Tasha’s Thin Pancakes

Thin+pancakes+with+apples

Friends from Calgary came to visit, and this morning, with a houseful of hungry kids and grownups, Tasha stood at the stove and made loads of thin pancakes. Although she’s really a great cook, she says these and spätzle are the only things she can make well. This is not true of course – but it is nice to have a few things in your repertoire that you feel completely comfortable cooking. Especially when they are deliciously crisp-edged thin pancakes that your grandmother taught you how to make.

Tasha’s grandmother made these pancakes on her farm in Saskatchewan – it was one of those staples she could always make because they had chickens, and thus eggs. They lived close to the train, and so during the depression she would feed hungry men looking for work, stretching flour, milk and eggs to feed as many as needed to eat. Tasha used pale green-blue eggs one of the girls plucked straight from the chicken coop at a farm near Coombs, on the other side of the island.

Usually in Tofino I make crepes or pancakes, and these are somewhere between the two: rather than attempt the pour/tilt method of coating the pan quickly with thin batter, Tash spoons the ever so slightly thicker than crepe batter into a hot oiled pan using a spoon from the cutlery drawer, then uses it to spread the batter around the pan into a thin pancake shape. The other advantage to this method, she says, is that you can easily make the pancakes in rudimentary shapes – hearts, for example, if you have little girls at the table.

These must be our new Tofino pancakes. I love knowing how many hundreds Tasha’s grandma cranked out for her neighbours, friends and grandkids, and now have the memory of Tash herself standing at the stove, kids sitting around the table and grownups milling about, someone grabbing each pancake as it came out of the skillet, and she following her grandma’s rule that the cook not eat until she cook the last pancake. That one’s hers.

They have just slightly more substance than our usual floopy crepes – they’re eggy but not rubbery, and somehow more appealing than plain old puffy stack-style pancakes. They spread theirs with sour cream and brown sugar or butter and maple syrup and roll them up, then slice them into bite-sized pieces.

We spread some with butter and sprinkled them with brown sugar. Others we drizzled with maple syrup and wrapped around a slice of bacon. Then I got the bright idea to sauté some apple slices in a bit of butter and brown sugar, and we topped those with maple syrup. A good start to a day that mostly involved rainy beaches.

I hate to say this is one of those recipes Tasha and her grandma make by feel – but that’s another thing I love about them – there’s no written down formula that must be followed. I often think that recipes are detrimental, suggesting that the cook must follow orders to the letter or risk failure. This is not how to learn how to cook. There are so many variables, between cook, kitchen and ingredients – one experiment years ago had 20 professional food writers make the same cake, following the same recipe, and they all came out slightly different. Although I’m a bit of a recipe fanatic myself, I love when food like this comes along that you learn to make by watching your friend, and listening to her talk about her grandma teaching her in the same way. I love this. I think we should all teach one of our recipes we know by heart and feel utterly confident about cooking to someone else. Kids are always great subjects, but even experienced cooks are always learning. In fact, sometimes its those cooks who get stuck in ruts of making the same recipes over and over who need to be jarred out of their comfort zone. And so much of the appeal of any given food is its history and emotional connection. Am I reading too much into a pancake? Maybe. Maybe not.

To make these, try 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of milk and 2 eggs, whisked until smooth. (Tasha, are you reading this? Does that sound about right?) You want a batter slightly thicker than crepe batter (which is about the consistency of heavy cream), but a little thinner than regular pancake batter. It won’t be runny enough to swirl and coat the pan – you’ll need the back of a spoon to spread it around. Pour some oil into the pan between each pancake – this makes them wonderfully golden and crispy-edged. Once the surface of the pancake goes from shiny and wet to dry, it’s ready to flip over. (You won’t get the bubbles on the surface that you do from a baking powder-leavened pancake.) Best served to a room full of people, doling out a pancake at a time as it’s finished, with butter and syrup and jam and brown sugar on the table for all to spread and roll their own.

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22 comments on “Tasha’s Thin Pancakes

  1. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    April 1, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Oh yum.
    I love this. I love the story of the recipe, and the vision of a kitchenful of people, eating the pancakes as they are cooked- wrapping or dressing them however they feel, the smell of coffee and the warmth of kids in pjs and happy voices.
    THANK YOU.

  2. Krista
    April 1, 2011 at 7:54 am

    As a kid, my Nana used to make a similar type of crepe/pancake. We would put a tbsp of brown sugar in the middle and drizzle the brown sugar with a few drops of lemon juice (until you get a brown sugar syrup). Then spread over the pancake and roll as you did above. Sweet, sour, delicious.

  3. Kelly
    April 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Yum, because there is no sugar, I might try using them with savory fillings as well. They would even make a great breakfast wrap…scrambled egg or omelette, bacon, cheese. Can’t wait to try.

  4. Vivian
    April 1, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I’m going to put this “recipe” together right now. My Grandmother cooked the same way, by feel, with a pinch of this and a dollop of that. Frustrated me no end. I still can’t make her “recipes” as she did. Love how the method of spoon-swirling the batter into the pan makes the cakes look like full-blown flowers.

  5. Cathy N in Inglewood Calgary
    April 1, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Oh nummy! Don’t you love it when friends come to visit and they feel so comfortable that they jump right in and start cooking with you in the kitchen? I love that!… and eating delicious food (like these wonderful pancakes) that always result is a huge bonus :-)

    Continue to enjoy your time in Tofino (and don’t even think about those of us back here in Calgary waiting for the 10-20 cm of snow that is expected tomorrow!).

