The exceptional baking of Norway has been on my mind lately, with recipes I have been making since the 1970’s: I published the Yuletide bars Mor Monsen’s Kaker on 2017/11/27; and now I offer Norwegian Oven Pancakes. This effortless baked pancake blesses at anytime, but truly it triumphs at a holiday breakfast-may it grace your Christmas morning, either before or after gifts.
Not always has the making of a pancake been so simple; in Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson details the time-consuming directions, published in the advice book Le Menagier de Paris, in 1393: take eggs, the fairest wheaten flour, and warm white wine-in place of milk-beating all together “long enough to weary one person or two” (this was done in a household of servants).
Almost every nation boosts of their own particular version of pancakes, some sweet and others savory; there isn’t room to define these multiple, provincial modifications; I will review, however, those of several countries that capture my interest in particular.
The Nordic pancake is typically like a French crepe, but their oven variation ugnspannkaka resembles a German pancake-also known as a Dutch Baby-which is baked, thick, and unleavened; today’s entry is the ugnspannkaka.
On the other hand, American hotcakes and griddlecakes are always made with a raising agent, such as baking powder, along with flour, eggs, and milk; thus, they swell and bubble in the hot frying pan. In the 19th century, prospectors and pioneers employed sourdough starter for the rising of this light, airy flapjack; such is still the popular Alaskan mode.
Johnnycake and bannock are pancake types of old. In world history, bannock dates back as early as 1000 A.D.; hence both the Native Americans and settlers were making this in early North America. The Natives used corn, nut meal, and plant bulb meal in this creation; the immigrant’s technique was Scottish in origin, in which oatmeal was the key component.
Johnnycake was first recorded here by Amelia Simmons in American Cookery, 1796, with the ingredients of Indian meal, flour, milk, molasses, and shortening (for the history of shortening, see my Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30). These flat corn cakes were a staple in young U.S.A.
In England, pancakes are without a rising agent, using primarily flour, eggs, and milk, which results in their being close to French crepes. Served for a sweet dessert or as a savory main course, these British cakes date back centuries, for Gervase Markam wrote their instructions in The English Hus-wife (1615); she, however, substituted water for milk and added sweet spices. That nation’s Yorkshire pudding, a similar receipt to their pancakes, rises only slightly, by the well-beaten air in this batter without leaven.
These English unleavened varieties of flannel cake differ from their risen form found in Scotland, which includes baking soda and cream of tartar; there are also numerous variables in Wales-among which some incorporate yeast, others oatmeal.
African pancakes, such as those in Kenya and South Africa, most often resemble the English crepe. In Afrikaans, these unleavened English crepes are known as pannekoeke, while plaatkoekies refer to American-style “silver dollar” risen pancakes. In Uganda, the pancake is united with their staple banana, usually being served at breakfast or as a snack.
Of all the vast productions, present-yet differing-in almost every nationality, the Ethiopian one enchants me the most; there they have injera, a very large spongy affair, which acts as a huge platter for their stews and salads to be served on at their feasts. With the right hand, one tears the edges off this yeast-risen flatbread, to scoop up the meal, finally eating the underlying “tablecloth”, in which all the foods’ juices have been absorbed. In 1984, I had the great pleasure of spending a whole day with an Ethiopian family in Billings, Montana, while they taught me how to cook and eat this authentic repast-I was fascinated with its injera, which simultaneously acted as a plate, an eating utensil, and finally the food itself.
Of all these above mentioned recipes, our Norwegian oven pancake is the most simple. Enjoy this festive delight, which only takes minutes to assemble. It is indeed glorious!
Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012, 2013), p. 147.
James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 52.
Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 548.
Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, reprinted), p. 57.
Norwegian Oven Pancake Yields: 6 servings. Total prep time: about 45 min/ active prep time: 15 min/ baking time: 30-40 min. Note: leftovers are delicious either cold or at room temperature.
6 lg eggs
1/2 c sugar (Coconut sugar is ideal; for its health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)
3/4 c flour (Bob’s Red Mill organic, unbleached white flour is high quality, or substitute whole wheat pastry flour.)
1 tsp salt (Real Salt, pink salt, is important for premium health; available at nutrition center in local supermarket.)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c milk (May use an alternative milk, such as hazelnut or almond.)
piece of butter the size of an egg, about 5 tbsp
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- With an electric mixer, beat eggs in a large bowl; blend in sugar, salt and vanilla; gently, quickly mix in flour.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9” x 13” pan in hot oven; watch carefully.
Very slowly add milk to above egg mixture, beating continuously.
- When butter is melted, roll it around baking dish, coating entire pan.
- Pour batter in greased baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until batter is set.
- Serve hot. (Cold leftovers are also great!)