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Flat World Delights - Europe

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Welcome to Flat World Delights of EUROPE

February 2024 - Grégoire PYE

Let's go for "Flat World Delights": A culinary exploration of crêpes from EUROPE.

Crepe Map of EUROPE:  

More info on the right

Northern EuropeFlag
Western Europe Flag
Southern Europe Flag
Eastern Europe Flag
Central Europe Flag
Crepes from all over Europe Map

Notethe various crepes/pancakes documented in the blog (ingredients, preparation, variations,
history, cultural significance...) are indicated on the map by the flag of their country of origin.

History and characteristics of European Pancakes: 

The origins of pancakes in Europe date back to ancient times! The Romans cooked thick pancakes made of water and grain flour and baked them on hot stones. They ate them at a festival around February 15 called Lupercales, celebrating Lupercus, the god of fertility and protector of flocks. During processions called Imbolc on February 1 and 2, the Celts also prepared round, golden cakes symbolizing the sun. They celebrated fertility, the return of good weather, and the beginning of the first planting season.

These pagan traditions were gradually abandoned at the instigation of Pope Gelasius I, who wanted to celebrate the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after Christmas. On this occasion, candlelight processions were organized, which took the name "Festa candelarum" (festival of candles), then gradually Chandeleur. The tradition of blowing up pancakes has continued over the centuries, sometimes changing the origin of the pancake according to stories and other beliefs.

Today, every country in Europe has its own pancake recipe, unique and different from the famous French crêpe in shape, ingredients and toppings. Pancake recipes from all over Europe are in keeping with the European Union's motto "united in diversity".

Learn more about "Flat World Delights - Europe":

i) Northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, ...)

Traditionally, Scandinavian pancakes are served for dessert on Thursdays, after pea soup. Why this tradition? It was a hearty meal before the Friday fast. Scandinavian crepes are small, round pancakes that are quick and easy to make. They are usually cooked in a blini pan and served with simple toppings such as jam, whipped cream, or red fruits such as cranberries.

-...In Denmark, Aebleskiver or Ableskiver are ball-shaped pancakes cooked in a frying pan with hemispherical holes. There are two categories of Aebleskiver: those made with baking soda (or baking powder) as a leavening agent, and those made with baker's yeast (gaer aebleskiver). The latter produce an airier, fluffier end result.

-...In Finland, Pannukakku ("annu": frying pan and "kakku": pancake) is a classic that Finns love: it's a simple recipe for thick, flan-like pancakes baked in the oven. After cutting, it's eaten like a crepe with the topping of your choice (jam, whipped cream, etc.).

-...In Sweden and Norway, pancakes have been part of the diet since at least the 16th century. Two types of pancakes are especially popular: i) Raggmunk, made with finely grated potatoes mixed with a standard pancake batter (flour, milk, eggs, salt) and then fried like regular pancakes, and ii) Pannkakor is a classic crepe, somewhere between the thickness of an American pancake and a French crêpe.

-...In Iceland, Pönnukökur is similar to a pancake. Unlike thick American pancakes, which are designed to absorb as much maple syrup as possible, Icelandic pancakes are much thinner and better suited for light fillings such as jam, whipped cream, or berries.

ii) Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Swiss, United Kingdom, Scotland, Welsh, ...)

-...In Austria, Kaiserschmarrn /Kaiserschmarren is a sweet dish made of pancake dough lightened with stiff egg whites; it's a more refined version of Schmarren, which are simple country dishes made of dough filled with fruit (cherries, mirabelle plums, apples, walnuts, etc.).

-...In the Netherlands, Pannekoeken /Pannenkoeken are the "holy Dutch pancakes," so holy that they have their own holiday, sint, which is celebrated throughout the country every year on November 29. The pancake is made of flour, milk, eggs and salt and is between the thickness of a pancake and that of a crepe.

-...In France, next to the baguette, there is nothing more French than a crepe, savory or sweet, made without yeast. The best crepes are the simplest and can be found all over France. Buckwheat is used to make galettes because it has a very distinctive flavor that is perfect for savory fillings. There are also crêpes made with wheat flour, which are mainly used for sweet fillings and desserts.