  6. Kathy
    April 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Yum! Can Tasha come over to our place next? :)

  7. Jennifer Jo
    April 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

    We call these Russian Pancakes, though ours are a little runnier than yours, and with more eggs. We fill them with cream cheese and fresh strawberries or blueberries, roll them up, and top with powdered sugar. (http://mamasminutia.blogspot.com/2008/08/medley.html)

    Or I saute onion and spinach to fill the pancakes, along with mozzarella, feta, and parmesan—roll and bake for fabulous finger food. (http://mamasminutia.blogspot.com/2009/04/not-all-that-difficult.html)

  8. Nutty Meg
    April 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

    What a nice surprise to go to your Blog today and see those yummy looking pancakes AND Tasha (I saw her sing at a birthday party last year and loved her performance so much that we had to get her CD!)

  9. Vivian
    April 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Just finished a whole recipe of these wonderful little “pfanekoek” (think that is what they were called in Dutch). Shared with friends…and rolled with some sugared bacon and maple syrup in the middle. Heaven!

  10. Kira
    April 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    These are Swedish pancakes at our house – we used to have contests as kids to see who could eat the most. We got greedy and would stack 2 or 3 of them with butter and syrup in between.

  11. Evelyn in Canada
    April 2, 2011 at 1:09 am

    That’s how my Dad made pancakes on weekends when I was growing up. Maybe it’s a Dutch thing? I love it when my friend from the past shows up in your blog. You can cook for us anytime, Tasha!

  12. Gillian @OneGiantStep
    April 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    We call these English pancakes and we have them rolled with lemon juice and sugar inside. Love them!!

  13. Kathleen
    April 2, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I just made a batch of these for dinner tonight. Served with pan-fried apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, and bacon, wrapped up and drizzled with maple syrup. I used to have bilinis (sp) like this in Moscow when I was young. They were served with sweet cheese and jam and rolled up like a cigar. They are probably my favourite memory of living there. I always have problems with cooking temps with batters like this – I start at med-high to get the crispyness, but soon the pan starts to smoke and I have to turn it down, ending up with pancake/crepes that are more white than toasty. What is the ideal temp and pan oiling method? And, why is one side always more brown than the other?

  14. Jessica
    April 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Just made these down here in New Orleans (visiting family/friends for Spring Break). They’re GREAT! They are VERY crepe like, without the pressure of trying to make crepes. :o) Loved them – thanks for sharing, Julie and Tasha!

  15. Natasha
    April 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Oh wow, I’m totally blown away! Thanks so much Julie – my Gramma and relatives will be thrilled to see this! I remember writing a short story called “Gramma Pancakes” sometime back in University so I’ll have to try find it.
    Yes Julie, the recipe sounds right. The only thing I forgot until the batter was half gone was a pinch of salt – that really does make a difference.
    I can’t wait to try them with lemon juice and love all the other suggestions and comments. My 87 year old Gramma will love finding out that someone in New Orleans is cooking these pancakes!
    With a friend like Julie, you’d think I’d be hesitant to step into her kitchen (okay, just a little). The most amazing thing about Julie though is just how comfortable she makes everyone feel. She’s every bit as warm, sweet and kind as she sounds from this blog. (Also, after she insisted we stay in the master bedroom while she took a mat on the floor — the pefect hostess, I had to do something…)
    So after driving in the rainy dark and crashing in Sicamous, getting ‘Revelstuck’ for 6 hours (good thing they have a great leisure center), and then crawling home from Banff in a blizzard to find Calgary a winter wonderland, yes, I’d rather be back in Tofino! The amazing view, the kayaking (thank you Mike), and the endless offerings of amazing food, fresh out of the oven made for the greatest escape from Calgary EVER!
    (My daughter Seren started realizing that if she mentioned something like apple pie or cinnamon buns, they’d appear as if by magic a few hours later….)
    Thanks again Julie – you are the best!

  16. the garlic rose
    April 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    thanks for this post and the stories – makes me miss my granny – but in a good way:)

  17. Paula (Salad in a Jar)
    April 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    These sound like the beginning of a great breakfast. Can’t wait to give them a try and serve with fresh fruit.

  18. Meta4
    April 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

    These pancakes are Swedish pancakes. I should know… I’m raised in Sweden on Swedish pancakes:)
    A tip for all you pancake lovers.
    1: Make lots of them, let them cool.
    2: Whip 2 cups of whipping cream.
    3: Bring out your best jam, R-B or S-B.
    4: Layer the pancakes with jam and whipped cream into a “cake”.
    5: Spread whipped cream on the outside just like you do with a regular cake. Decorate with fruit.
    Perfect as a brunch desert.
    Enjoy…

  19. JulieVR
    April 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Yes, and Tasha’s family is Swiss! Wow, the cake idea sounds fantastic! will try soon!

  20. Elizabeth
    April 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Thank you for freeing me from a recipe. I have done the same with crepes, but always faithfully followed the recipe. Eggs and flour differ from day to day, so I just love this go-with-the-flow approach. Can’t wait for next weekend to give these a try!

  21. Cream Sari
    June 5, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Hello mates, good post and pleasant urging commented at this place,
    I am in fact enjoying by these.

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