Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, as the old saying goes. In Greece, and in many other countries I suppose, we tend to do the opposite. In the morning we are in a rush, just drinking our coffee or if we’re lucky catching a snack, at lunch break we grab a bite and only at night we finally have time to cook, order takeout or go out for dinner. As that is not a healthy lifestyle at all, in our new article we will eat pancakes for breakfast and research-as always- their history and variations all around the world.
This time we will share the recipe first and suggest doubling it, serving a mouthwatering stack of pancakes and garnishing them with whatever you prefer. Take a large bite and plunge with us into the history of pancakes!
Pancakes with homemade caramel sauce
Ingredients for the pancakes
|Cake flour (sifted)||160 gr|
|Baking soda||1 tsp|
|Greek yogurt*||180 gr|
|Bitter almond extract (optional)||2-3 drops|
|Butter (for the pan)||1 tsp|
*you can substitute Greek yogurt and water for 240 gr buttermilk
Making the pancakes
Mix the solid ingredients (flour, baking soda, sugar, salt) in a bowl. In another bowl combine the Greek yogurt with half the amount of water (to become like milk) and add the beaten egg. If you are using buttermilk, combine it with the beaten egg. Join the mixtures and homogenise with a hand whisk. If you are using yogurt, add the rest of the water. If you are using buttermilk and the batter seems too thick, add some water too. The expected outcome is a not too thick and not too thin batter.
A little secret!
We can make buttermilk by adding water to Greek yogurt, at a 1:1 ratio. Buttermilk is a common ingredient in baking, because of the reaction between lactic acid and baking soda, that makes the dough rise and lighten up. Other substitutes for buttermilk is kefir in the same quantity, as well as milk with the addition of cream of tartar.
Warm a pan at medium heat and melt 1 tsp of butter. As soon as it is hot, pour a ladle (60 ml) of batter. Wait 90 seconds, until you see bubbles on the surface. With a spatula carefully flip the pancake and wait another 60 seconds. Here’s your first pancake! The first one won’t have the golden brown colour we are looking for, but this one is for the cook to eat. The rest will come out beautiful.
Ingredients for the caramel sauce
Recipe adapted from our favourite professional book: On Baking A Textbook of Baking & Pastry Fundamentals, by chefs and professors Labensky, Van Damme and Martel, available for order here.
|Lemon juice||1 tsp|
|Heavy cream (room temp.)||60 gr|
|Salt (if we want to make salted caramel)|
Making the caramel sauce
Pour the sugar and water into a deep pot (not a pan) and mix. If there is sugar on the sides of the pot, clean it with a wet brush, because otherwise it may make the caramel crystallize. Turn the heat on high and as soon as it begins to boil (start bubbling) add the lemon juice. From now on, don’t stir at all. The caramel will continue boiling and after a while it will gain its characteristic golden brown colour. Take it off the heat and add the heavy cream. Watch out! The caramel will be really hot and as soon as the heavy cream touches it, it will rise. You need to prepare it in a deep pot and be really careful not to get burnt. Beat with the whisk and add the butter without stopping to mix. Let cool at room temperature. The caramel sauce can be stored for several days, even weeks, in the refrigerator.
Both pancakes and caramel sauce are ready, so there’s just one thing left to do… combine them and garnish with whatever you like. We topped our pancakes with some crushed wafer rolls, some sugar, some grapes and some berries, and there were no crumbs left! Is your plate ready? Let our sweet journey begin…
Pancakes, from the prehistoric era to our breakfast table…
Guess how old pancakes are! National Geographic claims that our prehistoric ancestors used to make pancakes! Findings of starch grains on Stone Age tools (30.000 years ago) support this hypothesis. Researchers believe that the starch was possibly mixed with water and fried on hot stone.
We also read that pancakes used to be a favourite treat in Ancient Greece, as mentioned by poets of the 5th century. Greek pancakes are called tiganites, coming from the word taginon, the Ancient word for pan. They were made with flour, water, oil, grape molasses and honey. Ancient Greeks also used to prepare staitites, a kind of pancake made with wheat (sitari in Greek).
During Roman Period, the Greek doctor and philosopher Galen wrote a pancakes recipe in his work De alimentorum facultatibus (On the properties of foodstuffs). They were prepared with wheat flour soaked in lots of water and fried exclusively in olive oil. Galen mentions that because tiganites were heavy for the stomach -being a doctor, he makes a detailed description of the problem- some added honey or sea salt.
