Shrove Tuesday special – Pancakes Part 2: Cooking and the recipe

Today’s pancake recipe, like last week’s Valentine’s Day asparagus and chicken, comes from Hannah Woolley. Perhaps I should start doing whole posts about some of the more prolific Early Modern food writers? Something to think about. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

To make good Pancakes

Take twenty Eggs with half the Whites, and beat them well and mix them with fine flower and beaten Spice, a little Salt, Sack, Ale, and a little Yeast, do not make your Batter too thin, then beat it well, and let it stand a little while to rise, then fry them with sweet lard or with Butter, and serve them in with the Iuice of Orange and Sugar.

From The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery, 1670

I didn’t think I’d need 20 eggs worth of pancakes, so I scaled the recipe down to 4 eggs. There were a couple of other pancake related recipes in the book, including one for making “Pancakes so crisp as you may set them upright”, which involves boiling them in lard (deep frying I suppose) until they “look as yellow as gold”. Don’t think I fancy that one myself! There is also a recipe for a “Sussex pancake” which caught my eye, which is just pastry made with “hot liquor” rolled thin and fried, served with spices and sugar.

So, I decided to go with the “good Pancakes”.

First, I put the yeast granules in some warm water with sugar, as instructed on the pack. If you are using dried yeast, you’ll need to reactivate it. Follow the instructions on the packet, although you will probably have to scale them down somewhat. My packet gave instructions for activating the yeast in 1/4 pint water, I didn’t want that much so had to use guesswork. I used about 1/4 teaspoon of yeast with the same amount of sugar dissolved in about 1/3 espresso cup full of warm water. Once this started to froth I mixed it with 5 heaped tbsp plain flour, 4 egg yolks, 2 egg whites, 1 tbsp sherry (this is the “sack” – see the posset post for more information on this), 2 tbsp ale (I used Old Peculiar), a tiny pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

I then left it for about half an hour to “rise”, although it didn’t do much in the way of rising really. Lots of bubbles appeared on top though.

Then I melted some butter in a pan and added a ladle full of the batter. I cooked it for a minute or two on one side until mostly set on top.

Then I turned it over and fried on the other side.

It puffed and curled up quite a lot, when I took it out of the pan it stayed curled up at the edges, but the puffed up pancake sank as soon as it was on the plate. I sprinkled over orange juice, sugar and some orange zest as well.

The pancake was different to the milk, eggs and flour version I’m used to. It was thicker and tougher, although not in an unpleasant way. The spices and orange were a tasty addition too. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out:

Good pancakes 

Makes about 4 small thick pancakes

5 heaped tablespoons plain flour

4 egg whites

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp sherry

2 tbsp ale

1/2 tsp mixed spice

A very small pinch of salt

Small amount of yeast, fresh or dried (prepared as directed on the packet – see above for what to do with dried yeast)


1 orange

Whisk the egg whites and yolks together, then add the flour, sherry, ale, spice, salt and yeast. Leave to stand for half an hour or so.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan and add a ladle full of batter when it is hot. Cook until the top has mostly solidified, checking the underneath to make sure it isn’t burning. Turn over when bubbles start to appear and pop on the surface of the pancake. It will start to curl up a lot once you have turned it over and will only need about 30 seconds more until it is cooked through. Slide onto a plate and add sugar and orange juice, and a little grated zest for colour if you like.


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