Ours is a house of pancake junkies. They were the first thing that I cooked for my longterm girlfriend and the first food my son ever asked for. Even running out of milk doesn’t stop the pancake production – I’ve made them with tap water, tonic water (disgusting – don’t try it), soda water, cider and kvass.
As a brewer, I was pleased to see that Felicity Cloake saw the light in her pursuit of pancake perfection last week, recommending beer for her batter. Pancakes make the ideal conduit for beer, as there are no other strong flavours to contend with. The short cooking time also means that most of the integrity of flavours stay intact.
Felicity didn’t specify any one type of beer, using an unnamed “malty Belgian”, so I’ve taken it upon myself to sup some ale at lunchtime in an effort to find the best brew as a go-to pancake beer (you’re welcome). I tested five very different beers to see which would create the tastiest results: an amber ale, an IPA, a blond, a milk stout and an American ESB. I didn’t find an outright winner; each beer brought something different to the batter. So if you want to find the perfect beer for your pancake batter, you need to think about what filling you want and match that to the style of beer.
Hopspur, amber ale, Redemption brewery, London
Beer characteristics: Herbal notes, a chewy sweet biscuit, malt and pine. Think standard bitter.
Cooking: The flavour was transformed – it tasted predominately of hazelnuts. A nutty chocolate spread would pair very well with this one, enhancing the toasted nut flavour.
Big Chief IPA, Redemption brewery, London
Beer characteristics: Grapefruit bitterness, mango and guava lead to a pine/citrus finish.
Cooking: Very odd at first. The bitterness of the hops seemed to take over, but a quick squeeze of lemon neutralised the bitter flavour and accentuated the citrus.
Oval Beach Blonde Ale, Saugatuck Brewing Company, Michigan, USA
Beer characteristics: Sulphur on the nose, fairly delicate in flavour, much more like a German helles beer. Cut grass, an edge flavour of honey and some butterscotch.
Cooking: The batter was quite light and crispy, similar to a traditional crepe. This would go well with almost anything, but it doesn’t bring anything amazing flavour-wise. It could easily be substituted for a cheap lager. I enjoyed this more as a beer.
Neapolitan Milk Stout, Saugatuck Brewing Company, Michigan, USA
Beer characteristics: A very complex stout – the first taste and smell was unquestionably of Neapolitan ice-cream.
Cooking: The colour changed, the pancake became a chocolatey brown and the ice-cream flavour held. This one makes the ultimate sweet pancake, and would go with any fruit, chocolate or ice-cream.
ESB, Saugatuck Brewing Company, Michigan, USA
Beer characteristics: Tastes as a good ESB should: hints of Seville marmalade, with a lingering caramel sweetness and a surprising nuttiness.
Cooking: These made a very crispy batter. The sweetness of the malt came through nicely and was reminiscent of sweet ham. A perfect match for a meaty, savoury pancake.
This article was written by Andy Hamilton, for theguardian.com on Monday 16th February 2015 12.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010