Finnish Pancake

When I was a little girl, my family spent seven years on a remote British Columbia trapline. With no electricity, refrigeration was only available in the winter, so eggs were a rarity — and when we did have them, they had to be used up quickly. Some of my favorite foods are the result of this sporadic need to consume eggs: quiche, egg gravy over biscuits, and my ultimate favorite, Finnish pancake. This last dish is like a beautiful marriage between a sweet soufflé and a custard. It can be served with fresh berries and powdered sugar, with syrup, or on its own.

We moved back to civilization, in the form of a group of communes clustered around a tiny village in Northwest Ontario, when I was eleven. Eggs were always available here, but they were portioned carefully: we did have refrigeration in the community kitchen and could store them, but since we didn’t raise our own chickens, the eggs had to be purchased. Cooking for thirty or forty people at a time uses up a lot of eggs when you’re making egg-rich dishes. So here, too, Finnish pancake was a rare treat. It was made even more rare by the fact that a lot of the people with whom we shared meals didn’t care for it, so when it was my mom’s turn to cook breakfast, she usually chose a more universally pleasing meal.

After I moved away and got married, Finnish pancake wasn’t a food I thought about much. I made it once or twice, using recipes I found online, but they were never the way I remembered my mom’s turning out. Why I didn’t just ask my mother for her recipe, I don’t know. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, thinking it would be a great Easter breakfast choice, that I suddenly developed anew my passion for Finnish pancake. I tried all the recipes I’d tried previously, considering the possibility that I might have made a mistake when making them earlier. I tried similar dishes, like clafuti, and pannukakku or pannu kakku (which is Finnish for pan cake), and German oven pancake. They were all good, and my family ate them happily, but none of them turned out like my mother’s. All of them rose less dramatically, were much thinner, felt less firm and dense, and just… were not the same. They all had similar ingredients and methods, but one thing I noticed that was different among them was the inclusion of baking powder — some had it, most didn’t. Maybe if I could find the perfect amount of baking powder, I could make my mother’s Finnish pancake.

After months of failed attempts, I texted my mother. “Do you use baking powder in your Finnish pancake?” She didn’t, which destroyed that hypothesis, and I expressed my frustration at being unable to get my Finnish pancake to turn out like hers. She said, “Why don’t I just send you the recipe?” and proceeded to do so, after finding her worn recipe card that she had copied from a friend years before. Problem solved!

Except… it wasn’t. Even my mother’s recipe didn’t turn out like the Finnish pancake of my memory. However, it was much closer, and by comparing it to the other recipes I’d found, I was able to see how it differed from them and then adjust those differences. After more attempts than I bothered to count, all of them delicious but not quite right, I finally produced the delectable dish of my childhood. It took nearly a year, but by the next Easter, I had perfected it and scribbled it down.

Now it’s almost Easter again, and I realized this would be the perfect time to share this delicious breakfast favorite, which my kids devour like starving wolves and which my husband has pronounced “very good.”

This recipe fills a large casserole dish. I sometimes use a deep, 9-inch, round stoneware dish, and other times I use one that’s about 8″x12″. The depth and size of the dish will affect the texture and cooking time somewhat, but not enough to worry about. What is important is that the sides are high enough to allow the batter to rise at least double in the oven. It makes about 8-12 slices, depending on the size of pan you use, which is enough to feed my family of four with just a little left over. By the time Sofia is in school, Im sure I’ll need to double the recipe to satisfy everyone’s appetite.

First, collect your ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 3 cups of warm milk
  • 6 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 3/4 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • More sugar, for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 425ºF.

Start by lightly beating the eggs in a large bowl, using a hand mixer.

In a separate dish, mix the warm milk (warming it a bit keeps the butter from congealing), vanilla, and melted butter. Use a third dish to combine the dry ingredients. Add about 1/3 of the milk mixture to the eggs, beating the mixture until it’s combined. Continue to beat the batter while you add 1/3 of the flour mixture.

Repeat this twice more until all the ingredients have been combined. The batter should be pale yellow, slightly frothy, and very runny. Pour the batter into an ungreased casserole dish. It should fill the dish about a third of the way, no more than halfway.IMG_2892

Bake it for 40-60 minutes, depending on the depth of the dish. If desired, open the oven about five or ten minutes before the end, while the top is still a little moist, and very gently sprinkle sugar on top.

When the pancake is done, it will be golden brown, dry on the outside, slightly cracked, and very puffy, with the top rising to the top of the dish or above. It will still look wet under the cracks, and there might be butter in small pools on the surface.   It will collapse quickly as it cools, leaving a slightly higher crust around the edge; this is not evidence that you’ve made a mistake, it’s just the way Finnish pancake is. I recommend letting it rest for at least five minutes on the counter.When it first comes out of the oven, the center underneath the crust will be slightly wobbly and wet-looking, like custard. You can eat it like that, right out of the oven, but my kids tend to like it better after it’s had a chance to rest, cool, and set up a bit more.

