The cultural landscape of modern civilization is colored, in part, by the proliferation of the pancake.Our DNA must be hard-wired to love ’em: prehistoric man, according to Ken Albala’s book “Pancake: A Global History,” is said to have fried a version of pancake on a flat rock. Today, most of us find a griddle or sauté pan more convenient.
The Shakespearean character Touchstone rhapsodizes over good pancakes in “As You Like It.” According to Wikipedia, Maslenista, a pre-Lenten holiday celebrated in Russian and Ukranian communities, is also known as Pancake Week, where pancakes are said to symbolize the sun.
Name a region on our planet, and I’ll bet they’ve got some version of pancakes reflecting their customs and cuisine. Potato pancakes, known as Raggmunk in Sweden, are often fried in bacon fat and served with a side of bacon. In Germany, tradition is to serve a similar potato cake,Kartoffelpuffer, with apple sauce or, perhaps, sour cream. Travel further to Indonesia and you’ll find Serabi, pancakes generally made with rice flour, coconut milk and shredded coconut.
Pancakes are comfort food, fast food (from pancake houses and street vendors), religious food, celebration food, obviously breakfast food and (these days) great recession food.
Pancakes can be anything you want them to be. I want them to be an excuse not to drink Michigan maple syrup directly from the bottle.
I also want to use pancakes as a palate for the assortment of Michigan apples I purchased from the farmers market. A mixture of Empires, Prime Golds and Galas are just a few of the many apples that would be wonderful in this recipe. I like a combination of tart and sweet apples and always select apples that retain their shape and texture when cooked. Stickers
on the apples sold in local groceries often indicate the varietals flavor,or ask a recommendation from an apple farmer at the farmers market.
Certainly you could make pancakes from a box, but the main ingredients required are flour, baking soda, baking powder and sugar – you may have them all in your cupboard. I combine whole wheat flour with white flour, but you may use exclusively one or the other. I made the apple-syrup before I made the pancakes; they soaked up additional maple flavor resting in the pan, I then reheated the syrup a couple of minutes before serving the pancakes. Any leftover syrup would be marvelous served over vanilla ice cream.
The next time you take a bite from a stack of pancakes, give a mental thank you to our Neanderthal predecessors for the recipe. I’ve grown rather fond of the under-appreciated caveman in the Geico commercials and think he’d enjoy the credit!