Pannekoeken or pannenkoeken (pannekoek or pannenkoek in the singular form) are the famous Dutch pancakes, that even have a holiday dedicated to them called sint pannekoek or “the holy pancake”.
Eggs, flour, butter, milk and salt are the basis of this rather neutral batter for the pannekoeken. According to Dutch tradition, a savory pancake is usually eaten first, followed by a sweet pancake.
This classic pancake recipe does not contain yeast. The flour develops little gluten, thus retaining a soft and slightly firm texture.
The balance of ingredients is fundamental to the success of the recipe: too many eggs, for example, would produce a pancake closer to an omelet. The batter should be almost runny and the rest time in the refrigerator can be from 30 minutes up to overnight. The need for the rest time is likely a result of achieving the correct density of the batter, through absorption of liquids by the flour and a slight formation of gluten.
Ideally, the pancakes should be cooked on specially designed electric hotplates or in a special, thin, edgeless pan. The reduced thickness of the metal transmits heat better for rapid cooking. The absence of an edge makes it easy to flip the crepe.
The cooking surface should be greased with a little vegetable oil or butter and the pancake batter is poured with a ladle and then distributed evenly by tilting the pan. When it comes to cooking on an electric plate, the batter is spread using a special T-shaped spatula. This spatula can also be used for cooking in a pancake pan.
Once the edges of the pancake start to come off, the pancake needs to be flipped by giving the pan a sharp bang and spinning it in the air so that it lands back in the pan.
Pancakes are actually classic street food, and this test of skill is often a source of attraction at food stands.
How to eat pannekoeken
Like their French cousins, the pannekoeken are therefore characterized by a neutral batter which then allows them to be personalized with varous fillings.
They can indeed be tasted in both a savory and a sweet version. Like many traditional recipes, there are countless variations that differ mainly in the type of ingredients used, not only classic white flour but also, sometimes, buckwheat flour, such as for the poffertjes.
Soft and thin, stuffed, rolled or folded like a fan, but also in layers, served hot as an accompaniment to meats and cheeses, vegetables and sauces, for an original and delicious appetizer, the pannekoeken are a popular staple that can enrich any meal, from lunch to afternoon tea, from starter to dessert.
Popular Dutch sweet toppings include peanut butter, chocolate chips, jam, or powdered sugar or simply icing sugar.
But, the most traditional choice is the pannekoek met appelstroop, a pancake with apple syrup, a sweet and tangy spread made from apple juice. It is spread over the entire surface of the pannekoek, after which it is rolled up and either eaten as is, or cut into bite-size pieces and eaten with a knife and fork.
What is the origin of crepes ?
Crepes have their origins in the early days of civilization. They are not a recent invention. Historians have, in fact, shown that their origin dates back to 7000 years before Jesus Christ.
At that time, it was a mixture of several grains kneaded with water to form a batter which was then baked on a very hot flat stone.
The pancake, or rather the galette, appeared in Brittany in the 13th century brought by the crusades of the buckwheat cultures of Asia. Initially produced with buckwheat, galettes were transformed into the crepes we know today, thanks to the arrival of white wheat flour.
In France, the cradle of the worldwide expansion of the crepe, buckwheat is used to make galettes because it has a very characteristic flavor and is very popular with savory fillings. In France, crepes made from wheat flour are mainly used for sweet fillings and desserts, but this is not necessarily a rule.
The oldest recipe for crepe batter is found in a French culinary treatise, that of Le Ménagier de Paris, written around 1393. This crepe is made from flour, whole eggs, water, wine and salt. Then heated over a fire in an iron or brass pan. To cook it, you have to master the technique.
Maitre Lancelot de Casteau is a Montois (French-speaking Belgium) who in the 16th century was master-cook of three successive prince-bishops of Liège. In 1604, he was preparing his crepes with stale white bread, eggs and cream. Before serving them, he would sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon. He also offered several recipes for crepes filled with onions and parmesan or caramelized apple and quince with cinnamon.
Sint Pannekoek, otherwise known as the Holy Pannekoek, is a Rotterdam tradition that is celebrated across the country every year on November 29. Tradition has it that you put a pancake on your head and say, “We wish you a happy and blessed Sint Pannekoek!”
The tradition is first mentioned in 1986 in the famous Jan, Jans en de kinderen comic series, meaning “Jan, Jans and the children” (drawn by Jan Kruis).
In one episode, the hostess prepares a large stack of pancakes for Sint Pannekoek. When the master of the house comes home in the evening, everyone has a pancake on their heads. At the same time, they shout to him: “Happy and blessed Sint Pannekoek!”
