September 24: National Pancake Day

When it comes to pancakes, I have very distinct memories. As far as I can remember, my dad didn’t really cook except for one thing – pancakes. His pancakes, although good, are monstrously large. I still remember trying to choke down the dinner plate-sized pancakes. So his declaration of “I’m making pancakes” made me think “Oh no!” I appreciate that he made them, just wish they were more manageable for a little kid.

A pleasant reminiscence is that of the afternoon outings I had with my mom to our local pancake house. We always ordered boiled chicken breast sandwiches and pancakes with peaches and cream topping. I had a pretty huge appetite as a teenager and also the serving sizes then were pretty small compared to the ones we have now. Even now I am partial to fruit-topped pancakes. I still love peaches but I also eat pancakes with raspberry preserves (Bonne Maman® is my favorite brand) and whipped cream.

I also have a one of a kind experience in a Norfolk pancake house when I was pregnant with my first child. As I lifted the syrup dispenser, the lid came off and pancake syrup spilled on my lap. Someone did not screw the lid on properly! The paper napkin didn’t stand a chance and I don’t think I have words to describe how panties soaked in syrup feel. My husband had a good chuckle but I had the last laugh when he realized he had to line the passenger seat with plastic so the syrup won’t get on the upholstery.

Pancakes are actually found in many countries all over the world but since today is National Pancake Day, I’m only going to write about pancakes and its variations in the USA. In America pancakes are known by many names as well: griddlecakes, flapjacks, or hotcakes, depending on the part of the country. Pancakes are made by mixing flour, eggs, milk, and baking powder into a thick batter. Other ingredients may be added for texture and flavor such as buttermilk, yogurt, sugar, fruit, and spices. My husband, who is the official pancake maker in our household adds pure vanilla and almond extracts and make for very fragrant pancakes. My daughter likes to make pancakes from scratch and chocolate chips are her favorite add-in.

Johnnycakes (Shawnee cakes, hoecakes, or pones) is a cornmeal-based pancake that is often associated with the Northeast. Cornmeal batter is mixed with salt, hot water or milk, and bacon drippings. Pilgrims learned to make johnnycakes from the Pawtuxet Indians. Johnnycakes are usually served hot with butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup, or applesauce. I prefer them with honey.

Prospectors and pioneers made sourdough pancakes because sourdough starter was portable and doesn’t spoil. It can easily be replenished with more flour and water. Naturally occurring yeast acts as the leavening agent.  Sourdough pancakes are a specialty in Alaska.

Another U.S. favorite are the silver dollar pancakes. These mini-pancakes are just like the regular-sized ones but only 2-3 inches in diameter. They are named after the silver dollar coins prior to 1979. My favorite way of eating them is by sandwiching a maple-flavored sausage patty between two silver dollar pancakes.

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Of course, pancakes from other nations have come to our American plates, like Dutch baby pancakes. They are also known as German pancakes. They are usually cooked in a cast-iron skillet and baked. And they rise like a soufflé then the center collapses and makes the characteristic bowl-like appearance. They are served with lemons and powdered sugar, jam, or caramelized apples.

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Crêpes are very thin pancakes that originated in France. The batter is very thin and spread evenly over the cooking pan. It takes less than a minute to cook on one side and it takes some practice to flip the crêpe properly. Crêpes are never served inside out because the side that is cooked first is always the more attractive. They can be filled then rolled or folded in half or quarters. Fillings can either be savory or sweet. They can also be stacked with whipped cream or jam between layers. The California Gold Rush prospectors made a version of the crêpe called the 49er flapjack. It’s a sourdough crêpe served with lingonberry sauce. It’s served rolled up with butter and powdered sugar or open-faced and topped with maple syrup.

Well, that’s my roundup of American pancakes. Hope it’s inspired you to try some of them.

 

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