People have been eating pancakes — thick or thin, sweet or savoury, with fresh fruit or syrup or sausage or any number of other accompaniments — in many lands for many generations.
There are thin, eggy French crepes; yeast-raised buckwheat blini from Russia, filled and rolled blintz, associated with Jewish culture, puffy oven-baked apple pancakes, fluffy blueberry flapjacks served with maple syrup.
Here is a sampling of different types, starting with a 17th century version. The way it’s written shows that our use of language and our preferred recipe format have changed substantially over the last four centuries. I would have to stick to frying these pancakes in sweet butter, as I haven’t been able to find out what “sweet seame” is. Also, I think that we’re better off for having learned about maple syrup from the aboriginal people in the years since the recipe was written.
The Best Pancake
From The English Housewife by Gervase Markham, 1615, reprinted in Betty and Sonia Zyvatkauskas’ “Eating Shakespeare: recipes and more from the bard’s kitchen, Prentice Hall Canada, Toronto, 2000.
To make the best pancake, take two or three eggs, and breake them into a dish, and beate them well; then adde unto them a pretty quantity of faire running water, and beate all well together; then put in cloves, mace, cinamon, and a nutmegge, and season it with salt: which done, make it thicke as you think good with fine wheate flour; then fry the cakes as thin as may bee with sweete butter, or sweet seame, and make them brown, and so serve them up with sugar strowed upon them. There be some which mix pancakes with new milk or cream, but that makes them tough, cloying, and not crispe, pleasant and savoury as running water.
For people who cook for 1 or 2, here is an appropriately scaled recipe, written in 21st century style.
Adapted from Wokes, Karen: Straight As College Cookbook: quick cooking for 1 or 2, Sandy Hook Publishing, Sandy Hook MB, 2004.
250 mL (1 cup) unbleached all purpose flour OR use ½ whole wheat and ½
All purpose flour
10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
15 mL (1 tbsp) sugar
300 mL (1 1/4 cups) milk, any kind
30 mL (2 tbsp) vegetable oil OR melted butter OR margarine
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
In a small bowl or in a 500 mL (2 cup) measure, whisk together milk, egg and oil.
Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Mix gently until just combines (a few lumps are OK.)
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat; spray with vegetable oil. Use a 75 mL (1/3 cup) measure to drop pancake batter on the hot pan. Turn once. The pancakes are ready to turn when the edges look brown and the batter is bubbly and beginning to set. Repeat with remaining batter. There is no need to add more oil to the pan. Makes 6 pancakes.
Go Withs: Serve pancakes, all kinds, with maple syrup — and butter if you like. For a treat, with the sweet pancakes, try sliced strawberries or peaches and a spoonful of sour cream or whipped cream.
For thinner, more crepe-like pancakes, increase the amount of milk. Add another 60 mL (1/4 cup) or experiment until the pancakes are just the way you like them.
Blueberry pancakes: Add 125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh or frozen blueberries to the batter.
Strawberry or raspberry pancakes: Add 125 mL (1/2 cup) sliced strawberries or whole raspberries to the batter.
Banana pancakes: Add 3 or 4 thin banana slices to the pancake on the pan. Turn the pancake and continue cooking. You may have to wipe out the pan and re-oil after cooking 2 or 3 pancakes as the banana sticks a bit.
Apple pancakes: Add 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped apple to the batter.
Savoury corn pancakes: Add 125 mL (1/2 cup) corn niblets to the batter. These are great with pork sausages or bacon.
I particularly enjoy this Finnish Apple Pancake, a puffy oven-baked concoction with great flavour.
Finnish Apple Pancakes
Adapted from Callaghan, Bev and Lynn Roblin, Dietitians of Canada: Great Food Fast. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2000.
500 mL (2 cups) thinly sliced apples, peeled and cored
15 mL (1 tbsp) butter, melted
125 mL (1/2 cup) milk
75 mL (1/3 cup) all purpose flour
1 mL (1/4 tsp) baking powder
0.5 mL (1/8 tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) cinnamon
15 mL (1 tbsp) granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F). Grease a 2L (8 inch) square baking pan.
Place apples and butter in pan; toss to coat. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and salt until smooth.
Topping: In another small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.
Pour egg mixture over cooked apples; sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until pancake is puffed and golden brown.
Serve immediately with maple syrup or your favourite preserves.
Makes 2 generous servings
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.