A palačinka (plural: palačinky, or palatschinken) is a light and thin crepe that comes straight from the southern Balkans in Macedonia. Palačinky are widespread in Central and Eastern Europe. Palačinky are eaten hot or cold, sweet or savory (or plain) as a main course, as a dessert, or as a snack. They are served as is, or filled and accompanied by a garnish.
What is a palačinka?
A palačinka is a thin crepe made from simple ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar and milk. Palačinky are very similar to French crepes.
They are eaten in Macedonia, a southern European country located in the Balkan peninsula.
Some recipes recommend waiting one hour before cooking the palacinky so that the gluten develops and the dough is easier to handle. However, in some authentic cookbooks, this rest time is not mentioned. You can actually cook the crepes immediately after preparing them.
What is the origin of palačinka?
The origin of these delicious crepes goes back to Antiquity in the years 7000 BC. However, these pancakes did not have the thin appearance that we know them today. They came in the form of large, thick patty. They were prepared by crushing several cereals to which water was added. Then the mixture was cooked on a very hot flat stone.
According to historians, crepes date back to the Greco-Roman era. In the years 350 BC, Greek poets mentioned crepes for the first time as plakous. But it is Marcus Porcius Cato, known as Cato the Elder (Cato Maior) or Cato the Censor (Cato Censorius), a politician Roman writer who introduced the elaborate recipe of crepes around 150 BC. The ancestor of crepes was known as the placenta. This term means “flat cake” in Latin. Etymologically, the palatshcinke derive from the Greco-Roman name given originally.
The placenta then spread to Central and Eastern Europe, borrowing several names and being cooked and served in a multitude of ways.
The various names of palačinka
Palacinky have been entertaining families since ancient times. Also, the crepes of the Greco-Roman era have traveled a lot. They are found under several names in Central and Eastern Europe.
After the Ancient Rome, crepes stopped over in Romania. Thus, the Roman placenta gave way to the plăcintă in Romanian. But, if the name is very close, the plăcintă is actually a distant cousin of the palacinky.
Indeed, it is a traditional Romanian, Moldovan and Ukrainian pastry that resembles a small brioche of square shape or sometimes in the form of large round crepes. In the past, pastry chefs in ancient Rome made large crepes (placenta) that were cut into squares to sell on market days. This square shape can be found in Romania till this day.
Also there are several varieties of plăcintă in Romania. The most common variety is certainly the sweet version stuffed with apples. This version is called plăcintă cu mere. A savory version exists (it is known as brânzoaice). This version is filled with Romanian curd.
The clătite correspond to palacinky in Romania as the recipe is identical.
Then it was the turn of Hungary to claim this crepe under the name of palacsinta. The Czech Republic then transformed the term palacsinta into palačinka. Finally, the crepes continued their way to Germany and Austria. Palatschinke (plural: Palatschinken) is used to refer to these thin crepes. Traditionally, Palatschinken are served rolled and garnished with apricot, strawberry or plum jam, and sprinkled with icing sugar.
Also, the term palačinka is the most used name in the Slavic languages of the West and the South.
In Albania, you will find these delicious palačinky under the name of palaçinka.
In Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Montenegro, we find these thin crepes with a different spelling of palaçinka.
In Poland, palačinky take the name of naleśnik.
Crepes and palačinky around the world
In France, crepes appeared in the twelfth century in Brittany. They correspond to palačinky. Also, there are two varieties of French crepes: savory crepes (commonly called “crêpes au sarrasin” or buckwheat crepes) and wheat crepes (which correspond to palačinky).
Crepes made from wheat flour are usually eaten as a dessert. They are the staple of the Candlemas holiday. Also, it is not uncommon to perfume them with aromas such as vanilla, orange blossom, rum or cider liquor (Calvados).
You can consume them plain. However, they are often accompanied with a filling such as sugar, whipped cream, cheese, ham, chocolate sauce or chocolate spread. The crepe is usually sweet for the wheat pancakes and rather savory for the buckwheat crepes.
In Russia, blinis are thin pancakes made from buckwheat flour, not to be confused with oladyi, which are smaller and thicker. Oladyi are made from wheat flour or a blend of wheat flour and buckwheat, eggs, milk, sugar and baking soda.
In Ukraine, you will find blintz made with buckwheat. They are a mainstay of traditional Russian cuisine but were forgotten in the Soviet era. They are called hrechanyky (гречаники).
In Quebec and New Brunswick, in their sweet version, they are served with brown sugar, jam or maple syrup. Pancakes are often accompanied by bacon and maple products. In Quebec, they are served during the spring. Pancakes are a flagship of the Quebec culinary tradition. In North America, these pancakes are traditionally thicker than palačinky.
In Central America and Mexico, a tortilla is a crepe made from maize flour. It accompanies many dishes and is generally unsweetened.
Some crepes are made from lentil flour. This is the case of dosa in India, which is prepared from a black lentil flour.
You should definitely try this crepe recipe and serve it with jam, chocolate, cream or fruits according to your tastes.
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups flour sifted
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sparkling water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs lightly with the vanilla extract.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, vanilla extract and salt. While beating, slowly add the milk then the sparkling water.
- Pour this mixture into the stand mixer bowl where the eggs are, and beat until the batter is smooth. Be careful not to beat too much.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet or pancake pan over high heat.
- Rub the skillet with an oil-soaked paper towel to cover the entire surface.
- Before pouring the batter, wait until the skillet is very hot.
- Using a ladle, pour about ⅓ cup of pancake batter into the hot skillet.
- Tilt the skillet quickly in all directions to cover the surface completely. Immediately pour the excess batter back into the bowl.
- Cook for about 20 seconds or until the bottom of the pancake is golden brown.
- Using a spatula, gently peel off the edges of the pancake and flip it over. Flip it only once during cooking.
- When cooked, slide the pancake on a plate.
- Cook the rest of the dough in the same way by greasing the skillet or pan again from time to time.