Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday. Call it what you will- it’s an annual day with it’s roots in guilt-free indulgence before the long Lenten period of abstinence prior to the Easter celebration of faith. Having grown up in Ireland it usually meant pancakes. Stacks of pan-fried, chewy batter usually soaked in cheek-puckering amounts of Jif lemon juice and liberally sprinkled with caster sugar.
Times change and I guess so do tastes. Piles of pancakes no longer ignite childhood delight. So this year I decided to try something different and was not disappointed! Hailing from Nordic regions the “Semla bun” (Semlor pl) is a spiced bread bun, predominantly filled with an unctuous almond paste, topped with whipped cream, and dusted with a snowy layer of icing sugar (because you can never have too much decadence on Fat Tuesday!)
As with the etymology of so many pastries and breads there are numerous versions and methods out there depending on how deep you dig. I went with the classic, and probably best known, Swedish version with some slight tweaks. The dough I use is my “go-to” enriched dough with the addition of the required ground cardamom. The inclusion of this spice not only gives the dough a depth to it’s sweet taste, but also a heady fragrance which whafts of indulgence.
The finished and filled buns are exceptional when eaten fresh and on the day. Should the need arise they can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. But some words of caution here – the longer they are kept in the fridge the drier and tougher the buns will become. If you do this they’re best removed from the fridge about an hour before eating so they are allowed to come to their ideal serving at room temperature. Guess this means all the more reason to eat them all in one go?
1 cup milk
3/4 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup tepid water
4 cups strong bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten for bun wash
Crumbs from bun centres
3 1/2oz marzipan, cooled to fridge temperature
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Icing sugar to dust
Heat the butter and milk together in a pan until until butter is melted. Remove from heat add vanilla extract and leave to cool, stirring occasionally
Combine yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a jug. Add tepid water, mix and leave to active for 10mins until frothy
In a bowl of stand mixer combine flour, salt, cardamom, cinnamon and whisk together to combine
To the flour mixture addd cooled milk mixture, yeast mixture and egg
Set on low to combine the ingredients. Once combined continue to form a dough and knead in mixer for 6 mins on low, or knead by hand for 10 mins
Remove from stand mixer bowl and place in an oiled bowl to proof for 45-1hr until doubled in size
Remove from bowl and on an oiled surface punch down and knock air back. Divide dough batch into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls
Set equally and well spaced on a lined baking sheet and allow to second proof for 30-45mins
Preheat oven to 400
Brush the proofed buns with egg wash and bake in oven for 10-12mins until golden
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack
When buns have completely cooled, use a sharp serrated knife and cut the tops from them (about 1/2 inch from top). Set aside for later
Remove the insides from the buns whilst leaving the outer shell intact and place crumb filling into a bowl
Grate in cooled marzipan and add milk and cream. Mash/ stir until a paste is formed. Depending on the amount of crumb filling used from the buns, you may need slightly more liquid- what you want is a thick, spoonable paste
Divide and spoon the marzipan crumb paste into each of the buns
Set aside when each of the buns has been filled
In a bowl add the vanilla extract to the whipping cream and whip until stiff peak stage
Fit a piping bag with a star tip nozzle, fill with the whipped cream and pipe in a circular motion to cover over the filled bun holes
Pancake Tuesday to me is synonymous with one flavour conbination- Jif Lemon and sugar. Not caster sugar but granulated, and heaven forbid the juice be fresh. Nay! It had to come from a plastic lemon of the sqeezable variety. This cheek-puckering combination of crunchy sugar and citrus instantly bringing back childhood memories of playground squabbles about the quantities of pancakes consumed before school. Who cared of it was only 11am!?! Somehow you had persuaded your parents to let you scoff gargantuan amounts of fried batter for breakfast. Times have changed and I now realise there is more to life than lemon juice and sugar- just about! So here’s my recipe for ricotta pancakes with a variety of serving suggestions. Try one…or try them all! Either way I hope you enjoy.
Put the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
Make a well in the middle, then pour in the egg and a splash of milk.
Gradually mix the flour into the liquid until starting to combine.
Mix in the rest of the milk in three stages until you have a smooth batter, then beat in the ricotta with a whisk.
Heat the rapeseed oil in a large non-stick frying pan until hot.
Spoon in a small laddle full of batter, spaced well apart, to make pancakes about 10cm across.
Cook on medium heat for 2-3 mins until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip over with a palette knife and cook for 2-3 more mins until golden. Set aside and keep warm; cook the rest of the batter.
Stack the pancakes, with baking parchment between, and keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.
1 ways- Spiced Orange
150ml orange juice
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1 large orange, sliced
Gently warm the spices in a pan until the frangrance is released.
Add in the orange juice and caster sugar.
Continue to gently heat until the sugar is disolved. Set aside to cool and infuse before use.
While the sauce is cooling, sprinkle the orange slices with caster sugar. Using a cook’s torch, carmalise the sugar on the slices until the sugar is bubbling, burnished and a deep amber in color. Alternatley you can heat under a high grill until the sugar reaches the same stage as with the torch.
Arrange a copule of slices of orange on top of your pancakes and drizzle with the spiced orange sauce. (I’ve drizzle some around the palte and used a pipette to allow the sauce to be “injected” into the stack)
2 ways- Mango with Rosemary, Basil & Lime
75g fresh mango, chopped roughly
4 tablespoons waster
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablesppon lime juice
1 small spirg fresh rosemary
3 large basil leaves
In a pan combine the liquids and caster sugar.
Add the rosemary spirg and chop in the basil leaves.
Heat until the sugar has disolved and the on point of boiling.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool fully and infuse for at least a couple of hours.
When fully cooled, strain into a bowl to remove the herbs. Toss in the mango pieces.
Top a stack of panckes with some of the mango, and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.
3 ways- Smoky Chocolate sauce with bourbon & pecan
50g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa content
120ml double cream
1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
25g chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave in short bursts) until smooth and fully melted. Remove from the heat.
Heat the butter, double cream, bourbon whiskey and liquid smoke in a small saucepan until evenly combined.
Remove from the heat and stir through the melted chocolate until fully combined. When fully mixed add in the pecan nuts.
Pour generously over your pancakes and sprinkle with some additional chopped pecans.