Last week, I read Joanna’s well written post, http://zebbakes.com/2011/06/23/soup-and-pancakes/ on what she delightfully calls, Swedish Evening Pancakes. I love the concept of dishes which can’t be tied down to a particular meal or time of day, such as for example, Eggs Benedict, which may be just as appropriate for brunch or even dinner, than breakfast. Having said that, we Americans have difficulty in thinking of pancakes as appropriate for any meal except breakfast – but then, that’s our problem. The raw truth is -as the whole rest of the world already knows- that pancakes in one guise or another, are delightful dressed up appropriately for any meal or time of day.
As you read through the zebbakes post, it’s easy to simply say, ‘Those aren’t pancakes, they’re crepes.” Not. Look again at the ingredients – way too rich for crepes – and in fact, as Jo explains, the Swedish evening meal of soup and pancakes most often holds the pancakes until the soup course is done, and the pancakes take a dessert-ish tone. But whether they can play the role of crepes and holding savory fillings as well, the answer is of course, yes - as you see from a full reading of Jo’s post above.
As soon as I saw this post, my thoughts went immediately to the sourdough pancakes I make and freeze in little packs of two for quick breakfasts in the coming months. But my pancakes are quite different from these, made from a recipe from her friend and cookbook author, Signe Johansen – yes, of course Signe is a food blogger too, but a quick look at her blog tells me that she, much like Jo, treats her photography as much like art as she does the food she writes about. I looked with envy and desire at the pancakes Jo was making, and began making plans in my mind to make the necessary adjustments to make a sourdough version of these.
Let me say right up front that sourdough pancakes are right up there on my short list of favorite sourdough preparations – I really like them a lot! And it was sourdough pancakes that taught me that sourdough is used in baking for multiple reasons – sometimes we are using sourdough to raise the bread we’re making (proofing) -as in a rustic white flour boule. But in the example I have just noted, the sourdough also adds flavor by virtue of its magic (fermentation) - and sometimes, we use sourdough more for the flavor it adds than we do for its ability to raise the foods we’re making. Sourdough pancakes are an example of this – there is a tiny bit of pan-spring with sourdough pancake batter, but so little as to be insignificant – and this recipe for Swedish pancakes uses no leavening anyway, so we’re home free.
Step one of our adaption is to build the sourdough base. I’ve begun by taking 50 grams of sourdough starter, and adding it to the recipe. The only trick to adding sourdough to any recipe is to sub the amount of ingredients of the starter for an equal amount of those same or similar ingredients in the recipe you’re working with. I use a starter that is is half water and half flour – so my adaption to Signe’s original recipe is to simply decrease the liquid by 25 grams, and the flour by 25 grams. This means that the consistency of the batter will not be affected by the added sourdough starter.
Once I made the needed calculations, I mixed all ingredients and set them aside at room temperature to ferment. I did this at about 3 pm, and by 8 that night, there was some activity under way in the batter, but the aroma was not strong. I decided, for experimental purposes, to make half of my pancakes at that time, and let the rest of the batter continue fermenting until morning. I wasn’t worried about the batter over-proofing, because I wasn’t using it to develop lightness, but simply flavor. So I covered it, and left it at room temp until morning.
In the morning, I was a bit surprised to see that the batter in the bowl had risen significantly and had developed a pleasant aroma. When working with sourdough, there are plenty of surprises. An obvious one is that sourdough is much slower at its work than is commercial yeast – but an additional surprise here was that since I had introduced many other components to the mix, they too may have contributed some to the slowdown – after all, 17 hours is unusual for even a sourdough proofing still to be stable. But of course, the next thing I did was to stir it down to get it ready for use.
I changed pans in the morning to a cast iron flat griddle with very low sides – this is an almost perfect pancake pan; its thick heavy iron structure holds a consistent cooking temperature, and the low sides mean it’s easy to flip your pancakes with nary a mis-flip. What’s not easy or perfect is the fact that the pan is not intended to be lifted and twisted in mid-air to swirl the batter to flow to the edges of the pan, as in a crepe pan – so, a different technique to spread the batter is used instead – as the batter is poured into the pan, the ladle or spoon being used is ever-so-lightly touched down on the surface of the batter in the pan and gently moved out toward the edges of the pan. This takes a little practice, but soon it becomes fun to see if you can get a perfectly round pancake before the remaining batter is too thick to move. The pan of the night before avoids this problem, but the high sides makes flipping a bit more difficult – it’s a tradeoff.
Speaking of flipping – these pancakes are very rich, therefore their texture is quite tender – this means that unlike a regular pancake, which can be easily flipped regardless of how done it is (relatively!), for this pancake, it’s necessary to wait until more of the bubbles on the top have solidified – if you are too eager to flip your pancake, you may end up with three tiny cakes instead of one – be a bit more patient before turning. I waited until the edge of the pancake was solidified 1 inch in from the edge – that’s too long for a regular pancake, but not for these.
You can further avoid this issue by using an all purpose flour – I instead used cake flour, not realizing just how tender these babies were. In my kitchen, I have only two white flours, bread flour and cake flour – when I need all purpose flour, I simply mix the two. If I had thought to do that here, my pancakes would not have been quite as tender, due to the increased gluten content of AP flour. Trust me, you want the added gluten here.
Swedish Sourdough Evening Pancakes
(adapted from the recipes of zebbakes and Signe Johansen)
- 50 grams of active sourdough starter
- 275 grams whole milk
- 1.5 Tbs plain yogurt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 140 grams All Purpose white flour
- 60 grams melted butter
- salt to taste
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk until well combined – cover bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for 8-10 hours, or overnight. There should be evidence of sourdough activity in the bowl at this point – stir down the contents of the bowl – the batter should be a bit thin, to allow for it to spread in the pan – if you think it’s too thick, add a tiny bit more milk until the consistency is correct.
Heat your chosen pan to medium hot – you’ll want it hot enough so that your pancakes brown nicely in about a minute on each side. However, do not rush to turn them too soon, as they are very tender and flipping is easier if they are allowed to cook enough on side one to gain some stability. Using either butter or oil, generously coat the surface of the pan each time you do another pancake (the more butter or oil you use, the crispier will be the edges of your pancakes). I use a spray utility bottle and grape seed oil to spray the oil into the pan – works great!
You may keep the pancakes warm in a 225F oven, but if at all possible, these are at their absolute best if eaten soon after they come out of the pan.
These, as presented, are best used with savories in the way crepes would be – but, as may reflect my personal taste, I found them delightful when served with sweets. Should you wish to add a bit of sugar as befits a dessert or breakfast use, go for it. Just know that these are delightful for any use even without added sugar.
A special thanks to Signe and Jo for their mutually delicious inspiration.