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Food & Drinks

Pancakes: Top Chefs Show You How to Cook the Perfect Ones

Archie Athanasius Executive Chef Hemmingway
Archie Athanasius Executive Chef Hemmingway Nairobi. PHOTO | BELLA OSAKO | NMG 

Chef Archie Athanasius, an executive chef at Hemingways makes a small cut in the thin wholegrain crepe — a term used to describe thin pancakes. He uses the cut to fold it into a cone shape, he then proceeds to fill it with freshly sautéed creamy mushroom and spinach. This is then garnished with a microgreen salad.

“This is my take on a savoury crepe. You can fill it with anything you like … and yes even cheese,” he says.

The flavour profile of the mushroom and spinach crepe is completely different from the simple breakfast crepes with whipped cream, blueberry sauce and maple syrup served up by Chef Emmanuel Aluda, executive sous chef at the Intercontinetal Hotel.

Chef Emmanuel’s crepes are sweet, and coupled with a cup of freshly brewed black coffee, the pancakes make the perfect breakfast bite, a complete contrast to the savoury crepes, which can be an afternoon snack or a complete meal.

These thin pancakes are also different from the fluffy pancakes — known as American style pancakes — whipped up by Chef Julia Meria, a breakfast chef at Mövenpick Hotel or the larger version made by Chef Christopher Graham, executive chef at dusitD2.

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On a plate, these creations are expertly garnished with an assortment of fruits and syrups for the sweet ones or stuffed with an array of savoury filling, earning them a place on the high-end hotel menus.

To executive chef Christopher, making pancakes is something that takes little effort. In fact, he is taken aback when we ask him how to make a pancake. Our question is one that has found itself on Google search trends in Kenya in the “how to” category. Pancake making is one that the four chefs we interviewed do as second nature, whether fluffy, thin, sweet or savoury.

Archie Athanasius Executive Chef Hemmingway

Archie Athanasius Executive Chef Hemmingway Nairobi. PHOTO | BELLA OSAKO | NMG

The art of pancake making, they all agree, simmers down to the ingredients, the pan and the heat used to cook them.

The basics remain the same across the pancakes and crepes served by the four chefs.

“You do not rush cooking of pancakes,” explains Chef Julia.

Mixing ratios of the ingredients will be determined by whether they are American style which are fluffy or European (French) crepes which are thin and delicate.

“For crepes, the ratio of liquid to flour is about one is to one while American style pancakes are one cup flour to half a cup of liquid,” says Chef Emmanuel Aluda.

Crepes require no proofing agent (baking powder) whereas American style pancakes require the added assistance to rise while cooking.

As Chef Christopher serves up the stack of American-style pancakes drizzled with a generous amount of maple syrup and two chunks of butter sensuously melting to the sides, he explains that separating the eggs helps add to the fluffiness.

“Whip up the flour, milk, egg yolks, sugar and baking powder. Whisk the egg whites separately and fold them into the rest of the pancake mix,” he explains.

With the American-style pancakes, moderate heat is a vital component. If the pan is too hot, they will not cook through to the centre.

“You will have golden brown pancakes on either side but once you cut into the centre it will still be gooey,” says Chef Archie.

The pan must be a non-stick for the perfect result.

Julia Meria Breakfast Chef Mövenpick Hotel

Julia Meria Breakfast Chef Mövenpick Hotel. PHOTO | BELLA OSAKO | NMG

Chef Christopher prefers to use a cooking spray for his pan or clarified butter (ghee) on the pan when he is starting. He then pours the mixture onto a pan with a ladle, and lets the pancakes cook completely on one side before flipping them.

“Wait until the top is bubbly and it is pulling away from the sides before turning. You can also confirm that the base is golden and then its ready to flip,” he says.

Chef Julia uses butter for her pancakes, ladling the mixture at the centre. She lets it sit until the top bubbles and losses its glossy look. “use a thin spatula to get under the pancake and flip it gently,” she says.

The gentle flip prevents the pancake from splattering or even falling apart.

The butter in the batter and on the pan adds to the richness and also helps achieve that even golden brown finish.

“You can use oil but make sure you spread it all around the pan,” explains chef Emmanuel who uses a paper towel to spread the oil on the pan before he begins making his crepe.

Once the crepe or pancakes begins bubbling at the top, edges pull away from the pan as they turn golden brown, it is ready to flip.

Chef Archie’s whole wheat crepes are a little more delicate than the traditional crepes. The whole wheat flour is chunky and has an oat-like texture. This means unlike fine flour that holds together, this type is crumbles easily. Therefore, one must be gentle when flipping the pancakes over.

Similarly, according to Chef Emmanuel, oat pancakes suffer the same challenge which means, it is better to make them smaller to give the cook better control when turning them.

“I like to get the entire pancake under the spatula to turn it,” he says.

According to Chef Julia, you can add topping as the pancakes cook — whether bacon bits, fruits, onions, cheese — before you flip the pancake or alternatively, once cooked, you can stuff the crepes.

Once ready, Chef Christopher explains that you can top the pancakes with bacon, maple syrup, fruit, powdered sugar or even southern fried chicken depending on whether you want sweet or savoury pancakes.

American-style Pancake Recipe

  • 990g of Flour
  • 300g of Butter
  • 300g of Sugar
  • 5 Eggs
  • 1.5 litres of Milk
  • 50g Baking Powder
  • Crepe Recipe
  • 110g of Flour
  • 100g of butter
  • 100g of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 500ml of milk
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