Sunday, July 10, 2011
Pancakes: applying history lessons to breakfast
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
pinch of salt
As you, my loyal reader, might remember, the master of the Santoku and I found ourselves in the most inconvenient situation last weekend. Having made a glass full of fresh and sweet and generally delightful blueberry jam, there was not a slice of bread in the house. Luckily, conversant in European history, we found consolation in Marie-Antoinette’s famous words “If people have no bread, let them eat cake”.
Therefore, pancakes it was, but not just any pancakes, but old world palatschinken, as my grandmother would call them. Palatschinken are the ideal hybrid of two worlds: thicker and crisper than the French crepes, and smaller and much thinner than American hotcakes, palatschinken were perfected by generations of the world-renowned Bohemian housewives and cooks to golden rounds of pleasure, beloved by the young and the old alike. To me, palatschinken is one of the simplest and easiest dishes on earth, one of the first things I have ever learned to cook and something the women in my family used to whipped up at all kinds of spontaneous occasions with ingredients that were always in the house. And fondly do I remember the days when to the shock (and pride!) of my grandmother, I devoured more than half a dozen of her palatschinken in one single sitting!
In a bowl I whisk together the eggs, the milk and flour, and add a pinch of salt. If I have sparkling water at hand, I add a tiny spritzer to make the consistency less dense but you can perfectly make do without. The exact amount of flour is also variable and it’s good to start with a little less and then keep on add it in until the dough has the desired texture - ideally it should still be a little runny; too much flour also makes them rather chewy.
Then I heat butter in a small pan on high heat, and once it is sizzingly hot, I pour in about one serving spoon of dough. Now the runniness makes it easier to evenly spread out the dough by gently rotating the pan to create a thin layer, and once the palatschinken is solid enough to be turned, I flip it over. How long you leave it to bake depends on your taste and you can go from soft to crispy, but usually it takes between one and three minutes per side.
After the early morning coffee hour was leisurely spent baking one palatschinken after the other, we were finally able to enjoy the blueberry jam, attentively filling and folding each of the palatschinken, their tender sweetness nearly melting in our mouths. Rarely has a virtue born out of necessity proven to be such a delight!
Life is good!