More recently, in the 16th century -or even earlier- Pancake Day was established in England. E. Castelow informs us: it’s the Tuesday fourty seven days before Easter Sunday, during which the British used up eggs, butter and fat, before the beginning of the lent. This day is also called Shrove Tuesday, as Christians would confess and get “shriven” (absolved from their sins). Traditional English pancakes are very thin, served with Golden Syrup or lemon juice and caster sugar.
According to National Geographic, in the American colonies pancakes were also called hoe cakes, johnnycakes or flapjacks. They were made with buckwheat or cornmeal (polenta). In American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons -the first totally American cookbook- there are two pancake recipes: one for a Johny Cake or Hoe Cake with milk and molasses and another one for an Indian Slapjack without molasses but with four eggs.
Despite this expression, there are thiner pancakes than the American ones, the French crêpes. As we found out, their origins are traced in Bretagne, a region in northwest France, near Great Britain. This rocky place’s geographic isolation led to the development of a particular culture with British influences. In the 12th century, when buckwheat arrived to Bretagne, its people made batter with water and oil and baked it on a hot surface, creating the first crêpes, stuffed with fresh fruit and local produce. In the same form, crêpes still remain a French trademark.
Pancakes, crêpes or as we Greeks call them tiganites, those treats are found all around the world, under different names and in various flavours, but always delicious. They belong to the wider category of griddlecakes, which includes pancakes, crêpes, tortillas, waffles and blini (the Russian / Ukranian variation), as we learned from our book On Baking A Textbook of Baking & Pastry Fundamentals by chefs and professors Labensky, Van Damme and Martel (order online). Their distinctive characteristic is that they are leavened with baking soda or baking powder and baked on a hot griddle with just a little or no fat at all.
Wishing to see whether it is true that all people love pancakes, we stumbled upon an uncountable number of versions and variations! Pancakes, crepes and flatbreads from every corner of the Earth…
Pfannkuchen: crepes, usually thicker than the French ones, served with a sweet or savory filling
Russia / Ukraine
Blini: crepes made with wheat or less often buckwheat, filled with whipped cream, creamy cheese, butter or caviar.
Naleśniki: thin crepes, usually served with jam, fruit or soft white cheese with sugar, but also with savory fillings.
Æbleskiver: pancakes in a typical round shape, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are not sweet, but usually accompanied with red fruit jam and sprinkled with caster sugar.
Lefse: rolled up crepes with a savory or sweet filling. They are prepared with potatoes, flour, butter and milk or heavy cream.
Krumkake: thin waffles made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar and heavy cream. Traditionally baked on a special griddle with a relief pattern and stuffed with whipped cream etc.
Pönnukaka: thin crepes prepared in a special Icelandic pan. Served in rolls with sugar or folded with jam and whipped cream.
Pikelets: small-sized pancakes, garnished with jam, whipped cream or, for a savory version, with sour cream, smoked salmon and dill.
Cong yu bing: flatbread with onions, made with wheat flour and boiling water. It usually goes with mou shu pork and Peking duck.
Dorayaki: two fluffy pancakes made from castella (Portuguese sponge cake) with a slightly sweet red bean paste in between.
Injera: pancake made with teff flour (an Αfrican cereal) and fermented with yeast, with a slightly foamy texture.
Naan: puffy flatbread prepared with wheat flour, baked instantly on the walls of a tandoor oven (cylindrical clay or metal oven).
India again (one of the 14, at least, types of pancakes)
Meetha pooda: pancake made with wheat flour, fennel seeds and sugar. Served with kheer (Indian rice pudding), pickles or chutney.
Pakistan (and other Indian subcontinent countries)
Chapati (or roti, roshi, safati, shabaati, phulka): thin flatbread prepared with whole wheat flour (atta), water and oil.
Tortilla: thin flatbread made with finely ground cornmeal, served stuffed with meat or cheese, or fried as side crisps.
Tapioca beiju: thick crepes made with tapioca (starch from the cassava plant). Its typical garnish is melted butter with coconut flakes.
…. What a joy that we have already made pancakes for breakfast, as we worked up an appetite with all that! No matter how they are called and made, what is for sure is that pancakes are loved worldwide. Enjoy, everyone!
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