When we lived in Western Massachusetts, twice a month we would go to a little German pancake place in a nearby town for their outrageous Apple Pannekoeken. For those of you unfamiliar with Pannekoeken, it is a gigantic Dutch/Belgian-style puff-pillow of a pancake that comes filled with fruit or custard or plain, to be eaten with (usually) butter and maple syrup. They are rather light in texture; although a good Pannekoeken will have a bit of density per nibble as well. I could never finish one on my own. In fact, to say that I could even eat half of one is stretching the truth, but I enjoyed every bite that I did take, regardless. They taste good!
The place, whose name escapes me, made Pannekoeken using the traditional addition of 50% buckwheat flour, which is a good thing, since buckwheat is so nutritious. This method is less common nowadays, but makes a denser, more substantial and healthful pancake. The basic ingredients for this concoction without the buckwheat include either plain, self-rising or both types of flour, eggs, salt and milk. If you are not into dairy milk, soymilk can be substituted with almost the exact end results.
Old timers still use “Beestings” in their Pannekoeken instead of milk or soy, otherwise known as Colostrum, or the first form of milk that is produced by the mammary glands of mammals (including humans) during the last months of pregnancy. This is the stuff that has antibodies that protect newborns against diseases. It is a lower fat milk that is higher in protein than regular dairy milk. You’re probably not ever going to find Pannekoeken in a restaurant that is made with beestings, however, and I’m sure you’re not going to get human milk Beestings, no matter what…unless you make it at home, I suppose…but why?!
To make Pannekoeken, the ingredients are whipped into a runny batter and then ladled onto a hot griddle that has butter or oil on its surface. The pancake is cooked until it is dry and the edges begin to brown before it is flipped and cooked on the other side. It takes a great deal of skill and practice to master this technique, and I’ve not obtained this level of expertise, myself. I have turned out a few good Pannekoeken, but thus far, my efforts have been hit or miss…. with the miss part being the majority of my tries. Mine have always tasted good. I just haven’t been able to achieve that big, fluffy, beautiful finished product that is so impressive, more than a half dozen times.
In some cultures Pannekoeken is commonly eaten as a main course. In winter, it is sometimes consumed after snert (a type of pea soup….and a word that I love…) in a double-coursed meal. It is also a popular choice for a child’s birthday meal in Belgium and in the Netherlands where my former husband and good friend, Steve, lives.
So this next part is a bit of a departure…
After John and I would eat it in this little café, it became our tradition to drive over to Mt. Skinner and climb …ok…walk….to the top to get some extra exercise. Pannekoeken can sit at the bottom of the stomach for a LONG time, and exercise is necessary to dislodge it! J Mount Skinner is a small “mountain” near where we lived in South Hadley (near Amherst and across the Connecticut River from Northampton) where I would go frequently either with John, my daughter, friends or alone. At the top was a building called The Summit House, that overlooked the beautiful Connecticut River Valley.
Once, when I was walking up to the peak by myself, I saw an ever-so-slight movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and there were two tiny fawns curled up into little balls underneath a tree. They couldn’t have been any older than one or two days. I stopped briefly and just stared at them in wonder, my eyes tearing up with awe of the miraculous discovery that I had made. Of course, deer can be dangerous so I was very cautious, but I didn’t want to disturb them anyway. It was such a special moment in time, and one I will never forget.
The Summit house was, in effect, an old museum that was once a resort area for wealthy New Englanders who would take a cable car, sort of like a ski lift, to the top. It is a very pleasant place to go and hang out for a day. We used to take all of our visitors there.
My daughter, Sarah, who was a rock climbing enthusiast at the time, would sometimes accompany me up Mt. Skinner and scale the boulders that were available along the way. I always got so much joy out of seeing her do that. I tried a few times myself, but never did keep it up.
Anyway….long story sort. Here is a Pannekoeken recipe courtesy of the Food Network…. but I highly recommend you climb a small mountain after you eat it….especially if you eat a whole one! Total Time:
2 to 4 servings
This makes a tasty dessert for a dinner party. You can use a pizza cutter to slice it into wedges and serve it with some vanilla ice cream.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Granny smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter
Powdered sugar, for serving
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and apples to a pan. Saute the apples over medium-low heat until slightly soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Mix the milk, vanilla and eggs in a bowl. Add the flour, granulated sugar and salt and whisk lightly (some lumps are ok but not too many).
Increase the heat under the apples to medium and add the brown sugar and butter. Cook until a syrup forms, about 3 minutes, then add the batter all at once to the center of the pan. Swirl the apple syrup mix through the batter, using a heatproof spatula, to form ribbons (you do not want to fully combine the apple-sugar syrup into the batter). Cook until small bubbles form around the edge.
Finish cooking the pannekoeken in the oven, 12 minutes. To serve, invert a 12-inch plate over the pan and flip the pan to turn out the pannekoeken. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with whipped cream and enjoy!