Well well well. It is now March. Of 2014. I last blogged in November. Of 2013. Whoops. I’m fairly sure the only explanation for the massive gap in-between posts is: I have now entered that period of a PhD known as ‘writing up’. It’s also known as (perhaps not officially), the period of mass freak outs and major questions. Of like everything. But particularly, why on earth am I subjecting myself to this quest of intellectual endeavour? What is wrong with baking cakes for a living? Why on earth did I decide to leave that perfectly satisfying profession? And what in the world is Michel Foucault saying? This week, all of my work is on old Michel. And his ideas on how we come to know what we know. And what it is we can claim to know. And how this knowing is used by people in power. And how it forms a part of governance and bio-power. I am using Michel to help explain how all we seem to be concerned with is childhood obesity. And eating fruits and vegetables. And getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables. I’m not particularly concerned with this in my project per se, but everyone I read certainly is. So Michel Foucault and I are getting to know each other. Or I am getting to know him. He is certainly not getting to know me.
But today is fat Tuesday. A day, I read (via the copious links on my Twitter feed), for eating fried foods (if you’re in the States) or pancakes (if you’re here in the UK). I’ve chosen pancakes. I am in the UK, after all, and whilst I don’t think I’d even heard of pancake Tuesday until I started my PhD, I’ve given things a South African spin and filled them with milk tart custard. I don’t have many food memories from my childhood. I’m not one of those people who has had various epiphanies of long-lost flavours or has distinct childhood memories of food. (I remember the practically white, flourly beef tomatoes that used to be a feature of salads in my youth and which nearly turned me off tomatoes for life though.) But milk tart – unbaked mind you – was a big love of mine from early on. I have no time for the baked variety. I love the custard in milk tart. I think it is the origin of my love of custard in general, but milk tart custard is particular. Slightly cinnamon-y, sweet, gloopy. And preferably from Pick ‘n Pay. And what better way to fill a pancake than with the custard mixture that would normally fill a tart base? It’s a winner I tell you.
For pancakes (or crepes, if you’re being very technical), I used the recipe on Poires au Chocolat – mostly because she made a crepe cake with them. Emma’s cake was much prettier than my stack. I learnt that having a decent sized crepe pan is something rather necessary if you’re going to get all the pancakes the same size. (Otherwise you’ll end up with what I had, a domed shape of chaos and confusion). I made the milk tart custard first, so that it could cool in the fridge whilst I made the pancakes. In terms of flipping them, I find it’s easiest to do so with fingertips – something I learnt whilst making crepes for crepe Suzette in the downtime around service at Gleneagles. (As a chef you can never not be busy and so we used to flip crepes on quiet nights or whilst we waited for things to pick up.)
Milk Tart Custard
(This makes enough to fill 20-odd pancakes with a thin layer of custard. Double if you’re filling a regular tart case.)
500 ml whole milk
20g butter, unsalted
1 cinnamon stick
25g plain flour
125ml golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat the milk, butter and cinnamon stick to scalding point.
Mix the flour, cornflour and sugar with the egg. If it won’t make a smooth paste, add in some of the milk you’re heating. You want a smooth, fairly loose, paste. Whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon. Temper the scaled milk onto the paste, whisking to incorporate. Pour everything back into the saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the custard is very thick.
Pour into a square baking tin, smooth out with a spatula and cover with cling film (so that it doesn’t skin). Allow to cool for 15 minutes before placing in the fridge.
Once you’ve got all your pancakes cooked, assemble the stack by placing a pancake on a plate. Dollop some custard onto the pancake and smooth it out thinly.
Repeat until all the pancakes and custard are used. Slice with a hot knife and eat.
Also, here is a picture of another Pancake. One with a capital P. No, I’ve not gone and got domesticated. She belongs to friends of mine, who, when I said I was making pancakes for fat Tuesday, suggested I include her in the post. So here she is.