Thursday, April 11, 2013

Poffertjes – Dutch mini pancakes

Holland is not famous for its culinary heritage and the Dutch will attest to that themselves. Their influences are so varied that everything is kind of intertwined. Flavors from Indonesia and Surinam (former Dutch colonies), from Morocco and Turkey, the Caribbean and the Middle East are all evident in Dutch cooking. The use of spices is prominent, they were the kings of the spice trade after all, and there is a strong influence from the French and German cuisines as well.






When people ask me to describe Dutch cuisine for them, I never know what to say exactly. The traditional Dutch food is based on mash and meat, soups and stews that are not at all appealing to my Mediterranean palate. I find them bland, boring and uninteresting. There are exceptions of course like their heavenly and famous cheeses, the bitterballen (meat-based fried snack) and other meaty and cheesy snacks, but where the Dutch really shine, is in their sweets. There the Dutch have something special going on for them.






It all started with the stroopwafel (thin waffle filled with caramel syrup), the first ever Dutch sweet I had in Holland; I swooned when I ate that. Then came the olieballen, large doughnut fritters filled with apples and cinnamon drenched in icing sugar, then came the bosche bollen, a riff on the French profiteroles but bigger, lighter and with more chocolate and cream, then the Dutch panenkoeken (large thin crepes) that are the best, and finally the little poffertjes.






Poffertjes are small pancakes made in a traditional poffertjesplaat, a special pan that has indentations which give the poffertjes their characteristic puffed up appearance on both sides. Poffertjes date back to the 17th century when Dutch monks used to offer them as hosts. During the French revolution, there was a shortage in wheat-flour so the monks started making the batter with buckwheat flour; the end result was a thicker and tastier host. Today, poffertjes are commonly made with a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour.






They are about two centimeters in diameter, they have a light, spongy and fluffy texture with a slightly creamy center and their flavor is somewhat neutral. They’re not sweet, as the batter doesn’t contain any sugar, which is why they are traditionally accompanied by copious amounts of icing sugar and are dotted with salted butter that slowly melts over the warm mini puffed-up disks.






If you ever travel to the Netherlands and visit any type of fair, you will see stalls making and selling these little beauties by the hundreds; the Dutch love them, especially the kids. Below you can see how they make them in Volendam.






You would, with good reason, think this is a breakfast kind of pancake but no, the Dutch don’t eat poffertjes for breakfast. To them, it’s a sweet snack, enjoyed any other time of the day, but you can cheat and have these with a hot cup of coffee in the morning. No one needs to know.











Poffertjes – Dutch Mini Pancakes
Adapted from Janny de Moor

I understand that most of you will not have a poffertjesplaat (pan) to make these but don’t be discouraged because you can certainly make them in a regular non-stick or cast-iron pan. They will not have a two-sided puff but that’s fine, the taste is what matters the most.

If you have a squeeze bottle, it will be easier to fill the indentations of your poffertjes pan or make mini pancakes in a regular pan.

In Holland they may be traditionally served with butter and icing sugar but you can treat them as typical pancakes and douche them in maple syrup, honey or a berry coulis, or serve them with fruits and whipped cream.






Yield: about 100 (I know, it sounds a lot, but trust me, they are very small and if you have people over for brunch, they will disappear in a flash. Also, you can reheat them the next day and have them for breakfast)

Ingredients
4 g instant dried yeast
150 g all-purpose flour, sieved
100 g buckwheat flour, sieved
300 ml lukewarm whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
Pinch of salt

100 g unsalted butter, melted, for greasing the pan

Butter, for serving
Lots of icing sugar, for serving

Special equipment: sieve, wire whisk, measuring jug or poffertjes bottle (squeeze bottle), poffertjes pan or regular non-stick pan (or cast-iron pan)


Preparation
In a large bowl, add the yeast, the sieved flours, half of the milk and the beaten eggs and whisk until you have a stiff dough. Add the rest of the milk followed by the salt and whisk well until you have a smooth batter without any lumps. The batter will be runny.
Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and place at a warm place for about 1 hour to rise. It should look bubbly.
Whisk again lightly and empty the batter which will be slightly runny, in a measuring jug or a poffertjes bottle which is a squeeze bottle.


