These pancakes from 1658 England are the perfect midpoint in the evolution of my favorite breakfast foods. From their ancient past to their place on modern …
Is there a food that kind of makes you
feel not so great after eating it, but
you love it so much
you just eat it anyway? Maybe it's too
fatty, or too salty, or sweet, or just too
rich in general,
but every time you come across it on the
menu you say damn the torpedoes full
speed ahead,
iIm getting them! Well for me that food
is pancakes.
Basically after I eat a stack of
pancakes I'm useless for the rest of the
day just lie me on the couch turn on the
tv,
and come by every couple hours to make
sure I'm still breathing, but today I may
have found a recipe that actually
might work for me. It's from Cromwellian
England so mid-17th century,
and it's a pancake with no butter and no
lard, a pancake
for absolution. That will make sense
later, so just stick with me
this time on Tasting History.
Today's recipe comes from the 1658
cookbook
"The Compleat Cook. Expertly prescribing
the most ready wayes, whether
Italian, Spanish, or French for dressing
of flesh,
and fish, ordering of sauces, or making of
pastry." So I don't usually read the full
title of these old cookbooks because as
you can see
they tend to go on, but I love this one
because how often do you
read a title that has curly brackets in
it?
Anyway! "To make fine pancakes fried
without butter or lard
take a pint of cream and six new laid
eggs, beat them very well together
put in a quarter of a pound of sugar and
one nutmeg
or a little beaten mace (which you please)
and so much flour as will thicken almost
as much as ordinarily pancake batter
your pan must be heated reasonably hot
and wiped with a clean cloth
this done put your batter as thick or
thin as you please."
All right, so yes the recipe doesn't have
butter or lard, but it does have six
whole
eggs, and quite a bit of sugar so
I may still not uh feel well after these
but you know what that's my cross to
bear,
and I'm gonna soldier on so for this
recipe you'll need
one pint, or 475 milliliters of cream,
six eggs, one half cup or 113 grams of
brown sugar,
1 whole nutmeg or 2 teaspoons of ground
nutmeg,
or 1 teaspoon of mace, and 2 cups or 240
grams
of flour. Now when it comes to the flour
the recipe gives you a lot of leeway,
because it doesn't tell you exactly how
much flour to use,
and it says that you can make it as thin
or thick as you want. I like a fairly
fairly thick pancake, not like a crepe so
I went with two cups but
if you want something more like a crepe
just reduce it to maybe a cup and a half,
and if you want it a little bit thicker
then just
add some more flour. So first it's a good
practice to mix your eggs
off to the side in a separate bowl
before adding them to
any of the other ingredients. You don't
have to, you can just toss them on
in but sometimes you get shell and
sometimes they don't mix right so
it's always good to mix beforehand. Then
pour your cream into a large bow,l then
add the six eggs
and beat everything together until nice
and smooth so I whisked the cream and
the eggs together for quite some time
because i wanted to get some air in
there to give the the pancakes some
fluff.
Now modern pancakes usually have either
baking powder or baking soda or
something,
or yeasted pancakes to to give them a
rise, but
these pancakes don't have anything like
that so the eggs
that's all you got to to give it any
fluff.
Then pour in the sugar and whichever
spice you're going to use
and beat those in as well. Finally add in
your flour and mix it nice and gently
just until there are no clumps. You don't
want to overmix the flour because
it can become kind of chewy so you can
use all-purpose flour for this recipe. I
would steer away from bread flour, it's
going to make the pancakes a little too
chewy I think.
I ended up using whole wheat stone
ground pastry flour from Bob's Red Mill,
they make a really nice pastry flour
that's perfect for
a nice delicate pancake. Now that your
batter is mixed you can go ahead and
leave it for about 20 to 30 minutes
either in the fridge or just out in the
open with something
covering it, and it'll give the flour
some time to
absorb all the liquid and just relax, and
while the flour relaxes
you too can relax while I explain the
history
of pancakes.
"Pancakes are frankly difficult and not
worth eating at all
unless they are of paper thinness and
succulent tenderness"
– Vogue Magazine (1935).
