Pancakes are probably one of the earliest foods eaten in prehistoric societies. Flours were made of cattails and other plants, which were mixed with water and baked. Ancient Greeks and Romans made pancakes with wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk.
A pancake is a thin, flat, round cake that is cooked on a hot surface such as a griddle or skillet. Pancakes vary depending on culture. In France, an unleavened batter is used to make very thin pancakes called crepes. Some European countries make potato pancakes using grated or leftover mashed potatoes.
If you have ever eaten Ethiopian food, injera is a spongy form of a pancake. Small pieces of the injera are used to pick up the food. South Africans serve pancakes with cinnamon sugar. Pancakes in Uganda are made with bananas.
Those who have sampled Peking Duck know that the dish is served with Chinese pancakes and scallions. Many other Asian countries have their own versions of sweet or savory pancakes. Rice or rice flour is often a key ingredient.
Baking powder is used as a leavening agent to make fluffier pancakes commonly served as a breakfast food in the United States. There are buttermilk pancakes and buckwheat pancakes. Johnnycakes are made of cornmeal and are popular in New England. Sourdough pancakes are common in Alaska.
Americans usually serve breakfast pancakes with butter and maple syrup, but many other toppings can be used. My Polish cousin made large thin pancakes spread with strawberry jam which were then rolled and dusted with powdered sugar.
Through the years, I have made blueberry, gingerbread, lemon and pumpkin pancakes. Recently, I tried coconut pancakes, because I had extra coconut milk left from another recipe. I served them with maple syrup and toasted coconut, but a dusting of confectioners’ sugar would have been as good, since the pancakes had a moist consistency.
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup flaked coconut
1 (13.5-ounce can) coconut milk
¼ cup oil
½ teaspoon coconut extract
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Mix in flaked coconut. Beat coconut milk, eggs, oil and extract together.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in liquid ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Pour slightly less than ½ cup batter onto a lightly greased and preheated (375 degrees) griddle. (The surface is hot enough when drops of water sizzle and evaporated.)
Cook until small bubbles appear. Flip pancakes over and cook until golden.