Friday, July 30, 2010


I love a recipe that comes from a grandmother.

It seems that every day at some point I think about my grandmother at night in her kitchen with yellowish light- getting batters together for the next morning's breakfast. I'm turning the sifter with a squeak, squeak and she's trying to get the dough out of her wedding ring. I loved that ring that squeezed her swollen finger. It was just old, and that was so refreshing to me as the child of the new age 80's.
It's been almost 15 years since I've baked with her, and I just can't seem to stop hanging out in those memories. But as I spend more time in my own kitchen, I notice a subtle but definite shift. Even at 31, I have a hard time believing in my own adulthood. I'm not sure when (if ever) it will ever sink in. But I can't ignore the fact that now it's my wedding ring encrusted with dough. Now it's Sadie with the sifter. Shirley might not be here physically, but it seems that without even consciously trying, I'm reenacting those memories. I'm playing her part in it all, and the girls have stepped into my old role.

This past week, we had a happy and spontaneous visit from Sarah and Jefferson. Usually we camp out up at their place in Portland, but this time they took hold of our guest room for a while. The night before they left, Sarah spied our little crepe pan and announced that we'd all be eating Norwegian pancakes the next morning before they hopped in their little car to head back up north.

As she whisked the batter and swirled the pan, Sarah started talking about her Norwegian great grandmother Volborg who passed this recipe down. I've known Sarah since I was two, and I'd never heard about Volborg.
In Sarah's family, these pancakes are reserved for Christmas and other special occasions when someone really needs a good pancake. They call them Norwegian Pancakes, but I'm pretty sure one might find them under the name of pannekaker. They are eggier than french crepes, and perfumed with cardamom. They were so fantastic that I begged her to let me share her family recipe. Of course! she said...Take it! If I can just get it down on paper...

And so, like most family recipes, this one might need a grandmother whispering in your ear. But Sarah has filled it in with as much advice as she could, and the experimentation will be up to you.

Norwegian Pancakes, or Pannekaker
(from Sarah, and Lyra, and Volborg)

serves four

4 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
whole milk (see directions for amount)

Whisk together the flour, salt and cardamom. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the flour mixture to create a paste. Slowly add melted butter while whisking. Add milk slowly until the batter coats a metal spoon- not too thick, not too thin.
Heat a crepe pan or small skillet until medium hot. Start to swirl the pan in a circular direction before you even pour the batter into the pan. Maintain the motion while ladling about 3/4 cup batter into the pan. Do not stop the swirling motion until the batter is evenly distributed. Return pan to burner, and flip when the underside is golden brown. Cook on the second side for 30 seconds, and then fold in thirds and transfer to a plate in a 200 degree oven to keep warm until serving.

Finding the right consistency of the batter will take a bit of experimentation. If the batter is too thin, it won't adhere to the pan. Sprinkle a little flour over the batter and whisk in. If the batter is too thick, it will look more like a pancake than a crepe. It should be so thin that you are worried that it will break- this is the texture that you are going for.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, on Christmas, or really any day that you need them.


  1. I feel so honored to be featured on Eating From the Ground Up! We're settling back in at home, but yesterday morning one of the first things Jefferson said was, "I miss Alana and Joey."

    A nice little trick with the Norwegian pancake recipe is that it can be grown or shrunk according to the following basic ratio:
    1 egg per person
    3 Tablespoons of flour per egg

    XOXO Sarah
    ~3 Tablespoons of butter per egg

  2. This looks so yummy -- somewhere between a crepe and an pancake? What language do Norwegians speak? Wait, I'll look it up.... Oh, Norwegian. If that was a Jeopardy question, I would have said Dutch. Woops.

  3. We have these quite often! Nearly identical recipe minus the cardamom. Our recipe came to us via Norwegian relatives in Dane County, Wisconsin. Raspberry preserves or honey over the top!

  4. Hi!
    I know that Americans use maple siryp on their pancakes, but if you want this to be truely norwegian pancakes, you should know that we sprinkle suger over them, blueberry jam and/or bacon :) You should try it!

    Norwegian girl

  5. Blueberry jam and/ or bacon? Yes and yes! Happy to go the authentic route here. Thank you!