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Pannkakor: Playing with Fire

I am a wizard. With the turn of a dial I bring fire to life. The flames flare and dim, licking the bottom of the pan. I feel the heat slowly transfer to the metal and I think of the first humans as they discovered fire’s ability to alter raw food. How awestruck they must have been by the phenomenon. It’s still a magical experience for me. I twiddle with temperature settings, I adjust the pan’s position, I watch the butter steam — and I feel powerful. I am connected to the pioneers who learned to control fire and heat in order to transform elements. 

I spoon my gloopy mixture onto the sizzling surface. While watching it metamorphose into a solid wafer, I contemplate all the ways in which heat provides flavor: by releasing volatile oils, by melting fat, fracturing membranes, and by causing sugars and amino acids to react. When making pannkakor, heat is something I have to manage well. The first dozen times I tried to turn batter into a paper-thin Swedish pancake I failed. The pan didn’t get hot enough, the butter smoked, the mixture was lumpy, one side too burnt…. 

Each time, however, there was a lesson learned. I began to pay more attention to the transformations occurring. I started using all my senses. My palm hovering an inch from the pan to detect warmth; sniffing out the nutty aroma of the melting butter; listening to the hiss of the semiliquid mixture as it hardened; watching the bubbling of the pannkakor edges as they crisped. With effort and patience, sometimes I achieve that golden-umber, slightly translucent pannkakor disc…a triumphant pinnacle. 

Then the challenge is to repeat the process — no simple feat since over time the transfer of heat from source to surroundings varies. More adjustments are made to the temperature, the amount of butter, the interval between flips. The sensory faculties hone in, assessing the thickness of the batter, the sponginess, the char on the underside. With each completed pannkakor I play with one of the primal elements on earth. I engage with fire and heat, thereby entering into a miraculous rapport that results in stacks of deliciousness.      


BT’s PANNKAKOR RECIPE

Serves 2                Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes [45 minutes preparation; 30 minutes cooking]


WHAT YOU NEED

0.6 liters milk 

3 large eggs

180 grams flour

2.5 grams salt

57 grams butter


WHAT TO DO

  1. In a small saucepan heat 57 grams butter until fully melted. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 180 grams flour and 2 ½ grams salt.
  3. In a second mixing bowl, crack 3 large eggs. Mix in 0.6 liters milk and the melted butter. This allows for less whisking later, resulting in fluffier pannkakor.
  4. Transfer the dry ingredients (flour and salt) into wet ingredients’ bowl (eggs, milk, butter). Whisk vigorously until batter is smooth and fluid.
  5. Rest batter in refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it has a uniform consistency for a more delicate texture. 
  6. Preheat a 9-inch frying pan on medium-high heat. Take out batter from refrigerator. Give it a quick mix to recombine.
  7. Place your open hand, palm down, an inch or two above the pan’s surface. If you can feel the heat, the pan is hot. Alternately, sprinkle drops of water over the pan. If they evaporate quickly, the pan is hot. Now add a layer of butter to coat the surface. 
  8. Pour in ¼ cup of batter or enough to lightly cover the bottom of pan. Swirl the pan or use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly so that it is neither too thick nor too thin in any spot. 
  9. Watch the batter. Once the middle of the pancake has a solid appearance while its edges are crisp and can be easily pulled off from pan, use a spatula to gently pry the pannkakor from the sides.
  10. Insert the spatula under the pancake to take a peek at the underside. If it is golden-brown, then flip one-half of the outer perimeter towards the center of the pancake. Now reinsert the spatula under the semi-folded pancake and with a wrist flick, turn the pancake over. 
  11. Spread out the folded edge carefully. Allow the other side to also turn golden-brown.
  12. Place finished pannkakor on plate. Repeat above steps until you have desired amount or batter is used. Remember to monitor the pan’s heat and the amount of butter used for each pannkakor as these will vary. 
  13. Serve with favorite preserve such as lingonberry.*

* BT Tip: For a variation on the usual berry jams, lemon juice can also be squeezed over the pannkakor and served with extra melted butter and powdered sugar on top. 

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67 replies »

  1. The power of fire, the wizardry of cooking – so well described! When I make my version of thin pancakes, it seems that the first one is always less than perfect. Afterwards, the pan and me seem to get the hang of things and produce “good” ones…

  2. Your words are so eloquent I feel the heat of the pan kiss my cheek and smell the richness of melting butter as I read your words. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the most seemingly simplest of recipes can also seem the most difficult? Gorgeous as always, I love how you incorporate all elements of your travel to your cooking, food as well!

    • I’m humbled beyond words by your sweet praise. For my level of skill, even the simplest of dishes takes me awhile to master, so no recipe feels easy to me until I’ve practiced it for awhile. Hoping this finds you doing well.

  3. What a superb way to look at life, AG! I tend to regard cookery as drudgery rather than alchemy. A change of outlook is obviously called for. I shall conjure with spag bol tonight and let my imagination run wild. 🙂 🙂

    • 😉 Hope the spag bol turns out to be a masterpiece and lets your imagination take flight. I’m right there with you, and for millions of women who have to feed their households cooking is indeed drudgery. I’m fortunate in that I can approach my more complicated dishes like projects, whose woeful mistakes no one else has to suffer. 😁

  4. What a beautiful post and image! Congratulations on the successful pannakakor. It looks like the Swedish version of crepes. Have you ever tried pannekoeken? It’s the Dutch pancake that’s baked in the oven.

  5. Delicious looking crepes. I had to laugh when I thought about the heat under my pan. I live in a mid-century modern house with a mid-century not-so-modern electric stovetop with pushbutton options for low-medium-mediumhigh-high. Trying to judge when to back off or turn up the heat on those coils, well… it’s not a science.

  6. The idea of involving all your sense in the kitchen seems so obvious, but I don’t think many cooks talk about it the way you have here. And the pannkakor seems like a perfect food for it. You’ve made me hungry, and reminded me of making American style pancakes years ago. I know just what you mean by waiting for the right moment to begin, and having to adjust things later on. It takes practice. Cheers!

    • Thank you for that compliment. Someone told me that cooking is like performing laboratory chemistry (they’re not wrong, it can be), but I prefer to think of it in the same vein I do my hikes in the wood: a chance to explore and comprehend what’s happening under the surface. Wishing you a wonderful week!

    • Thanks Lex! The pannkakor itself isn’t terribly sweet, since there’s no sugar involved in making them, but you could make an even more savory version by substituting the flour for buckwheat and adding saltier toppings.

  7. I love pancakes, no matter by which name they are called, or which recipe is sworn by. For me it is the ultimate comfort food. In South Africa I grew up with cinnamon sugar sprinkled over them, and best eaten on a rainy day. Here in the UAE, they are eaten with a lick of cream cheese and date syrup, my current favourite way to eat them. Love your description. I think I’ll head towards the kitchen now . . . 😉

    • Mmmm…now you’ve made me hungry! I’m looking forward to trying your topping variations. I love it when I find a dish is a universal theme among different cultures. While in Sweden I was told that eating pannkakor used to be a Thursday dinner ritual: pea soup and pannkakor.

    • 😊 An excellent reason to travel to Sweden, in my opinion. I would advise lots of research into the various toppings used on pannkakor. They turn out a lot like French crepes, but the flour-to-liquid ratio is different.

  8. Beautifully written… it’s exactly how I feel in the kitchen 💙 My mother used to make us ethereal and whisper thin crepes onto which she squeezed lemon juice and applied a teaspoon of caster sugar. Blissful.

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