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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.      


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


0.6 liters milk 

3 large eggs

180 grams flour

2.5 grams salt

57 grams butter


  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. 

90 replies »

  1. Simple ingredients yet a mindful and patient chef who learns from every ladle poured onto the perfectly heated pan, turns an eating experience into a love fest for your taste buds. I’m trying to do the same when I make something familiar so that it always leaves the palate satisfied. Happy feasting!

    • How wonderfully you express it! I realize that one really can experience the love and care put into the preparation of a meal. I know your family tastes it in everything you make for them. Wishing you a wonderful day.

  2. So well written. Isn’t funny how we take cooking certain foods for granted. Thinking of each little variable makes a difference. Your little pancakes look good. 🙂

    • Thank you! I agree that cooking (among other things) can be something we take for granted. It’s a way of looking at life differently for me when I’m able to observe the complications and the marvel of the everyday.

  3. I grew up making these (albeit my Viennese mother called it Palatschinken) 2 small skillets and me standing on a chair in front of the stove, to make them. Brings back fond memories Atreyee. The recipe is VERY similar! Now I’m hungry – what diet? 😘

  4. How you can turn any event into a mouthwatering piece of literature… It really makes me wonder whether you write paid articles for magazines or newspapers. And then, that positive spin, or should I say “flip”, on any experience. When I make crepes (once a year for my husband’s birthday or during the holidays – yes, this is a post timely read by me), I get frustrated. The first one always fails, the amount of dough on the pan is never ideal, while I remember my mom flipping them in the air, this makes me nervous when I do it myself, and so on. By the end of the batch, the crepes, or pannenkoeken as we call them in Belgium, are perfect however. 🙂

    Enjoy the last days of 2018 and have a happy 2019!

    • Ah, thank you for your sweet words Liesbet! I have so loved sharing ideas about everything under the sun with you and hearing your perspective on them. I have written some pieces for print magazines and online journals and hopefully will continue doing more of it in 2019. So happy to hear that my post was timely for you. May the new year be good to you and may all your pannenkoeken turn out deliciously perfect in 2019!

      • They actually did so far! I made pannenkoeken yesterday and even the first one refused to fail. So, a good start to the new year. The fact that I wasn’t frustrated during the making of them was awesome as well. Like Mark said: “The only thing missing in the kitchen this morning was you screaming.” 🙂 I might actually make them more often now.

  5. Yummy!! 😀 You describe the art of Swedish pancake creation with eloquence and beauty! How true that one of the key elements is the heat of the pan … a trick my mother taught me. Mine are okay but none taste as good as hers! So glad you included a recipe … I’m printing that out for my son who loves them and he can try his hand at them when at uni later this year.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. 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. 😁

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