Pancakes vs Flapjacks vs Crepes

A pancake is a pancake right? Not so much! While pancakes, flapjacks and crepes all use similar ingredients, those unfamiliar with the differences would be in for a surprise if they ordered a flapjack in Britain, expecting something small and fluffy but were presented with a granola bar instead!

So let’s explore Pancakes vs Flapjacks vs Crepes.

What is a flipping flapjack?

Flapjacks are strongly associated with breakfast in the good old US of A, covered with honey, maple syrup, cream, sugar, lemon juice, fruit or jam. Americans tend to not see a difference between flapjacks and pancakes. As far as they are concerned, both are a type of round, thin, fried cake.

However the British know flapjacks as another dish entirely. The British form of flapjack is a type of granola bar made with nuts, rolled oats, brown sugar, golden syrup and butter. The name has been around since the 1600s and is believed to have come from the verb flap, meaning ‘ cause to swing or sway about, flutter, flop (frequently making a noise)’. So I would say the word flap comes from the process of flipping the pancake. But when the flapjack transitioned from a flat pancake into its current incantation I can’t tell you.

But to me, being a South African the flapjack is small, round, thick and fluffy, which in England would be called a drop scone or in America a griddlecake. It’s delicious served with sweet strawberry jam and wicked whipped cream!

Pushing Pancakes

When it comes to pancakes, things should get simpler, right? They’re thin, flat cakes of batter, fried on both sides in a pan – easy peasy. But wait! Not so straightforward as it turns out. Depending on where you live, your pancakes might be different to mine, although they might look the same. Ingredients used for pancakes as well as their preparation vary according to different regions and cultures.

In fact, historians believe that pancakes are one of the earliest and most widespread cereal-derived foods. So let’s delve a little deeper into a few of the different varieties found around the world.

In Finland their version, ‘pannukakku’ uses very similar ingredients to a classic batter, but they’re baked in the oven. Staying in Scandinavia, in Sweden they’re called ‘raggmunk’ and grated potatoes are added to the batter. Both are generally served with jams, berries, syrups and cream and even bacon for a savoury edge.

In southern India their pancakes are called ‘dosa’ and are made from a fermented batter consisting mainly of lentils and rice. Although they do have sweet variations, theirs is predominantly savoury. They were traditionally served hot, with chutney.

In Russia it’s called a blini, it’s smaller in size and made with wheat or buckwheat flour. They’re traditionally eaten with caviar, sour cream and minced onion. A blintz on the other hand is a variation from the traditional blini and it’s folded, generally has a filling and is then baked in the oven.

How about trying my take on a savoury traditional pancake, delicious smoked salmon trout pancakes: Savoury Smoked Salmon Trout Pancakes

Crepes, the sophisticated cousin

Many people believe crepes are simply France’s version of pancakes, and in a funny way they are simply pancakes’ slimmer and more sophisticated cousin. But there are a few differences between crepes and pancakes that make them easy to tell apart. 

While the two dishes do look similar to one another, the French version is much thinner than your standard American breakfast fare and are often folded and stuffed with a filling.

Crepes were originally made in Brittany (a western region of France) and eaten as part of dinner. The food was traditionally served plain and considered a bread, and then later made with savoury ingredients stuffed inside, not sweet. Eventually, the region began experimenting with sweet fillings and using white flour instead of the buckwheat flour that savoury crepes are usually made from, allowing the dish to be served for dessert as well.

While you can make crepes with a non-stick pan, cast iron skillets are more suitable. There are even special pans specifically designed for making crepes as the French tend to take their crepes rather seriously.

Blow your own crumpet

Now you might also be wondering what the difference is between a crumpet and a pancake. Unlike pancakes or our SA flapjacks that are cooked on both sides, when crumpets are made, they are traditionally only cooked on one side. But today more often than not, they get turned and cooked for a short time to give the other side a gentle golden colour. The bottom of the crumpet is crunchy and acts as a sturdy base, while the other side has lots of holes in it, that are used to hold all the delicious melted butter and tasty toppings you plan to add.

Hopefully now you know about Pancakes vs Flapjacks vs Crepes it won’t matter whether you opt for sweet or savoury, fluffy or flat, stuffed or drizzled, so long as you can enjoy a selection of pan-fried cakey goodness without the confusion.

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