These Mini Dutch Pancakes Are the Best Brunch Food You Haven't Tried
There's no denying that the world is bursting with great food, and unless you've got a well-worn passport, you're missing out on some real highlights. One of them is a Dutch cafe favorite: poffertjes. Made up of tiny little puffs of buckwheat pancakes and topped with luscious butter (most traditionally), these are your future brunch go-to.
To learn more about poffertjes, I chatted with Miri Plowman, who whips up these little ones every day at both her weekend farmer's market stand and daily Snack Shack, Miri's Seattle.
What are Poffertjes?
If you're going to make ‘em (or order ‘em), you should probably be able to pronounce them. "PAW-fur-cheese" is a rough approximation, though Plowman says if you want to go really Dutch, you'll squeak the "o" with a little rising vocal.
The name references the pan they're made in, which is traditionally cast iron and -- in the Netherlands -- rather large. You can buy a hand-held, more manageable size which makes about 15 at a time. As opposed to Aebelskiver or takoyaki pans, poffertjes pans are shallower. Says Plowman, you can try the batter in those, but they won't cook quite right. Poffertjes need to fluff up, and the shallowness is crucial.
Given the puffiness of these treats, home cooks may have guessed that yeast is involved. Some recipes may call for baking soda, but Plowman says that yeast will give a more airy texture and allow for her favorite part: a little fermentation. In fact, she says ferment fans will dig leaving their batter in the fridge for a few days to give an extra pungent flavor.
The other thing about poffertjes: They're made with buckwheat flour. Although Plowman says the ones she found at many cafes in Holland were on the lighter side, traditional poffertjes were made with 100 percent buckwheat and are gluten free. The reason, Plowman says, is that there was a long period in Europe when getting wheat was almost impossible, and most baked goods were made with buckwheat.
The earthy flavor of buckwheat is a bit like rye flour, and it lends itself well to savory preparations. Today, after much experimentation, her recipe is about ¼ buckwheat to ¾ Shepherd's Grain low-gluten flour. You can experiment with your own mixture to find the right taste and texture for you.
How to Serve Poffertjes
Though she also serves a buttery, powdered sugar-rich variety, Plowman wanted a more exciting landscape of ingredients. She tops hers with poached quince and whipped cream. She's also known for a version with sauteed mushrooms, and often tops it all with an egg. Labneh - which is a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese -- is a secret weapon, too; it's rich and keeps its structure well. Add olive oil and Middle Eastern herbs such as za'atar, and she's a happy camper. Juicy fruits and veggies, like halved tomatoes, are tricky, as they dampen the little cakes, but otherwise, the sky is the limit for topping them -- in fact, Plowman now makes some with Pecorino in the batter, while another project is a "flawless chocolate cake" variety.
Miri's Poffertjes Recipe
375 g flour
125 g buckwheat
1 tsp salt
20 g yeast
2 Tbsp sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups water
Melted butter, for cooking
Toppings, as you wish
- Mix wet ingredients together in a large, non-reactive bowl.
- In another bowl, mix dry ingredients.
- Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet until just mixed and lump-free.
- Let sit out for an hour or in the refrigerator overnight.
- In a medium-hot cast iron poffertjes pan, brush melted butter. ("Don't be afraid to let it pool a bit!" says Plowman.) Don't let it get too hot, or they'll burn before they cook through.
- Batter can be dropped into wells, or added to a squeeze bottle and squeezed into each hole. When bubbles form (like in pancakes), use a toothpick or skewer to flip to the other side. If a bit of batter emerges, that's okay, you can always flip back over.
- Let sit on second side until cooked, then flip all poffertjes into a bowl.
- Section out about 12-15 poffertjes per person and top as you wish.