Japanese soufflé pancakes with spiced, caramelised pears

Soufflé pancakes are tall, airy, delicately fluffy pancakes that look absolutely delicious. I’d been reading about them for ages, so when BBC Radio Surrey asked me to come in to talk about pancakes before Shrove Tuesday, it was the perfect excuse to do some practical research. 

 But making them wasn’t nearly as straightforward as I had expected. Online recipes looked great, but rather annoyingly produced stodgy, cake-y dollops, not the sugary cloud-like pancakes I had expected. So I started fiddling about with ingredients, and after countless tweaks, and a lot of dodgy pancakes in the bin, I am delighted to say that soufflé pancake nirvana was definitely achieved!

 The trick is in the addition of a meringue style mixture to the pancake batter, and specifically, how you gently fold it in to retain volume, whilst keeping it light and fluffy. 

They aren’t as quick to make as normal pancakes, but when you want to make a gorgeous sweet treat for someone very special, they are so worth the effort. I’ve topped mine with spiced, caramelized pears from The Tin and Traybake Cookbook, but you could just as easily serve them with your favourite pancake topping.

 Makes six pancakes, feeds 2.

Spiced pears

20g butter

4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into slices

30g golden caster sugar

½ tsp ground cinammon

Basic batter

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp caster sugar

Seeds from ¼ of a vanilla pod or 2 drops vanilla essence

2 tbsp full cream milk

30g plain flour

¼ tsp baking powder

Meringue addition

2 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2  tbsp. caster sugar

 To cook and serve: 

Sunflower or vegetable oil (not olive)

Flaked almonds

Icing sugar

 Make the topping first. Melt the butter in a deep frying pan until foaming, then add the pear slices and cook over a medium-high heat until golden on both sides. Turn the heat down and add the sugar and cinnamon. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the pears are caramelized. Cover and set aside.

 Next, whisk the egg yolk and sugar together with vanilla, then add the milk a little at a time, whisking between each addition. Sieve over the flour and baking powder and stir well.

 In another bowl, whisk the eggs whites and cream of tartar into soft peaks. Add the sugar little by little until the mixture forms stiff peaks when you remove the whisk. Take care not to over-whisk.

Add a third of the meringue to the batter and fold in very gently with a spatula. Repeat with another third, and then the remainder as lightly as possible so the mixture holds its volume, as this is what will keep the pancakes tall and fluffy.

To cook, brush the inside of a deep, heavy frying pan sparingly with oil and place over a low heat. When the base is warm, spoon two dollops of batter into the pan and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully add a smaller amount of mixture on top of each pancake to make it taller. Replace the lid and cook for another five minutes. Remove the lid and using a spatula, peep to see if the base is golden. When it is, carefully flip over the pancakes and replace the lid for another 5-6 minutes.

When both sides are golden, and the pancakes is softly firm, slide onto a plate, spoon over the caramelized pears, and sprinkle with icing sugar and flaked almonds before serving.