Last year we had a willowy blonde teenager living with us for a while. Jakolien is from Dutch roots, and one day we were talking about food, and things she remembered eating from her childhood. She told me about visiting an friend of her mother’s, who would make them poffertjes, and how much she had enjoyed them. I was intrigued by her description of button-sized pancakes, doused in melted butter and powdered sugar, but then thought no more of them. In that weird way that synchronicity works, a week later, Jak and I were waiting for takeaways, (yep, there are nights that I just don’t want to cook) and in the window of the shop next to the kebab restaurant was a poffertjes pan.
The next morning I raced down to the Dutch shop in Petone, and after tasting some of their nutty caraway Gouda, and browsing all the double-salted liquorice, headed home with a cast-iron poffertjes pan. The helpful lady in the store had told me that the pans came in cast-iron or cheaper non-stick aluminum, but that the the non-stick were inclined to warp easily and that it was hard not to burn the poffertjes in the lightweight pans.
So, what makes poffertjes so special. See that little pile of beige powder on the scales? That’s buckwheat flour, and that’s what gives these little pancakes their unique flavour. That, and the use of yeast instead of baking powder to make all the spongy little bubbles in the batter. Excellent for a late Sunday breakfast/brunch, the poffertjes batter is quick to throw together, left to mind its own business and then poured into a squeezy bottle, and then squirted out into little cakes that quickly turn golden.
Three reasons why you should make some poffertjes this weekend.
1. It’s really fun to say the word- poffertjes,poffertjes…
2. You get to squish stuff out of a squirty bottle
3. If you have them for brunch, you won’t need to eat till dinnertime.
Oh, and you don’t have to have a poffertjes pan to make these, but they won’t be quite as cute.
125gm ( 4oz) flour
125gm ( 4oz) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tbsp treacle or molasses
an indecent amount of butter, melted
Things to know: don’t put the batter into the squeeze bottle until you’re ready to cook, the batter may well ooze up and out of the bottle. The butter amount is unspecified as it depends on whether you are going to serve the poffertjes in the traditional manner, brushed with melted butter and showered with icing (confectioners) sugar, or if you will go with my serving alternatives. Just as with making regular pancakes, you’ll need to adjust the heat of the pan to get an even colour on the poffertjes.
Whisk the flour, buckwheat flour and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle the yeast into the warm milk, and whisk the treacle and egg into the milk also. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, and stir until smooth. Don’t worry about overmixing, as the buckwheat has very little gluten.
Go and have a coffee and read the Sunday paper for about 40 minutes.
Pour the batter into a squeeze bottle with a nozzle cap. Don’t worry about deflating the batter. It’ll be quite lively by now, and will recover its oomph quickly.
Heat a pofferjtes pan or a heavy fry pan over medium heat and brush with melted butter. If using poffertjes pan, squeeze enough batter to fill the dimples in the pan, otherwise make coat-button size dots of batter in the fry pan. When small bubbles appear on the surface, flip the poffertjes. I use a spoon and fork combo, but I can’t deny that it takes a bit of skill and practice to get the poffertjes over and neatly back into the depressions in the pan. Flip them out when they are nicely browned, and eat immediately.
I’ve mentioned the Dutch way of serving poffertjes, but some delicious alternatives are dipping them in a puddle of jam, dousing them in maple syrup, or my daughter Emily’s favourite, sweet apple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.