Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cooking with gas

One of the recipes that had occurred to me as being particularly appropriate for Canada was pancakes, (p212) not because Canada is particularly famous for pancakes, but because we could then eat them with some proper Canadian maple syrup.

I'd mentioned this idea, but it never came to fruition until our final night in the camper, when I was reminded of my pancake intentions. We'd already had a big meal - a slight malfunction in the camper's freezer had caused all our mince to thaw out, so Jos and Mum had cooked up a massive pot of it for dinner.

Even so, everyone seemed keen enough to have pancakes for dessert - appropriately delayed to allow for digestion, of course! Since the recipe calls for the batter to spend an hour chilling, I mixed it up straight after we'd finished eating. As I've found before with this recipe, the batter was far too thick, even before chilling. I stirred through some water and set it to chill.

I wasn't very optimistic about the results. I've used the Edmonds pancake recipe before, and while it usually results in passable pancakes, I actually have another one I prefer to use. In addition, the recipe called for plain flour, (with no raising agent) but we only had self-raising. I wasn't too worried on this point - my usual recipe has both baking powder and baking soda in it, and makes nice puffy pancakes. I wondered if the self-raising flour might actually improve the result.

The batter ended up chilling for longer than I'd intended: I was occupied with the time-consuming task of making sure we all had copies of each other's photos. As the evening wore on, I was eventually forced to put down the laptop and start making pancakes.

The hobs in the campervan are gas, something I've had very little experience with. I wasn't concerned, though, and turned the hob on to a medium heat, and melted some butter (with a few drops of oil in it to stop it burning - Mum's tip).

I spooned the first measure of batter into the pan. It seemed to be cooking nicely, until I turned the pancake over and found it was black on the bottom. I turned the heat down a little. The first pancake went onto a plate, and despite the charring, Uncle Trev attacked it enthusiastically.

I melted a bit more butter for the second pancake. In hindsight, I should probably have washed or wiped out the pan - the butter turned black as it melted among the sooty remains of the first pancake. Oh well. Another measure of pancake batter into the pan: before long, it was smoking. I turned the hob down again.

Several minutes later, I couldn't work out why the pancake didn't seem to be cooking. Checking the hob again, I found that when I'd turned the gas down, it'd actually gone out, even though it was nowhere near the 'off'' setting.

Relighting the gas, I was forced to keep to my original, far too hot temperature, for fear that the flames would die out again if I turned it down. Smoke filled the campervan as one scorched pancake after another joined its fellows. The extractor fan above the stovetop did not appear to be sucking out much smoke, and what it did remove seemed to be coming straight back in the open door. We shut the door and turned on the extractor fan in the bathroom - with much better results. As the smoke cleared, I finished the last pancake, and sat down to taste one.

I'd put out not only the maple syrup, but also some maple butter that I'd bought as a souvenir and then decided would probably be confiscated at NZ customs. I tried some of the maple butter on one of the worst pancakes.

It was surprisingly good - of course, if I focused on the pancake itself, it was definitely not great, but the maple butter was the dominant flavour, and it was very very tasty. I almost regret not trying to bring some home! The others downed their portions as well, kindly trying to convince me that the pancakes were perfectly fine.

A lot of people prefer to cook on gas hobs: I can't imagine why. I suppose that the hobs in our camper are perhaps not the best example of how wonderful gas can be, but I've heard it said that it's really fantastic how fast they heat up. Fantastic? In my experience, all it means is that you burn your pancakes!


  1. I completely agree!!
    Since coming to Japan, all I've had has been gas hobs (with the exception of my stint in Osaka)... and it ALWAYS results in sub-standard pancakes. Obviously over the years I've got better at working with the gas, but STILL after six years my pancakes don't turn out perfectly.
    I think electric hobs just give you a much more even and steady heat.

    YAY for maple butter!! Shame you couldn't take it back, eh.

  2. However imperfect you consider your pancakes to be, I guarantee mine were worse!

    Yeah, I wish I'd tried to bring some maple butter home - I'm actually now thinking it would probably have been ok. Next time maybe..


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