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!

the Netherlands

Poffertjes = lekker

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Poffertjes without the poffertjespan

The one word you need to have in your Dutch vocabulary is lekker; it means tasty or yummy…or hot, if you’re referring to a girl. It was one word I heard a lot in Maastricht (referring to food, not girls), along with leuk (nice), mooi (pretty), and gezellig (cozy). This weekend I was in need of something with all these qualities, given the miserable cold (winter is coming…). Also, it was Gilmore Girls weekend and what better companion to watch the revival with than some tasty Dutch mini-pancakes?

The first time I had poffertjes was actually in Germany, at a Christmas market in Hamburg when I visited my sister for the first time. I was living in Maastricht back then but I still hadn’t had poffertjes. Liege/leukse waffles, yes (which are actually Belgian, but Maastricht is right next to the Belgian border, and these waffles are part of the Maastricht experience). Bitterballen, yes. Frikandel, yes. But not poffertjes. The stand in Hamburg had the proper equipment to make them though, and I’m pretty sure the girl making them was Dutch, so they were as authentic as they could’ve possibly been. They were so light and spongy, quite different from regular pancakes. Definitely a sweet treat for a cold day.

So I settled down in my kitchen to make poffertjes on a gray Saturday afternoon. There always seems to be a mishap or another whenever I put my green apron on (except for last time, with the brioche). I’ve made loads of pancakes in my time, from plain to banana to Oreo-flavored; from American to Dutch (which are like crepes), and so on. I was confident these mini versions would turn out fine. And they did, but not without some casualties.

The recipe was easy and simple enough. Poffertjes are essentially pancakes but with yeast and, as such, a rising period. I followed the Oh My Dish recipe, since the ingredient amounts seemed more reasonable to my specific needs (I’m just feeding two mouths here).

I made the batter, let it rest for an hour, then got to work making my version of poffertjes. I don’t own a poffertjespan, that special pan with small, shallow indentations on the bottom. I used my large frying pan, butter, and a squeeze bottle to pipe the batter. 

Getting the batter into the bottle was mess number one. I don’t have a funnel (yet another thing I don’t have…I need to go shopping); the best I could do was spoon it or pour it in. That was messy enough, though at least I didn’t waste a lot of batter.

Next came piping nice little circles all around the pan. The poffertjes weren’t as puffed up as if they had been made in a proper poffertjespan, but they looked good enough to me.

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At least I got good at piping circles!

One thing about the piping process, though. It started out smoothly enough. Then, bits of dough started to clog the bottle’s tip. They’d come out eventually if I squeezed a bit harder, so I kept going. At one point, after the tip had gotten clogged again, I squeezed the bottle so hard, the tip popped right off, batter oozing all over the poffertjes I had just piped. I let that cook into a massive, deformed pancake, since there was nothing else for me to do. No use crying over spilled batter.

Determined, I refilled the bottle and tried to unclog the tip, this time over the bowl with the leftover batter. That was one stubborn piece of dough; it refused to budge. The cap came off once again and that was it. I switched the caps and started over. And although there were still tiny doughy bits that got stuck in the tip, at least now I was more cautious with the squeezing. The last poffertjes cooked without further accidents and I got to eat most of them with a nice cup of tea watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

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Lekker!

Now, I enjoyed the poffertjes, but I am still deciding how I feel about this new Gilmore Girls…not enough Jess, in my opinion. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I’ll just say the original series dug itself into a nice, gezellig spot in people’s hearts that would be hard to share even with its revival. It’s great to see how the story developed and where those familiar people ended up, even if you might not agree with some of their decisions. There’s only one thing left to do to help me process: watch it again.

 

 


This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge, connecting bloggers and sharing new foodie experiences. This month’s host is Alicia our-growing-edge-badgefrom Alicia’s Bits n Bobs.