Swedish pancakes are like crepes. Sometimes they are folded up into triangles. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Photo: Dreamstime
Photo: Dreamstime

In praise of the Swedish pancake

I’m an outlier when it comes to pancakes. An extreme one.

Where others see fluffy, I see a platter of cakey dough. Never mind the claim of “tender.” Show me a stack of plate-size behemoths, and I have to avert my eyes.

As I said, I’m an outlier (we all have our quirks), though even I have an exception. If sausage links are involved, I’ve been known to indulge, because who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket, whatever that blanket may be?

But I digress.

I do favor one version of the egg-milk-flour combo above all others: the Swedish pancake. I know, I know. Almost the same name, but definitely not the same flavor or texture, despite the similar ingredients.

Swedish pancakes are to traditional pancakes as regular burgers are to veggie burgers. That is, they vaguely look alike (they are both round), but few diners would mistake one for the other.

The Swedish version appears as thin and delicate as a crepe, and could be mistaken for one. The traditional pancake is, well, the usual hot cake we see on the plate. And you know how I feel about that.

I grew up in a household that served both. When my mother reached for the box of Bisquick on a Saturday morning, we knew what we were getting (that would be regular pancakes in all their sturdiness). All of us at the table, that is, except me. I made toast.

But on rare occasions when my father was out of town and my mother wanted to go crazy with the dinner plans — that would be serving anything but meat and potatoes — she would whip up the version of Swedish pancakes she found in her 1962 edition of “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.”

By the time I started my own kitchen, those Swedish treats had risen to the top of my list of favorite foods. This being the pre-Google era, I turned to the recipe in my mother’s cookbook (page 80, tucked between the Blintz Pancakes and the Jiffy Orange Pancakes), though I soon knew the formula by memory and regularly doubled it to feed the growing crowd at my table.

In later years, new versions of the “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” crossed my desk at the Star Tribune, and I would check on the status of the recipe for Swedish pancakes. One day it disappeared. Some editor had decided that cooks no longer were interested in this delicacy.

Today if you google the recipe, you will find many references to that 1960s version from BH&G.

When my kids came along, Swedish pancakes were our one and only rendition of pancakes on Saturday mornings, even though it was a lengthy process to get everyone fed. The batter for these is so thin that it’s best to make them one at a time, a challenge when everyone is hungry.

Recently during a visit from my daughter and her family, I broke out the frying pan and reached for this well-used volume, which now has a spot on my bookshelf. I needed a reminder of the proportions that had once been so familiar.

Three eggs, 1 1/4 cups milk and 3/4 cup flour, with a little sugar and salt. I whisked the ingredients together by hand, then set to work producing the pancakes one by one.

As usual, those waiting were hungry. Not so usual, this was a first for the son-in-law and grandkids.

“I’ll have another,” said the son-in-law. “Make that two.”

The grandbaby demanded an extra pancake, too. After her second one, sprinkled with powdered sugar, she licked the plate clean, truly a first for my cooking.

Then again, she is only 2 1/2 years old.

Welcome to the tribe of those who eat Swedish pancakes.

Swedish Pancakes

Amount varies by size of pancake.

Note: Most cooks will approve of the amount of sugar in these pancakes, but for those without a sweet tooth, it can be cut in half. This recipe is easily doubled. If there is extra batter, make the remaining pancakes and refrigerate them overnight or freeze them. From “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” (1968), with directions from Lee Svitak Dean.

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

3/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp. sugar (see Note)

1/2 tsp. salt

Vegetable oil

Beat eggs thoroughly and whisk in the milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. With a whisk or hand mixer, beat dry ingredients into the eggs, mixing until smooth. The batter will be very thin.

Warm a heavy frying pan the size of the pancake you want over medium heat. (A flat griddle can also be used.) Add a drizzle of oil on the bottom of the pan and swirl around so the entire bottom is covered. With a frying pan, you will be making these pancakes one at a time; the batter spreads out considerably. If using a griddle, you will likely be limited to a few pancakes at a time, unless your batter is unexpectedly thicker.

Add batter to the pan to form a single pancake. Flip the pancake once it seems firm enough to turn (it will not bubble up as a regular pancake does). Also take a peek under the edge of the pancake to make sure it has brown spots on it (that’s a sign the pancake is ready to flip). Cook the second side until it has light brown spots, too.

Serve these immediately, or keep them covered in a warm oven until you have enough to serve all. These are often served flat, rolled into cylinders or folded into quarters. They are often topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, fresh berries, jam (lingonberry is traditional) or whipped cream.

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