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Pancakes of Sorts

Pancakes and fritters must surely be amongst the most ancient recipes going. Nor should they be restricted to Shrove Tuesday (neither are they in my house) as a means of using up eggs and milk before Lent. They could, however, be a far more luxurious affair then the incarnation we are familiar with today. You will often find pancake recipes called A Quire of Paper in old cookery books. Regula Ysewijn explains how the recipe came to acquire it’s name in her book Pride and Puddings:

“The word ‘quire’ comes from the Latin ‘quarterni’ which means a set of four. It is a term used by printers and bookbinders, meaning a stack of paper that is bound into a book…rich cream pancakes, as thin as paper, are served layered as a cake instead of individually. The pancake pile is cut into wedges and served with a dusting of fine sugar and a rich sauce.”

The following recipe, which gives it’s name to this post, is taken from Charles Carters The Complete Practical Cook (1730) and includes cream, spices and sherry in the batter mix. If you think Carter’s imagination stopped here then check out his recipe for Banniet Tort on the English Heritage blog for a really intriguing way to serve pancakes.

Quire of pancakes based on an 18th century recipe by Charles Carter
Ingredients (Makes 12 – 14 pancakes)

125g plain flour A pinch of salt A generous pinch of ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg or ¼ tsp mixed spice 1 teaspoon caster sugar 2 large eggs 285ml single cream 110 g butter, melted plus 50g or for brushing the frying pan with if you think you’ll need it 1 tablespoon sweet sherry

  1. Sieve the flour, sugar, salt and spices into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour then break in the two eggs. Begin beating the eggs gradually incorporating the flour as you go then begin to add the cream a little at a time. Finally, stir in the melted butter and sherry.

  2. Heat an 18cm non stick frying pan over a medium heat. Carter doesn’t put any butter in his pan before cooking the pancakes, which does work. If you doubt the efficiency of this method, or your pan, brush the pan with a little of the extra melted butter (I find a wad of kitchen towel useful for doing this). Pour a little of the batter into the pan and swirl it around until the base is coated. Cook for a minute or two (the top will cease to look ‘wet’ once it is done) then flip it over to cook the other side (use a spatula or palate knife if you don’t want to risk your pancakes winding up on the floor). If you’re not planning to eat the pancake straight away, you can keep them warm on a plate covered with foil in an exceedingly low oven (50-100℃). You can recreate the quire effect by sprinkling a little caster sugar between each pancake.

  3. For a simple pudding sauce combine equal quantities of melted butter, caster sugar and sherry, wine or brandy (say 50g of each). Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the sugar and sherry then stir until dissolved. Pour over warm pancakes.

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