-...In Germany, Pfannkuchen, also known as Palatschinken, are thinner and finer than classic pancakes and are eaten both savory and sweet.

-...In Belgium, crepes known as Bouquettes are similar to the Breton galette recipe. They are made with buckwheat flour, beer, and yeast, and are flavored with rum raisins.

-...In the United Kingdom, crumpets are made from milk, flour and yeast. They are small pancakes, about 8 cm in diameter but very thick (2 cm). Its thickness allows it to form holes, which increases the potential for gourmet treats, as the jam or butter they spread on it can slip through...

iii) Southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain ...)

-..In Greece, Tiganites are small pancakes that are synonymous with a childhood dessert for every Greek. Soft and tasty, with a neutral dough, they're very easy to make! The recipe was brought back by Athenaeus, a Greek writer from the 2nd century AD! They are still made in Greece today, but with ingredients that the average ancient Greek didn't have access to! Today, if you want to make salted Tiganites, you add salt and cheese to the neutral dough.

-..In Italy, "Farinata" (or Torta di Ceci or Cecina or Socca de Nice) originated in Liguria. Made from chickpea flour and simple, low-calorie ingredients such as olive oil, water and salt, they are baked in a wood-fired oven. They can be eaten plain or with very few ingredients (depending on the region: pesto, gorgonzola, rosemary, fresh onions...), but always fresh from the oven! Farinata" is very popular all along the Ligurian coast, from Nice (France) to Sardinia.

-..In Spain, Carnival is celebrated in different ways in different regions of Spain. The most glamorous celebration, similar to the Brazilian Carnival, takes place in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. This Canaval involves the preparation of small, round, honey-soaked sweets. They look like fried, fluffy pancakes and are called Carnival Tortitas. They are easy to make and delicious when served hot and drizzled with honey.

iv) Eastern Europa (Russia, Ukraine, ...)

In the Western world often confuses Oladyi with Blinis. However, Oladyi are thick pancakes, while Blinis are thin pancakes, also of Russian origin.

-...In ancient Russia, a Blini was offered to a woman giving birth and was also served at funerals. Blinis were also served during Maslenitsa. This holiday dates back to pagan times when Russians said goodbye to winter and welcomed spring. In ancient times, Blinis were originally made with oats. Today, however, they are made with wheat, rye, buckwheat, and barley. They are usually salted and served with smetana (sour cream), tvorog (cream cheese), butter, smoked fish or caviar.

-..In Ukraine, Oladyi are small, thick pancakes made with wheat (or sometimes buckwheat) flour, eggs, milk (usually sour milk such as kefir or buttermilk) or yogurt, salt and sugar, and a leavening agent such as yeast or baking soda. Oladyi are traditionally served with smetana (sour cream) and sweet toppings such as varenye (whole fruit jam), jam, powidl (unsweetened plum jam), honey, or powdered sugar. Savory versions can be served with caviar or other fish roe, similar to Blinis.

v) Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, ...)

-..In Hungary, Palačinka is a type of pancake that originated in Central and Eastern Europe. The thin dough is filled with jam (especially apricot), cottage cheese, nuts (hazelnuts or walnuts), fruit, coconut, chocolate or even spinach, with minced meat ..... This dish was known and popular throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its name varies from country to country (Palatschinke in Austria; Palačinka / Naлачинка in Bosnia, Bulgaria...; Palainca in Italy).

-..In Poland, Naleśniki are ultra-thin pancakes filled with lightly sweetened farm cheese. They were well known in Hungary, Slovakia, Russia and Poland before the rest of the world discovered them around 1800. In the United States, Naleśniki z Serem are known by their Yiddish name, Blintzes.

Final Comments

Whether fried for breakfast, a snack or dinner, crêpes are endlessly versatile and reinvented throughout Europe. From the Northern Europe to the Central Europe, crepes and flatbreads are available year-round. Their textures and flavors vary from country to country and region to region., with textures and flavors that vary from country to country and region to region.

Whether they're thin or thick, sometimes with holes, light or airy, sweet or savory, they can be reinvented ad infinitum while remaining delicious and appetizing.

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