Well Vogue Magazine when it comes to
those cerulean blue military jackets by
Yves Saint Laurent,
you may know what you're talking about
but when it comes to breakfast foods
you're out of your league. Pancakes have
been eaten all over the world for
thousands of years
and in every possible form not just
paper-thin
and tender. Fifty-three hundred years ago
poor Ötsy the iceman
enjoyed one last meal before being
murdered, and frozen for posterity
in the Italian alps. And what was old
Ötzi's last meal?
That's right, a pancake! Kind of. See
scientists found einkorn and charcoal in
his stomach
and deduced that what he probably had
was a primitive form
of pancake. Granted instead of sausage or
bacon Ötzi opted for dried ibex meat no
longer available with the Rooty Tooty
Fresh N' Fruity breakfast,
but you get the idea now Ötzi would not
have had a sweet pancake like we have or
really anything
that we would associate with pancakes.
For that
we have to go to ancient Rome on the
streets of ancient Rome you could get
alita dolce or
another sweet it was basically a pancake
made with milk
flour and egg just like today they even
put some spice in it
and drizzled it with honey a precursor
perhaps to our modern day maple syrup.
Pancakes spring up in almost every
culture around the world.
Around the horn of Africa they have
something called injera which
are huge pancakes, very thin made of teff
flour,
and are used not only for eating but as
the actual plate itself,
and often the utensil. And if you have an
Ethiopian restaurant near you
I suggest going and having a meal
because they will serve this injera
and it's just a really cool experience
so
go. I Japan they have a savory pancake
called okonomiyaki that's made with
flour, eggs, cabbage, and sometimes pork or
even
octopus, something you probably aren't
going to find at IHOP.
You can find pancakes made of rice
called chatānmari in Nepal,
and in every part of India they have
some form of pancake.
There's dosa made with fermented batter,
or patishapta which I've always wanted
to try.
They're stuffed with dates or coconut, or
a sweet thickened milk.
I love that stuff, and speaking of
stuffing pancakes
that's a thing everywhere too. Ashkenazi
Jews fill blintz with cheese and fruit,
and in Hungary they have something
called gundel palascinta
stuffed with walnuts and raisins, and
topped with chocolate sauce and
sometimes they even put rum in it
to flambé it, and flambeing pancakes well
that's a whole thing too.
One of the most famous pancakes in the
world with quite the origin story
started with flambeing. Supposedly it was
in 1895 at the Cafe du Paris
in Monte Carlo when the future king
Edward vii was dining with a lovely
young woman named
Suzette. Then in the words of their
fourteen-year-old assistant waiter Henri
Charpentier
"It was quite by accident that the
cordials caught fire. I thought I was
ruined. The Prince and his friends were
waiting.
How could I begin all over? I tasted it.
It was the most delicious melody of
sweet flavors
I had ever tasted… The Prince ate the
pancakes…
He asked me the name of that which he
had eaten with so much relish.
I told him it was to be called Crepes
Princesse…
Will you said his majesty change Crepes
Princesse
to Crepes Suzette? Thus was born and
baptized this confection,
one taste of which, I really believe
would reform a cannibal
into a civilized gentleman." Who knew
cannibalism was so rampant a problem in
late 19th century Monaco,
but while every culture has their own
pancake I mean i have like a list of 50
I could have gone into so I apologize if
I
skipped over your country, but we'd be
here all day.
But the actual name pancake comes from
English around
the 14th or 15th century about the same
time that we start seeing what would
become the favored method of fundraising
for the Boy Scouts,
and elementary schools all over the
pancake breakfast. Shrove Tuesday
a day to be shriven, or absolved.
I told you we get back to this Shrove
Tuesday, or
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras was the last
day
a Medieval Englishman, or English woman
could
gorge themselves into oblivion before
the 40 days of
fasting called Lent, and what better way
to gorge yourself
than with a pancake breakfast. "On the
morning of Shrove Tuesday the whole
kingdom is quiet,
but by that time that the clock strikes
eleven, there is a bell rung
called The Pancake-bell the sound
whereof makes thousands of people
distracted
and forgetful of manners or of humanity,
then there is a thing called wheaten
flour, which the sulfury Necromantic
cooks do mingle
with water, eggs, spice, and other tragical
magical enchantments,
then they put it by little and little
into a frying-pan of boiling suet,
where it makes a confused dismal hissing
(like the Lemian snakes in the reeds of
Acheron, Styx or
Phlegeton) until at last, by the skill of
the cooks
it is transformed into the form of
a Pancake, which ominous incantation the
ignorant people do devour
very greedily." Now John Taylor who wrote
that in 1620 did not actually believe
that the pancakes were of the devil, it
was written with a bit of
tongue-in-cheek
kind of mocking the church at the time,
and some other institutions but
I just, I love it. Anyway after filling
their bellies on a pancake breakfast the
town people somehow
got up the energy to play games in
sports including one called
mob football which is exactly as it
sounds.
