02 February 2008
I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me Fat Tuesday means pancakes. Maybe it is my Episcopalian background. In every Episcopal church I have attended there is great excitement about the Fat Tuesday, or more properly called Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Dinner. People gather in the church kitchen to cook massive quantities of pancakes and sausages and serve them with juice and coffee.
I have enjoyed this tradition ever since I was introduced to it, after marrying an Episcopalian. I mean, who doesn’t like to eat pancakes? And eating them for dinner does seem like an indulgent treat. But where did this tradition come from? Pancakes are relatively inexpensive to prepare and, compared to many things we might eat, not an extremely “fat” choice for dinner.
Its origins are grounded in the Lenten observance of fasting. In an earlier time Christians routinely restricted their diets during the season of Lent. During this time meat, dairy products and eggs were forbidden. Instead, people ate simpler fare, giving up dietary richness in a spirit of repentance and self-examination. So, on the eve of Lent (Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent) when all the people were preparing for their Lenten fast, they cleaned out their cupboards and, to avoid waste, consumed all of the rich foods that were on hand and might spoil before Easter, some 40 days later. What better way to use eggs and butter and milk than to make a feast of pancakes?
In case you don’t plan to attend a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner, or if you would like to prepare one of your own, I have a great recipe for pancakes. These pancakes are a bit unusual. The batter contains yeast and can be prepared well in advance. It keeps in the refrigerator up to one week. So stir up the batter in the morning, the night before, or even the weekend before and the batter will be ready when you are for a great Shrove Tuesday dinner, or an easy weekend breakfast.
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105 – 115 degrees)
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1 quart buttermilk
¼ cup vegetable oil
Combine the yeast, warm water and sugar in a small cup or bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
Thoroughly mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the center.
Beat the eggs together with the buttermilk and oil until well combined. Pour this mixture into the well formed in the dry ingredients. Stir just long enough to moisten the dry ingredients.
Add the yeast mixture and stir. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, overnight, or up to one week.
When you are ready to cook the pancakes, remove the batter from the refrigerator and stir well.
For each pancake, pour roughly 1/3 cup of the batter onto a hot skillet. Cook the pancake over medium to medium-low heat until the bubbles that form along the edges have popped and the edges begin to look dry and cooked.
Turn and cook briefly on the other side until browned.
Yield: 2 ½ dozen.
Note: Pancake batter may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 week.
Cooked pancakes can be frozen and enjoyed later. Place waxed between each pancake and store in a Ziplock freezer bag or other freezer container.
Frozen pancakes can be rewarmed by removing from the packaging and placing the pancake in the microwave or, better yet, the toaster.