Jenny had had a bite with Marsali and the children but declared herself equal to dealing with an egg, if there might be one, so I sent Mrs. Figg to see whether there might, and within twenty minutes we were wallowing — in a genteel fashion — in soft-boiled eggs, fried sardines, and — for lack of cake — flapjacks with butter and honey, which Jenny had never seen before but took to with the greatest alacrity.
“Look how it soaks up the sweetness!” she exclaimed, pressing the spongy little cake with a fork, then releasing it. “Nay like a bannock at all!” She glanced over her shoulder, then leaned toward me, lowering her voice. “D’ye think her in the kitchen might show me the way of it, if I asked?”
Diana Gabaldon, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Chapter 6 – Under My Protection)
Jenny’s reaction is a lot like mine when I find a new dish I like. I tend to fall in love at first bite, then immediately start asking the cook, or the Google, everything I can about this marvelous new food.
Pancakes are one of humankind’s oldest breads, and have been around since at least the 14th C. Variations on the name and recipe are many, including flapjacks, griddle/girdle cakes, Scotch pancakes, etc.
The term Flapjack dates back to early 17th C Britain. The word flap meant a sharp movement, jerk or flip. Jack was the informal form of the name John, and identified a male commoner, much as we would use “Average Joe” today. Typically, Jacks were employed as labourers, or as kitchen assistants.
I can hear the Cook shouting orders now:
“Flap that cake before it burns, Jack!”
Although the term originated in Britain, a flapjack has come to mean something quite different there in modern times. If you’re reading this over on the other side of the pond, you may be confused by these pictures of what you would call Scotch Pancakes.
Such is the evolution of the English language and food. When speaking of flapjacks, most Brits today would automatically think of the baked sweet oat squares (think of them as delicious, but very unhealthy, granola bars) shown here.
Jenny’s first flapjacks were probably a little flatter and denser than those made with this recipe, due to the absence of chemical leaveners (baking powder/soda) in 18th C pantries. You’re welcome to try the recipe without this modern addition — if you do, beat the eggs well before adding them to the milk and butter. That will give you an extra bit of lift in the batter.
You can serve them beside fried sardines if you like, but that’s a little beyond me. Bacon is my salty sidebar of choice for breakfast.
(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Light, sweet pancakes that soak up honey, or syrup, just like a tasty little breakfast sponge.
Yield: (15) 4-5” flapjacks
- All-Purpose Flour – 2 Cups
- Sugar – ¼ Cup
- Baking Powder – 2 tsp
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Milk – 1½ Cups
- Eggs – 2
- Butter, melted – ¼ Cup
Preheat a griddle or pan over medium-low while you mix the batter.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining (wet) ingredients well to combine.
Add wet ingredients to dry, whisking just to combine. Batter will be slightly lumpy.
Increase heat under griddle/pan to medium. Drop ¼ cup batter onto hot griddle for each flapjack. Cook until bubbles appear and bottom is golden. Flip and cook until golden on other side.
Serve hot, with butter and honey or maple syrup.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Optional additions to the batter – pinch or fresh-grated nutmeg, lemon zest, berries
- The pan is at the correct temperature when a drop of water beads immediately on the pan’s surface