Cook school confidential: cooking pancakes

Cook school confidential: cooking pancakes

by Great British Chefs 27 February 2017

Chef Tom Brown from Outlaw’s at The Capital hosted a Great British Chefs’ cook school at Le Cordon Bleu on how to make the perfect pancakes – read on for his top tips and see what everyone cooked.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Pancakes aren’t just pancakes anymore. They can be wafer-thin, large and golden or thick, small and stackable. They can be made from all sorts of flours (buckwheat, chickpea, rye, gluten-free) or flavoured with various herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. They can even be made vegan (get the recipe here). That’s why we invited Tom Brown, head chef at Nathan Outlaw’s London restaurant Outlaw’s at The Capital, to come along and teach a class of food bloggers and journalists all about them at Le Cordon Bleu – just in time for Pancake Day.

While it’s the thin, crêpe-like pancakes we normally associate with Shrove Tuesday, Tom opted for Scotch pancakes; the kind you see in the US served as a stack and drizzled with various delicious sweet toppings. They tend to have a lighter, more satisfying texture than the more traditional variety, and being able to stack them up means a more substantial meal. Instead of lemon and sugar (or bacon and maple syrup for Scotch pancakes), Tom went for something more seasonal: rhubarb compote finished off with Cornish clotted cream (he is from Cornwall, after all) and a few toasted flaked almonds scattered on top.

The compote was simple enough – beautiful Yorkshire forced rhubarb is stewed with apple (for body) and a little sugar, with a glug of ginger beer thrown in as well. But it was Tom’s tips on cooking the pancakes themselves that really made the difference to the finished dish.

Tom Brown
Tom whisked the batter before letting it rest, which results in more tender pancakes
It's also important to sieve the flour, which allows more air into the mixture

‘One of the most important things to remember is to rest the batter,’ he told the class. ‘This gives the gluten time to relax and prevents chewy pancakes.’ Just twenty minutes is all that’s needed, but you can leave the mix longer in the fridge (just remember to stir it again before cooking). Sifting the flour and baking powder also helps, as it allows more air into the mix which will give you a lighter, fluffier finish.

When it comes to actually cooking the pancakes, Tom showed how important it was to wait for the oil to heat up and coat the base of the frying pan completely. However, don’t let it get too hot – you want to cook Scotch pancakes quite gently, so they don’t brown too quickly. And if you’re cooking them in batches, make sure the pancakes are kept warm.

Once Tom finished demonstrating how to make the pancakes, the bloggers and journalists got stuck in and had a go themselves
Simple yet vibrant and full of flavour – Tom Brown's pancakes with rhubarb compote, clotted cream and almonds

After everyone in the kitchen had a go at recreating Tom’s simple yet stunning dish, it was time for Le Cordon Bleu’s own pâtisserie chef Jerome Pendaries to show off a French classic. His blackcurrant crêpe soufflé took a little more skill than Tom’s, but it was well worth it. The batter was relatively straightforward, but it was the creation of the soufflé filling that showed real flair. The crêpes were finished off with a mascarpone coulis, and a dusting of icing sugar just finished it off beautifully.

Whether you’re looking to stick to tradition with lemon and sugar or want to try something as grandiose as a blackcurrant crêpe soufflé this Pancake Day, it’s clear that getting the batter perfect is the real key. Flipping might be the fun part, but make sure you’ve let your batter rest, your cooking on the correct heat and you’ve got a range of delicious toppings to adorn them afterwards.

Chef Jerome
Chef Jerome cooked up an incredible blackcurrant crêpe soufflé to end the class on a high note