Nowadays, all kinds of variations are used to celebrate this holiday. However, the habit of putting a pannekoek on the head remained the same.
It is said that the origin of Sint Pannekoek is much older than the comic strip. Sint Pannekoek is said to have started in 1899. This festival celebrating pannekoeken is believed to refer to a special 12th century event in a monastery where Kralingen is now located, a former village in the province of South Holland, now a district of Rotterdam.
The variants of crepes around the world
The crepe can be found all over the world. Here are a few examples, to name a few:
In the Nederlands :
- Poffertje: a kind of small pancake with baker’s yeast, in the shape of a saucer.
- Flensje: a rather thin version of the pannekoek. Adding less flour and more eggs results in a thinner dough.
- Spekdik: a kind of small pancake which is eaten as a local specialty in Groningen and Drenthe around New Year. The main ingredients are rye flour, eggs and syrup.
- Drie-in-de-pan, meaning “three in the pan”: small, thick pancakes with raisins. As their name suggests, these pancakes are cooked in batches of three in a pan.
- Panza (contraction of pancake and pizza): a pancake topped with minced meat or salami and vegetables such as mushrooms, bean sprouts and peppers, then sprinkled with grated cheese and finally au gratin.
In the rest of the world :
- Palačinky (or palatschinken) are a variety of pancakes of Greco-Roman origin that are popular in Central and Eastern Europe.
- Oladyi are small, thick pancakes, traditional in Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian cuisines. They are often served with smetana (sour cream), varenye (whole fruit jam), jam, powidl (unsweetened plum jam) or honey.
- Blini: traditional Russian blinis are made with sourdough dough before placing them in a traditional Russian oven. To this day, the process of making blinis has been related to “baking”, even though they are almost universally pan-fried like pancakes. They can be made with wheat, buckwheat, oat, or millet flour, but wheat flour remains the most popular.
- In Romania, people eat clătită, often with a savory garnish, but also sweet.
- Germanic pfannkuchen, also known as palatschinken, are thinner than conventional pancakes and are eaten both savory and sweet in Austria (Palatschinken), Czech Republic (palačinky), Slovakia (palačinky), Hungary (palacsinta), Romania (plăcintă), Moldova and the Balkans.
- French crêpe is a type of thin pancake. Especially in Limousin, Brittany and northern France, there is a rich tradition of crepes and galettes.
- In the United States, a pancake is small and airy pancake. It is generally 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) in diameter and ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) thick with leavening agents. Americans use buttermilk more than milk. These are eaten for breakfast with something sweet like maple syrup.
- Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake.
- A wrap is a kind of crepe rolled up with a filling, of Mexican and/or American origin. It’s a kind of sandwich that is often used in the fast food industry. It is made of a thin crepe wrapped around a filling. Traditionally, wraps are tortillas made from corn or wheat flour. They look like lavash bread, pita, or laffa bread. The filling usually consists of cold or hot meat, sliced poultry or fish, accompanied by lettuce, diced tomatoes or pico de gallo, guacamole, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, grilled onions, cheese and a sauce.
- Moroccan baghrir looks like a pancake with durum wheat semolina and baker’s yeast but without any dairy product.
- Mofletta is a Moroccan Jewish pancake traditionally eaten during the celebration of Mimouna, at the end of Passover.
The elders say that pannekoeken should be flipped with a coin in hand to ensure year-round prosperity.
- 3 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- Butter (to grease the pan)
- Stand mixer
- Pancake pan (12 inches / 30 cm)
- (Optional) In a bowl, soak the raisins in hot water.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt, then add half the milk and the eggs. Beat until the batter is smooth and thin, then add the rest of the milk.
- Add the melted butter to the batter and mix.
- Cover the batter and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- (Optional) Add the drained raisins to the batter.
- Heat a pancake pan, add ½ tablespoon (5 g) of butter.
- As soon as the butter has barely melted, remove the pan from the heat, pour in a ladle of batter and swirl the pan so that the entire surface is covered with a thin layer.
- Put the pan back on the heat and cook the pancake carefully until the surface is dry.
- Turn the crepe over and cook the other side for one to two minutes.
- Repeat the process until the batter is used up.
- Stack the pannekoeken and cover them with a cloth during cooking.
- Serve the pannekoeken hot or warm, with a variety of sweet and savory toppings, such as appelstroop, peanut butter, cheese, compote, fruit jam, bacon or sugar.