The Humble Pancake

Tue. January 31, 2012 12:00 AM
by Brad Mercil

It's amazing to me that people figured out how to make different foods in ancient times. Imagine, even the most basic of our foods was a monumental task to prepare. Pancakes were the earliest form of a quick bread that was made and consumed. Teganites (pancakes) were made by the ancient Greeks as early as the 5th century BC. They were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk and were served for breakfast. In Britain during medieval times, pancakes were made to use up stored foodstuffs prior to Lent. Eggs were forbidden so making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was a good way to use up eggs before Lent.

There are very few parts of the world where people do not have the tradition of making some type of pancake. The recipe for pancakes has remained basically intact as a dry mixture of carbohydrate rich seed flours combined with protein rich liquids like eggs and milk. The batter is then cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan and flipped halfway through to cook the other side. They are generally served for breakfast with some type of sweet topping.

There are several basic styles of pancakes. There is the French crepe which is a large thin cake that almost covers an entire dinner plate; Scandinavian pancakes are very similar. There are the rolled or stuffed pancakes from central and eastern Europe. Then there is the English style pancake about 4 to 6 inches across which uses a raising agent to make them tall and fluffy.

My favorite pancake growing up was one that my Mom called "Swedish Pancakes". They were large thin pancakes, a little thicker than a crepe. My brother and I would butter them, pour on some syrup, and then fold them over several times to form a flat wedge. The first couple of bites were the best, the butter has melted and the syrup dripped out as we ate them. A close second were potato pancakes; my Mom made these with raw grated potatoes. The first time my Mom made these pancakes for my Dad, he said that he could feel them go thud as they hit the bottom of his stomach. We usually had these for dinner.

I have a basic English style pancake recipe that I've played around with I like to try adding different ingredients to see what works better. Two of my favorite add-ons are yogurt and granola. The yogurt gives the pancake a slightly tangy flavor - I've used both plain yogurt and yogurt with fruit. The granola gives the pancakes a nice crunch as I add the granola right before I'm ready to start cooking. You can easily adapt this recipe for a dessert pancake that can be made ahead of time and kept warm in the oven until you're ready. I also have a pancake topping that I created which uses any jam or fruit preserves that you have on hand.

So let's get started...


Fluffy Pancakes with Homemade Topping



1 1/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 cup yogurt (optional)
3/4 cup of granola (optional)


Combine dry ingredients except granola. In a separate bowl, beat egg and then add the milk and stir. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Add yogurt and granola into pancake batter if using. Stir until barely mixed. Let the pancake batter sit for 30 minutes as this will allow all of the dry ingredients to absorb moisture from wet ingredients. Pour pancake batter, one ladle at a time, onto preheated frying pan. Flip pancakes when bubbles begin to appear on the top. Serve warm with a nice spoonful of topping mixture.

Fresh fruit can be added to the pancake mixture, such as blueberries, strawberries, etc.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed.


Homemade Pancake Topping



4 tablespoons strawberry jam (or any flavor on hand)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Juice from half a lime


Combine all ingredients in a small sauce over low heat and stir. Cook until mixture just starts to bubble. Serve warm over pancakes.

**For an added twist you can easily adapt this recipe for dessert pancakes.


Chocolate Dessert Pancakes


Use my fluffy pancake recipe above just add the following ingredients:
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts


Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Prepare pancakes as noted above. Place cooked dessert pancakes in single layers on a baking sheet and keep warm in preheated oven. When ready to serve, place 3 or 4 dessert pancakes on a plate sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream.


Here is a basic recipe for Swedish style pancakes it came out of an old church cookbook. The old cookbooks assume you know a lot about cooking so there is very little instruction on how to put them together.

Swedish Pancakes (from Karmel, MN)

3 eggs
3 cups milk
1½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Mix and fry on hot griddle.

I also had my Mom write up the recipe for potato pancakes. She doesn't have it written down she just goes by memory and feel.

Potato Pancakes


3 eggs yolks and whites separated
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
3 raw medium potatoes peeled and grated
Pinch of salt


In a mixing bowl combine the egg yolks and milk and beat (not too much) until incorporated. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Grate the potatoes directly into the egg yolk and milk mixture. Add a pinch of salt and slowly add flour until a thin batter is formed. Fold in beaten egg whites.

Fry a sample pancake (best if bacon grease is used) to see if the pancake stays together. Crispy edges on the pancake are a good indication the pancake is done. A doughy center of the pancake, that drops to the bottom of the stomach is what people object to and the beaten egg whites helps eliminate the problem. Add flour as needed. My Grandma added a small amount of sugar as she liked to add sugar to almost everything.