Honduras · Switzerland · Taiwan · the Netherlands · UK

A taste of five pancakes

Before moving to London, I never knew about Pancake Day. Despite growing up in a Catholic household, there never was any change in our diets before, during or after Lent. We’d go to church, maybe eat more seafood during Easter, but never try to consume all the rich foods before Lent. Also, culturally pancakes are foreign to us. We eat both American-style pancakes and crepes but pancakes themselves are not part of a typical Honduran diet.

I love pancakes: blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, thick pancakes, thin pannekoeken or crepes, you name it. So it was only natural for me to tackle pancakes on such a special day. I’ve been making pancakes with my mum’s recipe for years, though adapted to yield one portion of pancakes. To challenge myself, I tried to make different pancakes for each country I’ve lived in. It was fun to brainstorm though I spent 2 hours making said pancakes.

For reference, this is my mum’s recipe (which she got from my grandmother and who knows where she got it from…basically it’s the Motz family pancake recipe):

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter (which I’ve always omitted, never changed the end results)

1 tbsp sugar (again, optional, especially if adding sweet toppings)

All the ingredients are mixed into a batter. Scoop batter onto pan with the teeniest amount of butter (which has been wiped around the pan with a paper towel), unless you’re doing Dutch style pancakes (pannekoeken) which do need a healthy nob of butter to cook in. A tip to keep them fluffy: don’t press down on the pancakes with a spatula while cooking.

 

Now, here are my five-country variations:

Honduras (family recipe, served just with maple syrup)

These are my mum’s pancakes, which I’ve eaten my whole life. We would usually have them with honey or, my personal favorite, Hershey’s chocolate syrup. However, I ran out of honey and I don’t have Hershey’s syrup either, so maple syrup it is. I actually like the taste of it more than honey’s.

 
Taiwan (pineapple pancakes)

So I tried the pineapple cakes before and I thought I could adapt the recipe into pancakes. I made the pineapple jam and mixed it in with the batter, to which I also added a spoonful of milk powder to evoke more of the pastry flavor. They were tricky to shape into circles, but they tasted nice (very sweet, though).

 
the Netherlands (pannekoeken with brown sugar or hagelslag)

One of the things I miss about the Netherlands and Belgium was their style of pancakes, thin as crepes but laden with goodness. I always had pannekoeken with either cassonade (brown icing sugar) or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles); savoury pannekoeken I’ve only had here in London at My Old Dutch Pancake House (really tasty, but enormous things!). So that’s how I had my small portion of pannekoeken (I thinned out the batter with milk to get the crepe-like pancake): with brown sugar and lemon, and hagelslag.

 
Switzerland (pancake fondue)

For this one, I cheated a bit. The pancake itself isn’t anything Swiss; I just cut up my mum’s pancakes into bite-size pieces. But I did make a chocolate sauce for dipping as you would with dessert fondue. Definitely more of a snack than a meal!

 
UK (digestive pancakes)

I know ‘digestive pancakes’ sounds hilarious but when you find out that Britain’s favorite biscuit is the digestive biscuit (essentially, a cookie with oats and brown sugar) then it all makes sense. I attempted to recreate the biscuits in pancake form. I ground a couple of tablespoons of oats and added them to the batter, along with a tablespoon of brown sugar (instead of the original tablespoon of sugar). These came out alright, though I would probably add more oatmeal in future batches or just mix ground digestive biscuits into the batter. I spread some of the chocolate sauce on top, just as digestive biscuits sometimes have a layer of chocolate.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of pancakes. At least I’ve got breakfast sorted for the rest of the week!

Switzerland

Brioche (and Gilmore Girls)

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My second attempt at brioche

The first time I made brioche a few months ago I mixed all the ingredients by hand, following every step of The Bread Kitchen’s video. It was the worst decision I could’ve made at that time…if you see that video you’ll know I had my hands completely covered in soft, squishy butter, as I tried to knead it into the dough. I was so close to giving up, I only made it to the end thanks to Titli Nihaan’s encouraging commentary on the video. I took out all my frustration on the dough, slapping it as hard as I could on my wooden board (which kept shifting around in the most unhelpful manner). And what do you know, after 15-20 minutes of amateur kneading, I had a nice brioche dough, just like the video’s. Shame I had to rush that first batch of brioche rolls, though. They were underproofed as a result. They tasted fine,  they were just small and dense. But at least movie night went as planned (Star Trek Beyond…the boyfriend’s choice).   

As a result, this time I cleared my Saturday schedule; nothing would be getting in the way of making a good brioche. I wasn’t looking forward to the buttery mess, so I tried mixing it all up in the food processor using the dough/creamer attachment. It worked, to some extent. The poor appliance was  shaking so violently, it felt like it was about to take off, but at least the butter was incorporated evenly without the goopy mess.

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Sticky mess

I had to finish kneading it by hand, since the dough was getting stuck around the middle bit. It was a pain to get it all out. Nevertheless, I cut down the kneading time by a sizeable amount (woop, woop!).

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After quite a bit of pounding

Then came the boring part: letting it rise. At least I got to watch some Gilmore Girls on my sister’s Netflix (shout-out to the best sister ever). I’m currently re-watching season 7 while waiting for the revival. Will Lorelai ever learn? She’s the one who let her relationship with Luke go bust. Also, I dislike Logan so much, no matter how many cheesy gestures he pulls. I got so engrossed in the show, it didn’t occur to me that the kitchen was too cold to let the dough rise properly. After about an hour I turned on the heating and placed the bowl in my room, close enough to the heater. And, like magic, that made all the difference.

Shaping-wise, I wanted to try out the classic brioche à tête shape (just like the ones I used to get at the Coop in Morges). I realized that using chilled dough would have been better for shaping out the rolls, as it would have been firmer. But, oh well! You live, you learn.

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Wonky brioche

After letting them prove for almost an hour, I brushed on (with my finger due to lack of professional equipment) some yolk and sugar glaze. Then straight into the oven, as my flatmate needed the kitchen.

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Not the dramatic rise I was expecting 😦

I used regular muffin tins since I don’t have brioche tins (yet), but I think that just gave them personality. The heads came out a bit crooked but inside they were light and fluffy. Nothing small or dense about these! I just wish the brioche I used to buy in Switzerland had been as big as these; for almost CHF 2 (about £1.60) those buns were tiny. More delicate and elegant, sure, but so tiny. I’d rather have one of these bad boys… No wonder I’m Team Jess. 

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Wow, where did these come from?!