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Using bad science to create the perfect Pancake Day recipe

Lots of places claim to have the “perfect” pancake recipe – but here’s how to guarantee the best results. Maybe.

By Ian Steadman

One of my favourite observations about the Pancake Day comes from the blog of Damian Abraham, lead singer of Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up, on what it’s like to experience a wet and cold British February for the first time. It makes sense that this a country, he says, “[which has] to have something called ‘Pancake Day’ in order to eat pancakes”. (“In America we have Pancake Day as well,” he also writes. “It’s called ‘breakfast’.”)

But if Pancake Day is a unifying part of the British psyche, isn’t it odd that there isn’t an accepted standard pancake recipe? There’s the Great Schism between “real”, fluffy pancakes and French crepes, of course, but we’ve also got to consider the passionate opinions that proponents of the opposing lemon juice and sugar and maple syrup camps elicit, too, and let alone the larger fruit-or-no-fruit debate.

But science is objective. Science has no bias, no vested interest in seeing one side win over the other. Let calm, dispassionate science fix things for you, with maths and stubbornness. It can’t possibly go wrong.

Famously, James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds opens by recounting the tale of Victorian polymath Francis Galton going to a fair where visitors were guessing the weight of an ox on display, and his surprise at realising that the average of every guess was closer to the real figure than any individual’s had been. Through the magic of Google’s search ranking algorithms, we can attempt a similar feat.

This is the front page of Google UK if you search for “perfect pancake day recipe”. (When I was a student learning to cook proper meals for the first time, I used to Google “perfect [x] recipe” and cook whatever came up that looked most promising. It never failed.) The perfect Pancake Day pancake, I would wager, is the mean average of the quantities of every ingredient mentioned in these recipes. And, at a stroke, it reconciles all of the differences in the crepe vs fluffy, lemon juice vs syrup, etc etc debates – we’ll just take the average between them! Simple, scientific. Nothing wrong with that. (Note: if a link gives several options for recipes, the first one is chosen, because it’s easier.)

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Without further ado, here is the most-perfect perfect Pancake Day recipe:

Plain flour: 131.25g
Self-raising flour: 24.5g
Spelt flour: 3g
Milk: 226ml
Buttermilk: 14ml
Coconut milk: 54.4ml
Water: 16.5ml
Eggs: 1.6
Vegetable oil: 0.5 tbsp
Melted butter: 2 tsp
Salt: 0.9 of a pinch
Sugar: 3g
Dessicated coconut: 0.5 tsp

And the most-perfect perfect pancake topping:

Blueberries: 20g
Yoghurt: 0.5 tbsp
Raspberries: 20g
Cornflour: 0.2 tsp
Maple syrup: 0.2 tsp
Honey: 0.1 tsp
Chocolate chips: 5g
Raisins: 5g
Dried apricots: 20g
Prunes: 20g
Dried figs: 20g
A tenth of a vanilla pod
A tenth of a cinnamon stick
Toasted almond flakes: 0.1 tsp
Four-tenths of a squeeze of a lemon
Four-tenths of a sprinkle of caster sugar

Let us know if this is any good, we don’t have a kitchen in the office to try it out. Regardless, it can’t be bad, because science.

If you want to see the #data for yourself, here’s the link.

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