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Ever Wondered About... Pancakes?

Updated Thursday, 8 February 2024
To celebrate Shrove Tuesday (Pancake day) take a look at the science and history of the pancake.


pancakes with fruit The origins of Crêpes Suzette — the citrus-flavoured pancake dessert which is set on fire just before serving — are unclear. But the fiery pudding may have been developed by French chef Henri Charpentier. He made the dish a hit in the USA after emigrating there in the 1930s.

Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the Christian fasting period of Lent. The Lenten rules forbid the eating of all dairy products during the fast, so pancakes were a great way of emptying the larder and using up eggs and fats.

The forerunner to Jif Lemon was invented in Britain in the 1950s by Stanley Wagner. After finding out that huge amounts of juice went to waste when lemon oil was produced, he joined forces with a plastics company to sell juice in the characteristic fruity container. The product — called Realem — was advertised with the slogan ‘juice in a jiffy’. Six million were sold in just eight months before Stanley sold the company.


If you suffer from burnt or uneven pancakes, here’s what to try. Go back to basics — you can’t make a good pancake without a good pan. The secret’s in thermal conduction, or how well your pan distributes heat across the whole of its surface. A good pan will prevent the centre of your pancake burning while the edges stay raw. Metals like copper are best for this, but watch out for copper handles that aren’t insulated — it’s easy to cook your hand along with the dinner!

Just from the colour of the yolk of an egg, you may be able to work out something about the diet of the hen that laid it. A hen fed yellow corn will lay eggs with a deeper coloured yolk, while a diet of barley or wheat makes for a lighter shade. Adding marigold petals to a hen’s diet will darken the yolk.

And another colourful fact about eggs — you can tell what shade of eggshell a hen will lay by looking at her ear tufts, the feathers that grow out of her earlobes. The shell’s colour is down to how much pigment she produces, which depends on the breed. So if a hen has red ear tufts, her eggs will be brown; white ear tufts mean white eggs.

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