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Pannenkoeken or Pancakes?

poffertjes image by 'a little tune' via Flickr

Poffertjes image (cc) 'a little tune' via Flickr.

“The Dutch invented the pancake you know.” my Dutch acquaintance told me while Dan and I road in the back of his car. I had to admit that I didn’t know nor had I ever considered the origins of one of our favorite breakfast foods. Pancakes conjure up a lazy Fall morning in my parent’s Vermont home with fresh fruit and light arguments about the virtues of real vs. fake maple syrup. We even use to tap maple trees and make our own syrup; a very rural New England activity. I was surprised to find that pancakes are more of a snack or dinner food here in the Netherlands and that they don’t eat them with maple syrup (shock!) but with sugar, fruit, meat, and a myriad of other things.
Pancakes: Dutch-Style
store bought pancake

Store-bought pancake with side of beer.

The Netherlands most readily boasts two types of pancakes: the thin, wide pannenkoeken and the small, fluffy poffertjes. Pannenkoeken are a bit thicker than crepes, but have a similar appearance and texture. Everything I read says that they are baked, but I haven’t actually made them myself yet. Frequently a pannenkoek (you only need one) will have apple slices or bacon embedded in it; but pretty much any fruit or even cheese can be used. I had one with feta cheese & spinach at one of the ubiquitous pannenkoekenhuis (pancake house) the dot the Netherlands.
Poffertjes are probably eaten more frequently as dessert since they appear to be exclusively served with sweet things: powdered sugar, spices, chocolate sauce, etc. These little pancakes are made with a special pan on the stove top. Each has to be muddled and flipped to create the empty space inside that marks a poffertje. The ones I’ve had were sweet and a bit chewy, but certainly filling. I wouldn’t mind picking up a pan so we can make our own.
Besides selling pans and grills for making pancakes, you can also buy pre-cooked pancakes and poffertjes. I’ve had the premade pannenkoeken and they are ok, but like most foods they are better fresh. The so-called “American” pancakes give me the giggles. They are easily a half inch thick, way thicker than any pancake I’ve ever made. Actually American-style products here crack me up in general.

Apple Pancakes

apple pancake

Not quite like Mom use to make.

Pancakes to me also mean my mother’s apple pancakes, thick and fluffy with lots of butter and made in an electronic skillet. We use to eat them for dinner when I was a child. Recently I was trying to find a similar recipe online since I lost my copy of the original. What I found instead was something the Web hailed as the Dutch (or sometimes German) Puffed Apple Pancake. I haven’t seen pancakes like this one in the Netherlands yet, so maybe the German moniker is more accurate. Using the recipe above, the resulting pancake was similar to my childhood food, but not quite right. I usually leave the apple skins on when I make these pancakes, but only if the apples are pretty fresh.
Did the Dutch really “invent” the pancake?
I really don’t know if you can say any one group of people invented the pancake. Flat griddle cakes in some form are eaten the world over and were eaten well before distinct groups ever met each other. How hard could it be to come up with a flat and sweet bread with three or four ingredients? Pancakes became an important part pre-Lent food in Europe during the Medieval period, so it make sense that a traditionally Christian country like the Netherlands would have a strong pancake tradition.
What’s your favorite way to eat pancakes? Share with us in the Comments.

2 Responses to “Pannenkoeken or Pancakes?”

  1. Gjalt-Jorn says:

    Nice read – never thought about pancakes for more longer, or more in-depth, than was required to consume them :-)

    I have a related question. Do you (or anybody else – I’m flexible :-)) know where to get pancakes in Maastricht? I’ve looked for them a bit, but as far as I know, we don’t have a Pannekoekenrestaurant, or what would be even better, a Pannekoekenboot (they are so cheesy they’re cool :-)) . . .

  2. locusta says:

    Hi there. :)

    I haven’t been to it, but there is a Pannenkoeken huis on St. Pietersburg (mountain). It is in a miniature golf place up near the St. Pieter’s Fort. Google says this is the address: Eetcafé Pannenkoekenhuis Midgetgolfbaan Sint Piete
    Luikerweg 78; 6212NH Maastricht.

    I find that most lunch places and cafes of the Dutch variety will have at least an apple and/or bacon pancake on their menu too. Maybe not the ones on the Vrijthof, but the smaller ones.

    I’ve never heard of a Pannekoekenboot, but that sounds like a ton of fun.