Making Swedish Pancakes is Not for Sissies

not_for_sissies

Ann is writing about how I have taken over head-chef duties in the household while her fractured ankle heals, so it seems appropriate that I devote this Andy’s Corner to something chef-ish.  Actually, I have been waiting for the opportunity to elaborate on one of my signature breakfast dishes – Swedish Pancakes.  I’m not sure what “signature dish” means, but I suppose my 50 years of experience making them should somehow merit “signature” status.

Swedish pancakes entered my life shortly after Ann and I got engaged – something couples did before getting married back then.   Our engagement meant that I had to make an obligatory journey to Colorado to meet her parents and, if lucky, get their approval. 

Gladys with mother and father

A very early photo of Ann’s mother (on the right) with Ann’s grandmother Annie and Grandfather Gus.  

I did get their approval, but better yet, at their breakfast table I was introduced to Swedish pancakes.  It was a life-changing moment.  Ann’s mom (pictured above) used a recipe passed down by her Swedish mother, Annie Carlson (also pictured above).  We published this recipe in our Pass-along post in which Ann tells us that Swedish pancakes were an almost-weekly breakfast as she was growing up.  Turns out that they have been an almost weekly breakfast for us – as well as for our kids when they were growing up.  

The reason I have been wanting to revisit the recipe is that I suspect our instructions could be misleading to the naive reader regarding how “simple” it may be to produce decent Swedish pancakes.  Sure, putting together the batter is a piece of cake, so to speak.  But the cooking instructions are woefully understated:

Lightly butter a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until quite hot. Pour 1/3 cup batter into skillet. Swirl batter around to form a thin 8- to 9-inch pancake. Cook until small bubbles are visible on top and the underside is golden brown. Using a thin spatula, flip the pancake and cook until other side is lightly brown.

Sounds pretty simple huh?  Actually there is much more to these instructions than meets the eye.  To put some meat to these instructional bones I am going to walk you through my SOP (Standard Operating Procedure for you civilians out there) that I have developed over the years.

swedish pancake skillet

The Lodge 90G l0 1/2 inch skillet/griddle at high heat

The proper equipment is essential.  The “large skillet” I use is a Lodge 90G 10 1/2 inch fry pan/griddle (see photo).  Cast iron gets up to the necessary high (read, hazardous) temperatures required for the perfect pancake.  The pan needs to be low-rimmed so the spatula can easily slip under the pancake without destroying it.   For some odd reason, these skillets have obscenely short handles requiring industrial-weight oven mitts to handle them once they get up to temperature.  

spatulas

My spatula collection.  You can never have too many.

Second, it is essential to use a thin and somewhat flexible spatula (pictured). I can’t tell you how many spatulas I have tried and discarded over the years.  If too stiff it is difficult to maneuver under the pancake.  If too flexible it will not be steady while making the critical flip. 

Also, it helps to have something that consistently delivers the precise amount of batter to the pan.  I use a long handled 1/3 cup measuring cup.  

swedish pancake tool

Swedish Pancake tools: butter in custard dish, 1/3 cup measuring cup, the special spatula, and the cast iron skillet/griddle.

When I say the pan must be “quite hot” when the batter is poured, I mean smoking hot.  Fortunately, we have an exhaust fan over the stove.  Otherwise (and we learned this the hard way) you will be serving these guys to the tune of the deafening screech of a smoke alarm. 

Butter for Swedish Pancakes

“Lightly” buttering the pan.  Watch out for flare-ups from the butter vapor!

“Lightly buttering” the skillet is also tricky.  To butter the skillet I take a half cube of butter with the wrapping cut back half way and rub it on the hot skillet.  I use a small custard cup to hold the butter when not in use so as not to get butter all over the counter (Ann defines this as anal retentive behavior, but I can’t help it).  

After each pancake is removed and served I rub the butter on the pan getting ready for the next run.  If the pan is at the appropriately high heat don’t be surprised if the vapor from the butter causes a dramatic flare up from the stove burners (if you have an electric stove this should not be a problem, but you would be missing the excitement).

Here is the kicker to the instructions:   “Using a thin spatula, flip the pancake…”  This is something not to be taken lightly; it is a maneuver that requires considerable practice (and patience).  It is all in the wrist, not the arm. When I first started making these guys I probably ruined more in the flipping process than I completed.  So don’t get discouraged – at least for the first ten years of trying.

Swedish Pancake

A perfectly flipped Swedish Pancake

You may ask, why go to all of this trouble?  All I can say is that first, they taste fantastic, especially with your favorite jam or jelly.  Second, and probably more important, despite the many (many) years I have been making Swedish pancakes, I still get a perceptible thrill each time I flip one that does not rip and is nicely mottled on the underside (see above photo).  I would guess that this is not unlike talented artists who create art for the sake of the art itself.  Fortunately, this is a form of art that doubles for a great breakfast. Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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