Chatter Beyond brunch: A cultural guide to pancakes

Chatter Beyond brunch: A cultural guide to pancakes

January 1st, 2018 by Sunny Montgomery in Chatter

Making crepes

Photo by _jure

Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to cultivate wheat. Not long after, we invented the pancake. Characteristically flat and fried, the pancake has been around for millennia, and in that time, it has seen just as many variations.

Prehistoric people made theirs with wild wheat and goat's milk. Ancient Romans served theirs with honey. Today, IHOP, an American pancake house chain boasting more than 1,650 locations, bakes theirs with rainbow sprinkles, smeared with cupcake frosting.

Indeed, pancake possibilities abound. From sweet to savory to spherical, here is a quick taste of modern pancakes from around the world.

Stack of baked american pancakes or fritters with blueberries and honey syrup on rustic black table. Delicious dessert for breakfast.

Stack of baked american pancakes or fritters with...

Photo by Julia_Sudnitskaya

The Buttermilk Pancake

The trademark of the American hotcake is its incorporation of buttermilk, contributing to that famous fluffiness. Traditionally served in a thick stack, with prodigal amounts of butter and maple syrup, the American pancake is often also noted for its size, which — if done right — spans the entire plate.

Try it at Aretha Frankensteins.

Homemade Aeblskiver Danish Pancake with Powdered Sugar

Homemade Aeblskiver Danish Pancake with Powdered Sugar

Photo by bhofack2

The Æbleskiver

Pronounced "able-skeevers," Denmark's pancake breaks the most important rule: It is not flat, but round. The ingredients are nearly identical to the American flapjack's, including the use of buttermilk; the difference is in how it is cooked. For the perfect pancake puff, one must use a special Æbleskiver pan.

Try it at home!

What you need:

» 2 eggs (separate whites from yolks)

» 2 cups all-purpose flour

» 2 teaspoons baking powder

» 1/2 teaspoon salt

» 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

» 1 tablespoon white sugar

» 4 tablespoons butter, melted

» 2 cups buttermilk

» 1 cup vegetable oil for frying

What you do:

1. In a clean glass or metal bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they can hold a stiff peak. Set aside.

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter and buttermilk and beat until smooth. Then, gently fold in the egg whites.

3. Put about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the bottom of each aebleskiver cup and heat until hot.

4. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into each cup. As soon each gets bubbly around the edges, turn the batter quickly (Danish cooks use a long knitting needle, but a fork will work). Continue cooking, turning each ball to keep it from burning.

crepe with chocolate and banana

Photo by margouillatphotos
The Crepe

Thin and flat, France's crepe forgoes baking powder and baking soda in order to prevent the dough from rising. But what it lacks in fluffiness, the crepe makes up for with fillings. Prepared either sweet or savory, crepes may be rolled with any number of ingredients, from fruit, honey or chocolate to meat, mushrooms or cheese.

Try it at Adelle's Creperie.

Homemade Dutch Baby Pancake with Blueberries and Powdered Sugar

Photo by bhofack2
The Dutch Baby

Though also called the "German pancake," this egg-based dish is actually quite different than an authentic German pfannkuchen. Whereas the Dutch Baby is more souffle-like, the pfannkuchen resembles a slightly thicker crepe. Both, however, are made with a dash of vanilla and a dusting of powder sugar.

Try it at home!

What you need:

» 2/3 cup milk, room temperature

» 1/2 cup packed all-purpose flour

» 3 eggs, room temperature

» 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

» 1/3 teaspoon salt

» 1/5 cup clarified butter

» 1 tablespoon butter

» 1/2 lemon, juiced

» 1/2 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, or to taste

What you do:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Blend milk, flour, eggs, vanilla and salt together in a blender until batter is smooth.

2. Melt clarified butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until bubbling. Pour batter into the center of the skillet.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, 20-25 minutes.

4. Brush with 1 tablespoon butter, drizzle lemon juice over the top and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Boxty potato pancakes

Boxty potato pancakes

Photo by PeteerS

The Boxty

The defining feature of the Irish griddle cake is that it is made mostly of potatoes — a cross between a pancake and hash browns. Incorporating a pancake's milk, eggs and flour, the boxty is different from other fried potato dishes thanks to its smooth, pancake-like consistency.

Try it at The Honest Pint.

Masala Dosa with Sambar and chutney, south Indian breakfast

Photo by vm2002
The Dosa

India's dosa may be the most unlike an American pancake in regards to its ingredients and preparation. The batter is made by grinding together rice, seeds and spices. Then, it is fermented via a heating process. Reminiscent of the crepe, but spicier, the dosa is often served with a side of savory chutney.

What you need:

» 1 cup brown rice flour

» 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (can be substituted with chickpea flour)

» 1 1/2 cups water

» 1 red onion, finely chopped

» 1 clove garlic, minced

» 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

» 1/4 teaspoon white sugar

» 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

» 1 teaspoon ground cumin

» 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

» 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

» 1 teaspoon ground coriander

» 1 teaspoon ground ginger

» 1 pinch cayenne pepper

» 3 tablespoons rice vinegar

» 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

What you do:

1. Stir the brown rice and whole-wheat flours together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the water to make a thin batter.

2. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, sugar, turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, cayenne pepper and rice vinegar until evenly blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour, or overnight.

3. To cook the dosas, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet, spreading it over the bottom in a thin layer. Cook 1 minute, turn, and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the pan. Repeat with remaining batter.


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