A flapjack is a type of thin, flat round cake that is cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Flapjacks are made from batter, and most flapjack batter is made with a leavening agent that isn’t yeast – such as baking soda, baking powder, lemon juice, or cultured buttermilk. Because of this, they can be cooked quickly, since cakes and breads made with yeast can take hours to rise properly. Most flapjacks are around, however the size and shape of a flapjack depends heavily on region.
A Brief History of the Flapjack
A form of the flapjack has been around since prehistoric times. Archeological studies have shown that prehistoric people may have mixed their dry flours with what available protein rich liquids they had on hand, usually milk and eggs, and book them in earthenware pots or over open fires. This early flapjack would have been heavy in carbohydrates and protein, allowing families to get good nutritional value out of them. During the medieval Christian period, flapjacks were mixed in with stored items to use perishable goods before the period of Lent fasting for Christians began. Flapjacks were also popular meal items for farmers and other laborers, because the batter could be mixed with calorie and protein heavy foods (such as meats and vegetables) and taken with them during their work.
What’s In A Flapjack?
The ingredients of a flapjack may depend on regional variations and recipes. However, most flapjack recipes use the following base ingredients for the batter: flour, milk, and eggs. Recipes for flapjacks range from what most people think of when they hear flapjack—sweet, with berries or syrup as a topping—to more savory flapjacks made with vegetables, beef and other meats. Almost any filling can be combined with flapjacks, from fruits and vegetables to meats and even cheeses.
There are also many regional variations on the flapjack recipe. Some of the more popular styles of flapjacks throughout the world include:
Netherlands: Flapjacks in the Netherlands are called pannenkoeken and are traditionally a dinnertime meal. They average around 12 inches in diameter, and are often shared among several people at the table. The fillings are usually filled with sweet and savory ingredients combined together, and the most common ingredients used are: cheese, bacon, sliced apples, candied ginger, berries, vegetables, and molasses. The batter, which is typically thick, is usually cooked by being constantly flipped on a hot pan to ensure a crisp outside but soft and moist interior.
Pannenkoekn family restaurants are popular in the Netherlands and serve up a variety of sweet and savory flapjacks.
United Kingdom and Ireland: The typical English flapjack is made from plain flour, eggs, and milk whisked into a thin and runny batter. The flapjack is usually thin, with dark spots where the bubbles formed during cooking. They are usually eaten as a sweet dessert, and the typical traditional topping is lemon juice, sugar, and golden syrup. They are also eaten as a main course wrapped in something more savory, such as eggs, bacon, sausages or other meats.
Scotland: Scottish flapjacks, sometimes known as scotch pancakes, are made from flour, eggs, sugar, buttermilk or milk, salt, and cream of tarter. They are only about 3.5 in diameter and are usually served with jam and cream or butter, usually at teatime as a sweet accompaniment to tea.
North America: American and Canadian flapjacks often contain a raising agent such as baking powder, eggs, flour, and milk or buttermilk. The batter of North American flapjacks is traditionally thick and lumpy. Common additions are sweet spices, such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. The more popular type of flapjack is sweet and considered a breakfast or brunch food. For this reason it is often eaten with fillings or toppings such as strawberries, cream cheeses, apples, chocolate chips, or other sweet ingredients. The pancakes are usually light in texture and are much thicker than their European counterparts. Typical toppings include maple syrup, butter, jam, powdered sugar, honey and peanut butter.
While most popular recipes of flapjacks in North American are sweet, some recipes such as “Johnnycakes” are still popular. A Johnnycake is a cornmeal flapjack that was considered a staple of early American life, made from yellow or white cornmeal, salt, and hot water or milk.
Want to make your own? Try this easy North American sweet flapjack recipe!
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fin salt
2 cups buttermilk
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 beaten eggs
1. Take your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt—put them into a large bowl and whisk enough to combine. Then set aside.
2. Take your buttermilk, butter, vanilla extract and eggs. Put them into a medium bowl and whisk them together. Pour this buttermilk mixture and your previous flour/dry ingredient mixture together and whisk them until they are combined enough to make a thick batter. To keep your flapjacks tender and soft, don’t over mix the batter. For a harder flapjack, whisk until free of lumps.
3. Heat a nonstick frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the 1 Tbsp of butter and heat until the butter has stopped foaming. To begin cooking your flapjacks, ladle in about ½ cook of the batter at a time. Cook for about 5 minutes total, turning it once about halfway through. The flapjack should be a deep golden brown on each side, not burnt or undercooked. An undercooked flapjack will appear pale brown. Transfer the cooked flapjack to a serving plate, ideally with a cover to keep it warm. Keep repeating this process until you are out of flapjack batter. If you have excess batter after eight flapjacks or don’t need to make that many, you can put the remaining batter in the fridge where it will keep well for about a day or so.
The batter in this recipe should make about eight flapjacks. You can serve it topped with traditional toppings such as butter and syrup, or use your own your preferred flapjack toppings.