Do you ever find yourself in a rut, always doing the same old thing the same old way? Have you ever, suddenly, discovered a new way of doing that thing and wondered why you never tried that before?
Like pancakes! I love pancakes. Inspired by my recent Movie Break with the film “Stranger Than Fiction” I think I might even say I have a new found appreciation for pancakes. I was really struck by the quote from the film where Dustin Hoffman’s character, Dr. Jules Hilbert, is speaking to Harold Crick:
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Hell Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.In one of those "Aha!" moments, where a light seems to shine on something you have probably always known but suddenly see anew, I was struck by how it is the little things in life that matter. It isn't just the end result or our destination that is important but every step along the way that adds to the quality of the journey. And what better example could you ask for than pancakes? I could totally relate.
Harold Crick: What is wrong with you? Hey, I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind, in a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you pause to think, you’d realize that, that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led... and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.
The Quality of Pancakes
When my husband and I were first married we made pancakes the only way we knew how: we opened a box of Bisquick and we followed the directions on the back. The result was an adequate pancake. Smothered in butter and syrup they were sweet and filling and we, not knowing any better at the time, were satisfied.
Years passed and I ran across a recipe I absolutely loved for its convenience, Overnight Pancakes. This pancake batter could be made ahead and stored for up to a week and made a thinner but more tender and subtly flavorful pancake. I had a new favorite. Easy, practical, interesting and made from scratch, it is still my standard pancake recipe.
Then one day a friend offered to treat us to Swedish Pancakes for breakfast. For his family these are the gold standard of pancakes. He makes them whenever he has friends or family gathered for breakfast or brunch and he considers this recipe a personal specialty.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t think I had ever eaten Swedish pancakes before, but I do like to try new things, and I love to watch other people cook. So he cooked while I hung around with my camera watching.
The pancakes he made were nothing short of wonderful! While simple enough, in terms of ingredients, the outcome was something very special. These pancakes were sweet and elegant and a delightful change from the ordinary style of pancakes I am used to making.
Generally, I would have to say that I agree with Harold. “I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes. I want to live!” Still while I am living I’m going to have to agree with Dr. Hilbert too. Much does depend “upon the type of life being led... and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.” Personally, I am thankful for a life where I can share my gifts, my history and my recipes with friends and family and where they shares theirs with me in return. As I share myself with others I find the quality of my life continues to improve and, as a happy coincidence, so does the quality of the pancakes!
With Christmas approaching, wouldn’t these pancakes be a fantastic holiday breakfast or brunch for out of town guests, or any family or friends you have the opportunity to treat this holiday season? Inexpensive to make yet elegant, filling and delicious, these pancakes would be a wonderful treat any guest would enjoy. And I can think of so many variations. Of course you can fill them with the traditional lingonberry sauce or fruit jam and sprinkle them with powdered sugar and they will be wonderful. And yet, what about topping them with a cranberry orange relish, or with pumpkin butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a few toasted pecans? Or smothered with Nutella and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts or almonds? The possibilities are as great as the quality of your imagination.
Here is the recipe for Swedish Pancakes as described by the cook:
Swedish pancakes, if you don't know, are quite a bit different than your ordinary pancake. They are more of a crepe than anything else. Compared to making regular pancakes, Swedish pancakes seem like a lot of work, but for the occasional special breakfast they are well worth it.
My 1968 copy of "Better Homes and Gardens NEW Cook Book" given to me by my Uncle Stan (who now actually owns the restaurant noted below) is where I got the basic recipe which reads:
1-1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
This recipe will make approximately nine 8" pancakes. (We tripled the recipe to make enough pancakes for a brunch for five with some left over. All of the pancakes were gone before dinner.)
The instructions say,"Beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored." After that, sift and add the dry ingredients mixing gently with a wire whip. When the mix is the consistency of a thick paste, add the milk slowly as you continue to mix. The reason for mixing slowly is so that you don't mix too much air in the batter. A batter that is frothy does not seem to cook properly.
When the batter is ready, set it aside, and prepare the frying pan. The best pans are about 8 to 10 inches in diameter at the bottom, with very low sides. The low sides make it easier to flip the pancakes. Start with the heat at medium and adjust as needed. Each pan seems to have its own quirks about how much heat it likes and how fast it will cook pancakes. Melt about half a teaspoon of butter in the pan and when melted, spread it around so that it covers the bottom of the pan. You need to add more butter for each pancake which can be a challenge with more than one pan. I pre-slice bits of butter ahead of time so that they are ready to toss in the pan without losing time fiddling with the butter knife.
Pour in just enough batter to cover two thirds of the pan, and then swirl the pan to spread the batter. Let the pancake cook for about 30 seconds, and then peek under one edge. When it starts to brown in spots, flip the pancake and cook for another 15 to 30 seconds depending on heat.
Start with one pan to get the feel for making these things. They take a while to cook individually, so as you find yourself making more, you might stretch to use two or more pans at one time. I personally have had four frying pans going at once with the able assistance of one of my brothers at a family outing, but then we were trying to cook about 60 pancakes that day!
As the pancakes come off the stove, keep them warm in a warm oven. When all are ready, serve them hot from the oven with butter, jams, and powdered sugar for toppings.
We enjoyed fresh wild blackberry and marionberry jams which came from my uncle's restaurant, The Berry Patch Restaurant in Westport, Oregon.
Personally, I like to put jam in the middle of my pancakes, roll them up, and sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on top. Others like to put their fruit on top, and some just enjoy them plain.
Anyway you prepare them, these are a real treat.
Equipment Note: The Calphalon Commercial Nonstick 10-inch International Griddle/Crepe Pan does have sides a bit higher than the ideal for making Swedish Pancakes but, after trying it out, all agreed it worked fine for this recipe. What's more it is great for eggs and sandwiches and other everyday tasks too. I would recommend this pan for anyone who is stocking a kitchen of their own, or who just happens to be in need of a nice 10-inch multi-purpose nonstick skillet. Check it out and notice that Amazon offers it at a fabulous price.