“It looks like a bad burger”.
We both stared at the forlorn lump of batter, burning gently at the edges. Brown bubbles simmered on its surface. Smoke began to rise from the pan.
“I don’t trust this frying pan.”
At some point, suspicion turned upon the frying pan… because you know if you can’t blame the implements, what can you blame. We swapped it for another pan. This did not improve things. Perhaps more red food dye was the answer…
“For a lot of red, we’ve created a lot of brown.”
I stirred the weird lumpy maroon batter mix, thoughtfully. With every stir, the mixture grew browner. Not a nice chocolatey brown, but an inedible shade of blurgh. My main thought: pancake batter and natural food colouring were not a good mix. Also, it smelled strange.
“This is going to look weird in the sewer after I flush it down the toilet.”
There was only one thing left to do with the mix – and it was not cook and eat it. So down the toilet it went. This was our second batch. (The first had not been nearly so disastrous, the third would be worse.)
“Are we just frying a cake now?”
“Well, we are Scottish…”
“We’re not deep frying it.”
By this point – the third attempt – we’d created some sort of pancake-cake-biscuit. And a high level of hysteria. Blame the food colouring, but now we just had a massive fit of the giggles. So much so, that I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancake-cake-biscuit. Which somehow seemed even funnier.
Sensible people would have given up… but oh no, not us.
So how did this misadventure involving a whole lot of red food colouring, batter and a potentially misbehaving frying pan come about?
Back in December, we’d stopped somewhere for breakfast. American breakfast. You know, the hearty, heart-stopping kind of breakfast that means you won’t have to eat again that day. And I spied on the menu… Red Velvet Pancakes.
Which seemed like a must order. I love red velvet cake so surely Red Velvet Pancakes were going to be AMAZING. (I was hungry, jet lagged and over-enthused.)
The very nice waiter informed us that their breakfast menu had finished for the day – but their lunch menu was now on. So I had mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast. Which as your first meal of the day is a whole lot of wrong. (Yes, coming from the girl who wanted red velvet pancakes!)
So, we had to come back. The waiter (a different one) eyed us nervously – two Scots demanding, pre-coffee, that they wanted breakfast was obviously more than he’d expected to deal with first thing.
He did a sort of hop from one foot to another as he explained that the usual guy who did the pancakes wasn’t in today but he was sure the Thursday guy could give it a go.
The pancakes arrived. They looked beautiful. So red, so pretty, so Instagram friendly.
But they tasted of… nothing. Not bad, but not great. Just bland. And then I said the magic words…
“We should make these ourselves when we get home. But better.”
Now to be fair, our first batch wasn’t bad. (Which is Scottish/British for pretty darn good.)
We’d used two tubes of Dr. Oetker food colouring gel and had some red-pink batter.
“We need another tube. Sod the E numbers.”
But we only had two… so red-pink would have to do.
So we ended up with swirly, heart-shaped pancakes… which super tasty and pretty much tasted like red velvet in a slightly chocolate-y, red-pink way.
Sensible-ish people would have stopped there. (Sensible people wouldn’t be adding food colouring and chocolate to pancake batter would they?)
So we decided that we’d make another batch another day. But better. (Ah that word again.)
Now as you now know… batch 2 and batch 3 were an unmitigated disaster of inedible proportions.
But batch 4… well, this time we were going to nail it. Or die trying.
However… batch 4 also coincided with a Sunday. And where we live, supermarkets close early on a Sunday. (Well, too early for people who suddenly want to make pancakes at 5pm.)
So, we went off to the local corner shop for eggs, flour and more food colouring.
And came home with eggs, flour, pink Nesquik milkshake powder and red colouring for curries.
Now, let’s get this out of the way. Nesquik milkshake powder does something weird to pancake mix.
To be fair, nowhere on the packaging does it indicate that you can make strawberry milk that you can add to batter.
So if you’ve ever wondered about this, wonder no more.
So, food colouring for curries it was…
We used a teeny, tiny, ickle drop and made pink batter.
Pink not red but the pancakes were rising and smelt lovely. So pink is where we stopped.
And they were good. Insanely good.
We had made rose coloured velvet pancakes. (I was so over the idea of red by this point.) But that wasn’t why they were so tasty…
In fact, it had nothing to do with the colouring or the chocolate… and everything to do with just being darn good pancakes. And the sprinkles, icing and strawberries.
Now sensible people would have stopped there… and for once, just for once, we were those sensible people. With happy tummies and a whole lot of pancake making mess to clear up, we called it quits on the red velvet pancake experiment.
So, on the off chance, you actually want to make some pancakes after reading this, here’s our tried and tested pancake recipe (cut out from New Woman magazine some years ago)… add chocolate and food colouring at your own peril!
Makes 6 large pancakes
125g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs, separated at room temp
250ml full-fat milk (don’t add Nesquik)
6 tbsp melted butter, plus a little extra for cooking
Sprinkles/fruit/icing/maple syrup for serving
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, melted butter and milk. Keep whisking to create a batter, but don’t overmix it (it’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy).
In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the batter with a spatula. Pour into a measuring jug and gently add blueberries (if you want blueberry pancakes of course!).
Heat a heavy non-stick pan. Add a tbsp of butter to coat the surface and pour in some of the batter. When bubbles form on one side, flip the pancake over with a spatula. Brown for 30 seconds or so and then continue with the remaining batter.
Serve as you please… though in my opinion, sprinkles are a necessity!