If you visit a Finnish cafeteria or canteen on a Thursday afternoon, there is a good chance that you’ll find pea soup and pancakes (Hernekeitto ja pannukakku) on the menu. This quickly became one of my favourite lunches – in part due to the soup usually being good, but mostly because of how good the pancakes tasted with a big spoonful of jam. But don’t expect light crispy pancakes – no, these pannukakku are thick oven-baked pancakes (maybe closer to the American definition of pancakes than the South African definition). Some say that their soft centre is custard-like… as a someone who loves custard I’d say that maybe counts as a bit of an exaggeration! Nonetheless, they can be very good…

Fresh home-baked pannukakku with vadelmahillo (raspberry jam)

If you’re looking for a thin crepe-type pancake, then you’d want to ask for a lettu (or lätty – or sometime called ohukainen). These are quickly fried in a hot pan or a flat griddle, but can be  made from the same batter as the pannukakku. I was lucky enough to get a lesson from Heidi and Miska this year during summer fieldwork on how to cook lettut – the important thing I had to learn was to have enough butter on the griddle and to start loosening the pancake long before it was ready to flip.

Learning how to cook lettu during summer fieldwork. Thanks to Juha for the photo.

With both the pannukakku and the lettu it is common to eat them with some jam and/or sugar, although I’m sure you could enjoy them in a variety of ways… Personally, a little sugar and some raspberry jam suits me just fine! If you’d like to give (either version) Finnish pancakes a try, Heidi was willing to share her recipe… If you want to make lettu then cook a thin layer of batter in a buttered hot pan, and if you want to make pannukakku then bake the batter at 200°C for about 20 – 30 minutes (in a buttered dish). Interestingly, the edges of pannukakku always seems to curve up – as if the pancake is trying to climb out of the baking dish… as a result they often have lovely crispy “crusts” which complement the softer centre.

Heidi’s pancake (crepe) recipe:

Mix together:

  • 1 litre milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 800 ml wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • some melted butter

You can find variants on this recipe elsewhere on the web – for instance at Omnomicon and Cooking Finland. It seems that all these recipes share the same basic ingredients, so it is up to you to figure out what works best for you.