Then stuffed and probably battered and
bruised a bit, they would make their way
to the church
to ask for final forgiveness before the
40 days of lLent.
Now while the pancakes we're making
today would have come out of this same
tradition
I feel like the absence of suet and
magical enchantments for that matter
kind of lifted up out of the muck in the
mob football world and into
the light sophisticated pancake that we
know
today. The kind that takes me 24 hours
from which to recover,
and I can't wait to get back to them. So
let's do it.
So per that original recipe you'll need
a pan, or a griddle
wiped with a clean cloth, and then put on
the stove
about medium heat until it's nice and
hot. Once it's hot rub some cold butter
on it just to give it a nice coating,
and then dole out your first pancake. Now
depending on how thick or thin your
batter ended up being
it's going to depend on how long you're
going to leave it on the griddle but
really what you're looking for
is for the top to go from shiny to
matte, and if there are any bubbles for
those bubbles to all have popped.
Once that happens flip it over, leave it
on the griddle for about another minute,
and then take it off and repeat ad
nauseam. This recipe made me about a
dozen pretty good sized pancakes,
so if you want more double it and if you
want less…
who would want less pancakes? It does not
compute. >:/
So here we are our 17th century pancakes.
They look gorgeous, they smell amazing
and you can really get that aroma of the
of the mace coming through which I'm
excited to taste.
So how do we eat these? We can eat them
plain
which was which was often done. You
didn't get like a stack of pancakes, you
just got
a pancake, or two pancakes and you ate
them with your hands. Another way to eat
them
would be there are stories of putting
honey on them, or berries or
nuts, even sugar or salt oddly enough.
So i'm gonna try one plain get the
flavor of the pancake and then i'm gonna
try one with
maybe some nuts and berries and honey. Do
it all,
why not? So here we go.
Plain pancake, flat
warm uh let's see how it goes.
Two little bites.
Hm, so the texture is a lot like a modern
pancake,
though maybe not like as fluffy, not as
airy but still
very soft and tender.
Really something you'd recognize,
what you won't recognize is the flavor,
and that's that's due to the
rather large amount of spice. You know
that's a lot of mace,
it's not overpowering at all but that's
definitely the the flavor that's coming
through, and I think if you're going to
eat them plain
they need to have something like that.
You know now
we put maple syrup on it or boysenberry
maybe
and so that's the flavor that kind of
dominates and pancakes are just a
kind of a vessel to your mouth but this
the flavor needs to be a spice, and
and that's what it is and the sugar it's
nice and sweet but
not overpowering at all.
Now let's try for something a little
more overpowering we're gonna put some
berries and honey and nuts on there.
We'll give it a shot.
I took way too big a bite. (O_O)
Okay so once you add all of the all of
the accoutrement
to the pancake they really take over
the flavor you can still taste
the mace but the honey and the
and the berries especially kind of
really take over, and I kind of like that
it's a little more complicated.
Honestly I might not do all three
next time, the nuts the berries and
the honey, maybe just honey
to give it kind of a sweet golden flavor
(whatever gold
tastes like) or just the berries,
maybe like a compote actually would be
really nice.
Anyway yeah I love pancakes
they're just so good, they were good 400
years ago and they're still good today
they were
probably good when old Ötzi was eating
his einkorn
pancake before he got murdered. All right
so if you end up making your own
pancakes whether they be modern,
or from the 16th or 17th century or
going back to the
Roman times please make sure to share
pictures with me on Instagram and
Twitter
i'll put my handles down in the corner
here or
in the description and I will see you
next time on Tasting History.
I'm going to eat these pancakes now,
thank you very much.

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