We are keeping the Continental theme going here at LondonEats, but taking it up a level to something that does need a bit of specialist equipment.
One of the oddest looking items in my kitchen has the shape of a frying pan but with about 20 dimples in it. While I am sure this would offer a very nifty way to batch-fry quail’s eggs, this is in fact a pan for making poffertjes, aka mini Dutch pancakes. These are about 3cm across, and are served with butter and icing sugar. When I bought it, I actually had no idea what poffertjes were, but the thing looked so intriguing (and only cost 5 euro), so I went for it. When I told my Dutch friends what I had found and that I intended to make poffertjes, I was greeted with blank stares. This is the sort of thing you would get at fairs in the Netherlands (and somewhat bizarrely, increasingly in London), but they said that normally they would just buy them, pre-made (shudder), from the local store. As with many things, home-made is so much better, and I was resolved to press on regardless.
But how to make them? You could buy the mixture and add water, but that is (1) cheating, (2) less satisfying, and (3) you don’t really know what is in there. So I looked for a recipe. Some just involved a bit of flour, milk, egg and baking powder. This sounds like the usual pancake recipe and would be plausible, but then I learned about the secret – you need to use part buckwheat flour and include yeast in the recipe. This is a bit more work, but the taste is un-be-lieve-able. With the recipe I use, the poffertjes are in effect savoury, if not slightly salty, with a nutty wholesome flavour from the buckwheat. Once they are done, you could be sophisticated and dust over a little icing sugar and add a pat of butter, or do what the Dutch seem to do – drench them in icing sugar and then drown them in melted salty butter. Not perhaps the healthiest, but one of the most utterly delicious, buttery treats I have ever had.
If you can get hold of the right pan (the Dutch homeware store HEMA is a good bet, with branches in Belgium and Germany too), then these really are worth having a go at. Kids and Dutch people will love you all the more for making them.
To make poffertjes:
• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water
• 15g fresh yeast or 1 packet dried yeast
• 50g melted butter, cooled
• pinch of salt
Dissolve the yeast in three tablespoons of lukewarm milk and put to one side.
In a large bowl, mix the plain and buckwheat flours. Add the yeast mixture, the milk and the water to make a thick batter. You want something that looks like pancake batter – basically, the mixture should flow from the back of a wooden spoon, but should not flow too quickly. You may find that you don’t need all the water, so don’t add it all at once.
Now add the salt, melted butter and the egg, and mix well.
Cover the bowl with a damp teacloth, and leave somewhere warm for at least half an hour until the mixture is covered in small bubbles.
To cook the poffertjes, lightly grease the pan with a little butter (if the pan is no-stick, you won’t need to do this). Heat the pan on a medium heat. Fill a sauce bottle (one with a small nozzle), and then squirt the mix into the pan (saves fiddling with spoons or a piping bag). The mixture will swell slightly as the yeast gets jiggy, so don’t over-fill. When the top of the poffertje is almost dry, flip over and cook briefly on the other side.
Once all the poffertjes are cooked, serve with melted butter and icing sugar.
Worth making? Absolutely yes! This might all seem like a bit of a faff, but they are fun to serve and are utterly delicious. It actually takes about 5 minutes to make the batter, and about 15 minutes to cook them. If you see a poffertjes pan on your travels, buy it immediately!