The boy is a huge fan of pancakes. While any form they might take will be greeted with glee, his favorite ones are the classic European sort (flat, eggy and eaten rolled up with jam). Just like his mother and grandmother make, obviously. Now, the pancakes I knew growing up were a bit different — while my mother didn’t really make any herself (our family’s idea of “breakfast” was never in tune with the American norm), we had them fairly frequently at school functions — fluffy, cake-like, and eaten in a stack with maple syrup and butter.
So the first time the boy asked for pancakes, I made the version that I was taught in my junior high home economics class — round, fluffy, and brown. While they were eaten in short order, I was later informed that they weren’t “real pancakes”, which led to a long discussion on the labels Americans give to various pancake-like dishes. After that, I ended up making crepes instead and those were close enough to silence any protests. That was, until my first trip to Finland, when T’s grandmother invited us over for a pancake brunch. What I saw on the platter looked pretty similar to my crepes, but had a completely different texture — there was a distinct bounce to them, probably from the large number of eggs that went into the batter. While I usually tried to avoid making my own recipe too greasy or eggy, I loved the springiness of those pancakes that was so lacking in mine. Alas, my pancake recipe would need to be tweaked once again.
This is the version that I’m currently most happy with — a buttermilk crepe that is both flat and springy, without getting to the point of being a sweetened floury omelette. It’s a combination of both of our ideal pancakes into one recipe. The buttermilk + baking soda helped to add a bit of loft (like they do in classic American flapjacks) while the crepe batter base keeps them from getting too fat to roll. While there are countless variations on this theme, this particular recipe is one that I’ve tweaked so much for the past few years that it no longer even closely resembles the three or four base recipes that got spliced together to produce it. I present it to you now for further tweaking, even as I continue to do so myself.
Ingredients list! This usually makes about 10 to 12 10-inch pancakes. You’ll need 3 eggs, 1 cup buttermilk (I’ve also used soy milk and regular milk in the past, but you really do need buttermilk to get the extra lift that I’m fond of), 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Mix together the buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl. I used to combine all these ingredients in a blender, back when I didn’t have a working mixer. I now use a bowl and hand mixer, but you can easily do it either way. The blender was actually handy, since you only had one item to wash afterwards, and you could pour straight from the pitcher to the pan.
Set the butter to melt on medium heat in a large pan while you’re making the batter.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and baking soda until batter is uniform.
Pour in the melted butter. Use a silicone spatula to get most of it off the pan so that the first pancake doesn’t end up being the grease-sponge.
The batter will look a bit on the thin side. It’s supposed to be. I use a small soup ladle to spoon it onto the pan.
Ladle batter into center of pan and tilt the pan around until the batter spreads out into a 10-inch circle. There should be just enough to stick to the surface without any excess puddling. This keeps them as thin as possible.
Here’s the fun part — the base in the baking soda and the acid in the buttermilk now start reacting and making nice fluffy bubbles in the batter, keeping it from getting too dense. The amount of bubbles here are more consistent with American pancakes — the eggier Finnish ones tend to keep a smoother face as they cook, which can sometimes make it hard to tell when it’s ready to flip. These pancakes are ready to flip once the bubbles start looking set and the edges are looking golden. Like above.
The flip side will take only 1/3 of the time to cook that the first side did. They’re pretty much ready the minute they start sliding around in the pan when you give them a good shake.
Slide them off the pan onto a waiting plate lined with paper towels to soak up any extra grease. If you like your pancakes on the moister/greasier side, remember to re-butter the pan every few pancakes. If you don’t like your pancakes with lots of butter, you don’t need to re-grease the pan at all. There’s enough butter in the batter that it’s not a necessity.
Serve with your choice of toppings. I like to roll mine with a stripe of Nutella topped by a stripe of strawberry jam. Add some whipped cream and you’ve got a perfect dessert as well!