Pancakes, to me, normally mean brunch. I tend to make thick, pillow-like cakes that you can pile high and adorn with gleaming drizzles of maple syrup or honey. As you sit down to eat them, there's always that brief pause where you have to decide whether to try and cut down through all the pancakes, and eat a mouthful containing multiple layers, or eat them one by one. However, a recent skiing holiday in the Alps put me in mind of the famous French crêpe, wafer thin and designed to provide an envelope for all sorts of delights: the simplicity of lemon and sugar is hard to beat, but you can go all out and opt for fillings guaranteed to replenish those calories lost through skiing: chocolate and banana, chestnut purée, chantilly cream. I thought pears, caramelised in butter and demerara sugar, would be a perfect filling, and chocolate also leapt to mind as an ingredient possessing a perfect affinity with the sweet, grainy fruit.
Originally, I intended to make a normal crêpe, fill it with the pears, and drizzle over some melted chocolate. However, while making the batter, I found myself reaching for the cocoa tub. The contrast of the chocolatey-coloured pancake against the bright pears is rather nice, and a bit unusual. To make the batter, just mix flour and cocoa, make a well in the centre, and crack in an egg. Using an electric beater, beat the egg gradually into the flour, adding milk until you have a fairly runny batter - about the consistency of custard. I don't tend to measure anything when I make pancakes, but you can look up a recipe for batter online and just add cocoa (Delia has a good one). Get a small frying pan very hot, add a knob of butter, and pour in enough mixture to cover the base of the pan in a very thin layer. Cook for a minute or so, then flip (either by tossing the pan, if you're feeling daring, or with a spatula or palette knife) and cook for about half a minute. Keep warm in the oven while you make the pear filling.
To do this, just heat some butter in the hot pan, add sliced pears (one small pear per person), and cook on a medium heat until slightly coloured. Sprinkle in some cinnamon and demerara sugar, and cook until caramelised and soft. This shouldn't take long, though it depends on how ripe your pears are. Take the pancakes out of the oven. Put a few pear segments on top, then fold in half. Put the rest of the pear on one side of the semicircle-shaped crêpe, then fold over again to make a triangle.
As for the praline, I can't take any credit for its genius, because it came about as the result of a culinary accident. I melted a bar of hazelnut milk chocolate to drizzle over the crêpes. By the time it came to serve them, the chocolate wasn't quite runny enough to drizzle. For some reason, I thought adding boiling water would loosen it (normally I'd use cream, but I didn't have any). Of course, the hot water only 'cooked' the chocolate, turning it into a nutella-like paste, but not as runny. Vigorous stirring on the part of my friend Helen in an attempt to make it runny again had the result of turning it into a series of hazelnutty, chocolate pellets, that looked a bit like tiny cocoa pops.
As it turns out, these made a spectacular garnish for the crêpes. They added a nutty crunchiness that contrasted well with the soft, grainy pears and the smooth surface of the pancakes. The cocoa in the batter isn't overly chocolatey, and would be fine without any extra chocolate, but if you're going for sheer indulgence, definitely add the praline. In fact, the paste that resulted from pouring the hot water onto the chocolate is also very good spread over the inside of the crêpe before you tuck the pears into their little envelope. A dusting of icing sugar, and you have a very easy, but wonderful, dessert. Bon appetit.