I KNOW IT DOESN’T LOOK MUCH. I PROBABLY WOULD’VE BYPASSED IT IF I WASN’T STUCK IN AMSTERDAM. BUT I’M GLAD I WAS. AND I KNOW YOU WILL, TOO
I’ve been to Amsterdam. For a total of 18 hours. I don’t know what people do during an overnight layover in a city they know nothing about, and I knew nearly nothing about Amsterdam.
However, pancake, seems to be a thing.
What did I know about “Amsterdam pancake”, or as I later found out, pannenkoeken? Not much, really, aside from that it’s starkly different from the verticality of common stacked pancakes, in fact, it’s one of the flattest stand-alone foods I’ve came across. And in my long years of hunting for culinary clues, when something spreads so unseemly, so 2D, so unornamented to a point of bleakness, yet is still adored as “a thing”, further investigation is warranted. And rest assured, I was not disappointed. To clarify upfront, during the only few hours of daytime we had, we only tried Amsterdam pancake once, from an unresearched, random cafe close to our Airbnb apartment, and had only a single pancake with cheese which we shared. All in all, what I’m trying to say is, I am no expert. But from the moment since the waitress placed something that looked exactly like this in front of us, as unflatteringly as it came, and I tore a small corner from the edge and put it faithfully in my mouth, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Chewy. Chewy was the first word that came to mind. But soft though, really soft. A combination of textures that, from the start, was already far more interesting than any of the spiritless associations of common pancakes, say, pfff, fluffy. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t exceedingly eggy like Dutch baby or french crepe, nesting comfortably in the natural and mild sweetness of wheat flours and milk. I also couldn’t stop thinking about how daringly minimal it presented itself on the table, a bare blanket of confidence with nothing else but a few slices of melted Dutch gouda on top, almost making a statement, declaring its independence from BS, secure with assurance. It felt playful to eat, interacting, but comfortable, like having a conversation with a soft-spoken but funny stranger who underdressed with ease, while the whole time I wondered if it was too weird to ask if we could be friends for life.
And that’s exactly what I did. All eight times of trials and errors. It felt funny going after something, with this much effort, when I wasn’t even sure if it’s a classic representation in its category. Is this the pannenkoeken? I have no idea. But I don’t really care. I just want to find my way to back to that particular one that I really liked. It was expectedly tricky to replicate that softly chewy texture which I hold as a key to its charm, leading to a combined conclusion of both wheat flour and potato starch in the batter.
I know it doesn’t look like much. And I probably would’ve bypassed it if I wasn’t stuck in a city full of it. But I’m glad I was. And I know you will, too.
- 1 1/2 cup (202 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp (30 grams) potato starch (see note)
- 1 cup (232 grams) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
- 3 tbsp (39 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Vegetable oil for the pan
- 10~12 thinly sliced gouda cheese
- We want the batter to be super smooth and even forming some gluten for the extra chewiness, so please use a blender or immersion blender instead of a whisk. Blend all purpose flour, potato starch, whole milk, water, melted unsalted butter, egg, light brown sugar and sea salt (leave the baking powder) until extremely smooth. Let the batter rest for at least 45 minutes, or you can prepare this the night before and keep it covered inside the fridge until needed.
- Before using, whisk in the baking powder until even and let rest for 10 min. Heat up a large, non-stick crepe pan over medium-high heat (the recipe make three 12" or 30 cm pancake, or 4~5 smaller ones). Brush to coat the pan lightly with vegetable oil. Pour enough batter into the pan to form a thin pancake (remember that this "pancake" is supposed to be much thinner than normal pancakes), swirling the pan to spread the batter out evenly. Cook until the first side is lightly browned, then flip, and scatter 3~4 slices of grouda cheese on top. The pancake is ready when the cheese is melted, and the second side is lightly browned.
Potato starch and cornstarch are not entirely the same. It can be interchangeable in some cases, but in this recipe, potato starch just yields a chewier texture.