Flipping heck: Pancake Day vs Le Jour Des Crêpes

February 8, 2013 5:53 pm

pancake dayPancake Day 2013 is only 4 days away for you ladies and gents in the UK, and this year I’ll sadly be missing the annual pancake-toss competition with my housemates for the first time. Living in France, I managed to experience their equivalent; La Chandeleur, or, le jour des crêpes, which always occurs 40 days after Christmas on the 2nd February. This differs somewhat to the British tradition, for which the date changes every year. Pancake day/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday marks the start of Lent and is 47 days before Easter Sunday (so lands on February 12th this year). Pancakes are the traditional food on this day as it symbolises using up the last remaining ingredients in your cupboard before the fasting begins, which, for most of us these days, means the tough task of giving up of chocolate or biscuits as opposed to the near-impossible task of giving up food altogether.

Le jour des crêpes on the 2nd February was widely celebrated among students in our halls out here in Toulouse, and is apparently still being celebrated now as every so often the smell of crêpes cooking wafts down the hallway. Students came to knock on doors offering the sweet treats to neighbours and groups of French students gathered in one place to spend the afternoon having crêpe-eating competitions and spend some time together. If Pancake Day at home this year is anything like the others I have been present for, then hopefully things will go in a similarly pancake-obsessed-for-the-next-week direction in England as they did in France.

But one question that has been bugging me since the whole topic of Pancake Day/Le jour des crêpes arose in my mind is:

pancake day

Crêpes cooked in the traditional French style come with their own equipment to ensure each paper-thin treat is made to perfection

what exactly is the difference between a crêpe and a pancake?

Now, upon doing my research to answer this question for you lovely readers, I found that it is apparently more intricate and complicated than I first thought. Apparently, a traditional North-Western France crêpe uses buckwheat flour, is much thinner and gets cooked only on the one side (sadly no flipping fun here) compared to a pancake which is thicker and gets cooked on both sides. A crêpe which is cooked to professional standards is normally done on a thin Crêpe Pan rather than a much deeper frying pan, complete with wooden spreader to ensure the thickness is even all the way through. Crêpes also apparently have a more neutral taste, making it perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes. So, there you have it.

‘Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours’ When it rains on Pancake Day, it will continue to rain for 40 days. So let’s hope it was sunny on February 2nd in France this year!

For you lot across the Channel in England and wherever else in the world you may be, with only 4 days to go, you ought to start preparing yourself for Pancake Day. Here is a recipe to get you started:

Recipe for Pancake Day pancakes:

You will need:
450ml semi-skimmed milk 
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

1. Mix the milk, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla together well. Add the floud and baking powder. Mix until smooth.
2. Heat a little oil over a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter into the hot pan, brown on both sides (and flip if desired!), before serving hot with whichever toppings you wish.

Joyeux jour des crêpes/happy pancake day and successful flipping!


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