Finnish pancake is extra delicious and very pretty when it’s served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and fresh fruit on top — sliced strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are our favorites. You can also eat it either buttered or unbuttered, with maple syrup, with powdered sugar, or plain. It’s delectable no matter what.

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Oat Apple Pancakes

On Sunday, I made one of my new favorite breakfasts: oat apple pancakes. Niko and Sofia both love them, and the apples soften enough while cooking that my toothless wonder won’t choke. I’ve been trying these out on the kids for a few weeks, but this was my first time making them for Aaron, who said with pleased surprise, “These are really good pancakes!” Coming from a man who is a much better cook than I am and a tad picky about his food, that was all the confirmation I needed. These are good. They’re easy, healthy, and dairy-free. You can expect to get about a dozen smallish pancakes from this batch.

Dairy is not typically a concern for me, but we discovered soon after having Sofia that she has a milk protein sensitivity, and I’ve had to cut out milk while we’re nursing. So if you’re avoiding dairy too, these are the pancakes for you. If you’re not, feel free to use ordinary milk instead of coconut milk, and melted butter instead of oil. They’ll be very similar.

Making oat flour
Making oat flour

The first thing you need to do is make some oat flour, unless you have some on hand. I don’t really use it that much, and I find it pretty easy just to make it as I need it. To make a cup of oat flour, just scoop about 1⅛ cups of rolled oats into the blender. Blend it on the highest setting, pausing now and then to shake it down or scrape the sides. You can stop when it feels velvety-soft.

Pause here for a rant on heating your pan. When you read baking recipes, the recipe always says right at the beginning, Preheat your oven to… But no one ever says to preheat your pan for frying. Here’s a secret: You need to preheat. If your pan isn’t hot when you start, you get weird pancakes. They don’t rise properly, they stick, and sometimes they spread too far and fall apart when you try to flip them. Now, I know recipes always say to use a hot pan or griddle, but I find that it takes longer than one would expect to really get it heated properly. There you are, pancakes ready to go, bubbles gently rising in the batter as you slowly lose fluffiness potential, waiting for the griddle to heat. I say, no more! Preheat that pan! I always turn the heat on at this point (as I’m ready to start mixing) at a medium-high temperature, and spray it with cooking oil or coat it with butter. By the time the pancakes are mixed, it will be just the perfect temperature. I turn it down to medium just before I pour the pancakes onto the griddle. And no more tossing the first pancakes of the morning into the trash. End preheating rant.

Combine dry ingredients thoroughly.
Combine dry ingredients thoroughly.

Next, use a medium mixing bowl to thoroughly mix the following dry ingredients: the oat flour (of course), ½ cup of all-purpose flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda,

Thin slices will cook nicely.
Thin slices will cook nicely.

and ½ teaspoon of salt.

Peel, core, and chop an apple. Aim for thin chunks abut ½ inch square. Too thick, and they won’t cook through.

The next part works best in the blender. You could use a whisk in a bowl instead of the blender, but you already dirtied it making the oat flour, so why not use it one more time before you wash it? It’s always a good idea to beat your eggs when adding them to pancakes – especially oat pancakes, which can be a little on the dense side – because the extra air helps add fluffiness. The blender makes the whipping fast and easy.

DSC03270So. Dump all this into the blender: Two eggs, 1 cup of almond or coconut milk (I suppose you could use soy, but I find the flavor off-putting), 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Why the vinegar? We’re imitating the effect of buttermilk. Buttermilk (and vinegar) is acidic and will react with baking soda, which is a base. The reaction creates bubbles of carbon dioxide. Translation: fluffy, crisp pancakes. Give it a whirl in the blender till it’s frothy and smooth.

Mix GENTLY so you don't get tough pancakes.
Mix GENTLY so you don’t get tough pancakes.

Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir it gently together. Add the chopped apples, stir gently again, and you’re

The edges should start to look dry when they're ready to flip.
The edges should start to look dry when they’re ready to flip.

ready to cook them. Use a ¼ cup measure or a small ladle to pour the batter onto your preheated, oiled baking surface. Let the pancakes cook until you see that the edges are looking set, almost dry. When you flip them, the backs should be golden brown and crisp. (If they’re not, just let them finish cooking on the second side and then flip them back to finish on the first side. No biggie.)

These are best eaten drizzled with honey. There’s just something about the way the sweet honey complements the nutty oat flavor, and the sweet-but-tart apples bring the flavors together like a bright ribbon binding a bouquet.

Here is a more concise format of this recipe.

Oat Pancakes