Icelandic pancakes – Pönnukökur

To me, pancakes always evoke the image of my grandmothers, both of whom are expert pancake makers, and will whip up a batch at a moments’ notice. These pancakes are quick and (fairly) easy to make, and how you serve them depends on the occasion. Rolled up with sugar, they make an excellent addition to afternoon tea (or coffee, depending on your preferences). Spread with jam and folded up with whipped cream, they are a delicacy fit for festive occasions. This recipe comes from my maternal grandmother.

This “recipe” is only a guideline to help first time pancake-makers along. As you become more fluent in pancake-making, you will probably develop your own “dash-of-this, a-little-of-that” recipe, as I have.

1 cup flour
1 medium egg (the original calls for two eggs – I prefer to use just one)
dash of baking soda
a dash of baking powder
100 grams margarine/butter, or equivalent amount of cooking oil
milk, as needed.
These are the basic ingredients. I also add about a tsp of one of the following: essence of cardamom, lemon juice/lemon essence, or vanilla essence.

convert measures

Melt the margarine or butter in a skillet or Icelandic pancake pan. Allow to cool slightly. Mix up the dry ingredients and add some milk to make a thin batter. Add the egg(s) and stir well. Add the margarine/butter (don’t wipe or wash the skillet after poring off the fat). Cooling the fat is important, because if it is too hot, the egg(s) will curdle and make lumps in the dough. If you are using oil, don’t heat it, just pour straight into the batter, and wipe a bit of oil onto the pan to grease it. Experiment with the thickness of the dough.

Heat the skillet over high heat and lower to medium. Pour on a portion of the dough, just enough to cover the pan (this is a skill that will come with practice), and roll the pan around in a circle to spread the dough over it. When the edges begin to lift from the pan and the underside is golden brown, turn over and fry the other side.

A properly seasoned pan should be almost non-stick, but if you are using a freshly seasoned pan, you may need to add a little oil to the pan after every few pancakes, to prevent sticking.

The pancakes should be thin – a proper Icelandic pancake is only about a couple of millimetres thick. Stack the pancakes on a plate and sprinkle some sugar on top of each pancake to prevent them from sticking together. These pancakes can be frozen and re-heated in a microwave oven.

An Icelandic pancake pan, with pancake. This is basically a round skillet with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is necessary, since the pancakes must be fried quickly at a relatively high temperature.

Serving suggestions:

  • Sprinkle with sugar and roll up, eat and enjoy – either warm or cold. Jam or jelly, especially rhubarb jam, blueberry or strawberry jam, is also excellent on rolled pancakes. 
  • Stack the pancakes, spreading jam on top of each one. Cut into wedges and serve like a cake, with whipped cream .
  • Make cream pancakes.

To make cream pancakes:
Cover the centre of each pancake with your favourite jam or jelly, add a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream (pancakes must be cold), fold in half, and again in half. You should now have a big puffy wedge. Especially good served with hot cocoa.

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