Using a poffertjes pan
Heat your poffertjes pan over a medium-high heat and when hot, grease the whole pan, not just the holes, with melted butter. Fill all the holes with batter by ¾ and cook for 3-4 minutes on one side. Once you see that they’re dry on top with small holes and the bottom is golden brown, it’s time to turn them over with one or two forks and let them cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes until they are golden brown. (A two-pronged fork is traditionally used to flip over the poffertjes and remove them from the pan). Be careful not to overcook them. You want the centers to be creamy and just set, not dried out.
Remove them from the pan and onto a plate, grease the pan again with melted butter and continue coking the next batch. Continue in the same manner until you have no more batter left.


Using a non-stick (or cast-iron) pan
Heat the pan over medium-high heat and when hot, grease the bottom with melted butter. Add 1-2 tablespoonfuls of batter to create each poffertje. Each one should be around 6 cm in diameter. Space them well apart, otherwise you might end up with one large pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side. Once you see that they’re dry on top with small holes and the bottom is golden brown, it’s time to turn them over with one or two forks and let them cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes until they are golden brown. Be careful not to overcook them. You want the centers to be creamy and just set, not dried out.
Remove them from the pan and onto a plate, grease the pan again with melted butter and continue coking the next batch. Continue in the same manner until you have no more batter left.

Poffertjes are eaten hot. Serve them, dotted with salted (or unsalted if you wish) butter and a generous sprinkling of icing sugar.

If you have any poffertjes left, you can reheat them in the microwave the next day. They will not be as good as the first day you made them but still, they’ll be enjoyable.





23 comments:

  1. Great post! I will sent it to my Israeli friends who bought a poffertjesplaat when they visited us.
    Ilona

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oooh it's been many years since I last tasted these gorgeous little things. A Dutch-Australian friend introduced them to me when I was about 18 years old. Along with salted liquorice, speculaas and kojiminikaas, I love them all!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ilone — Thank you! I hope your friends will enjoy making these.

    John — it's time to taste them again by making your own :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Loved this post.The Japanese also make street-food versions.
    We have our own savoury and sweet varieties.
    I was wondering about your mini-pancake pan?
    Love the post and the pictures!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love the Dutch language. All the names sound so...cute! These mini pancakes live up to the name :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tiny pancakes! Eeee! :) This definitely makes me want to be on the lookout for a poffertjesplaat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have a poffertjes pan but have never made a successful batter that puffs up the way your little pancakes have. I will definitely be trying your recipe - thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have already been shopping online for a poffertjes pan! I have never heard of them but they sound amazing. I also love they that are yeast-based; I can imagine they have great flavor.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We are on our way to The Netherlands in a couple of weeks to visit family. I am already looking forward to eating these very Dutch treats. Thanks for this interesting story.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love them!!....it so Dutch!!....I have posted your chick peas soup...I hope you like it!!........Abrazotes, Marcela

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm so excited to try these. They look great. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a neat little recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You just taught me something new... thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a great little recipe. Sounds just perfect for me to make for my 6, 5 and 3 year old grandsons and would

    ReplyDelete
  15. I found a poffertjes pan recently at a local Dutch store I discovered here in Ottawa, Canada. I bought a mix of poffertjes. My, are they ever good ! It's like biting into a cloud. And with butter and icing sugar, it's divine.
    Next time, I will make this recipe instead of buying the package at the store.
    A poffertjes pan is well worth the investment by the way!

    ReplyDelete
  16. 2 cm is to small we make them here in Holland between 4 and 7 cm
    Good luck with baking .
    Not to dry but just done

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jos. Meant around 6cm. Typo :)

      Delete
    2. I'm looking for a squeeze bottle to dispence the batter. Where would I be able to buy one

      Delete
    3. Hi Jomi. If you do an internet search I'm sure you'll find some online sellers.

      Delete
  17. Mine came out as tiny pancakes because I didn't have the pan. I reheated them with the oven twice in one day. Is that okay?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charlene. I have never reheated them twice and I wouldn't suggest you do so. Once is okay.

      Delete
  18. Do they taste really different from regular american pancakes (is it completely different) ? or is it just the size?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never had american pancakes so can't tell you.

      Delete