised sauce bubble with slight ferocity was almost hypnotising. To be honest, nothing was romantic because Ned was screaming her head off when she splashed the liqueur into the pan. And you’d think she does this for a living.
But that’s what cooking is all about. Happiness, sadness, laughter, tears, and maybe all at once. It’s not uncommon to see people disappear into the kitchen to celebrate or to mourn. Or to eat cause they are just damn fucking hungry. There is something therapeutic about the whole process, whether it’s for you or someone else. That’s why I decided it was alright to talk about something personal alongside Thom and Aimee. Because both are important and so intrinsic with each other.
They say time heals, but I say, nothing heals better than a noisy kitchen that fills the house with the aromatic heady fragrance of citrus on a wet morning. It is difficult still, but I know things will get better. Hey, you know what, I did smile when eating those pancakes. Those were darn good pancakes.
By Pierre Hermé (Pastries)
Makes 5 crêpes
35g unsalted butter
100g plain flour
30g caster sugar
300g whole milk
10g Grand Marnier
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange
40g grapeseed oil
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, mix with the sugar and make a well in the center.
Combine the milk and eggs and pour the mixture into the well. Gradually stir the mixture in the centre toward the outer edge, incorporating the dry ingredients little by little.
When the batter is smooth, add the cooled melted butter, the Grand Marnier, orange zest and grapeseed oil. Mix well and pass the batter through a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps of flour. Let the batter rest for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium low heat. Dip a kitchen paper towel in grapeseed oil and use it to brush the pan with a thin layer of oil. Place your palm right above the pan to sense the heat; it should feel hot, but not smoky hot.
Add the crêpe batter in the center of the pan, then lift the pan with your dominant hand, and tilt the far edge of the pan down slightly, and watch the batter slide towards the edge of the pan. Once it reaches the edge, begin swirling the pan by rotating your wrist, clockwise or anti-clockwise. This motion will move the crêpe batter evenly all over the pan.
Place the pan back on the heat (medium low heat) and let the crêpe cook until the edges of the crêpe turn slightly light brown, around 60 to 90 seconds. Use a wooden skewer or a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the crêpe and flip it unto a plate. The crêpe should be easily released from the frying pan. Repeat the process until all the crêpe batter has been used.
Although the minimum resting time required for the batter is 4 hours, it is best to rest the batter overnight to allow the gluten to relax and the flour to fully hydrate – crêpes with little resting time turns out rubbery.
Frying crêpes regularly at work and reading this particular paragraph of an article about crêpes from Lucky Peach, made me feel like at least someone in the world understood the art of frying crêpes.
It writes, “Because the heat from the pan coagulates the batter on contact, it is crucial to control the temperature of your pan. If it’s too hot, the batter will grab too quickly, and won’t have time to coat the pan before it’s set in place. Another bummer: the batter will bubble and boil on contact, filling your crepe with tiny holes and leaving the surface with a prune-finger appearance. If the pan isn’t warm enough, the batter will swirl and swirl before it sets, leaving your wrist aching and the crepe batter pooling anywhere gravity has time to move it. Ideally, the heat of the pan will be just warm enough that batter makes only one tour of the pan, setting as it passes, until the last of the batter just reaches the start of the crepe.”
Such a good article, although I wouldn’t agree completely – I think frying crêpes with flavourless oil is better as butter tends to brown easily. Also, frying both sides of the crêpe isn’t really very necessary..
100g unsalted butter
75g freshly squeezed orange juice, without pulp
10g Grand Marnier
Place a wide frying pan on medium heat and add the sugar to dry caramelise it. Once the sugar turns deep amber and starts to bubble slightly, carefully add the butter in. After adding the butter, the sugar will start to bubble vigourously – be careful. Stir the mixture with a wooden spatula. Once the butter has melted, add the orange juice, stir and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cointreau.
To serve, place the pan with the suzette sauce on medium heat. Once the sauce starts to boil, place a crêpe or two, folded into half (like half of a moon) into the sauce. Reduce the heat to a low, and bask the crêpes with the suzette sauce for a minute, allowing the crêpes to absorb the sauce. Fold the crêpes into quarters and pour the Grand Marnier into the pan. Increase the heat to medium. Now be careful not to place your head anywhere near the pan – Tilt the pan to the stove’s flame to ignite it.
Once the flame dies down, reduce the heat to low and bask the crêpes with the sauce again. Turn off the heat and transfer the crêpes onto a plate and drench them with the intoxicating suzette sauce. The suzette sauce should a slightly thick brown syrupy sauce.