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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. 

90 replies »

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 😁

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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