If you’ve lived in Pittsburgh, or read much about the food scene, you’ll know there’s a famous diner here that serves crepe-style pancakes – fluffier than a true crepe, but with the amazing sweet, eggy flavor, lacy browning pattern, and crispy edges you’d expect. To me, these are perfect pancakes, and I wanted to replicate them at home… using whole grains to bring up the nutrition a bit. Even King Arthur Flour has come up with a version – they’re that good! After weeks of experimentation (woe, eating all those pancakes, I tell you), I am proud to present you with these whole grain crepe-style pancakes.
Already read my rambling and just want the recipe for whole grain crepe-style pancakes? Jump to Recipe
So why “crepe-style pancakes”?
Crepes, first and foremost (for me), taste fairly heavily of sweetened eggs – a feature shared by the diner pancakes I had in mind. I am a sweet egg fiend; custard, creme brulee, egg tarts, crepes, Waffle House waffles, pastry cream — bring them all to me.
So I think regular fluffy pancakes are OK and sometimes what I want, but crepes I actually crave.
Crepes also have a lacy browning pattern, unlike pancakes, which tend to be uniformly brown. And the sides have a distinctly different appearance – you can usually tell which side of a crepe was cooked second just by looking!
Finally, they’re thin and quite pliable; you can’t really roll a regular American pancake around anything and expect it to maintain its integrity.
So I knew I needed a fairly thin batter; adequate egg for flavor; and whatever trick it was that made them brown in that unique pattern.
The Browning Trick
So the browning trick to get the lacy appearance (which also adds to the flavor, I think)… turns out to be butter. I’m 99% sure of this, because I made so many of these pancakes, and I made them all in a nonstick skillet.
The pancakes made with no butter were uniformly brown on the bottom. I think the batter flows smoothly and cooks all at once, contacting the pan evenly.
The pancakes made with butter added to the pan before the batter developed the appearance I was after, and the more butter, the lacier (up to a point). I think the sizzling butter fries parts of the pancake and makes the leavening uneven, so the batter has less continuous contact with the pan. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Right or wrong, it works!
Sneaking in Extra Nutrition
I have a very picky preschooler who dislikes most foods that have protein. He likes pancakes so I hoped he’d eat these, and made them with Kodiak Cakes. (This is my Amazon affiliate link; I’ve also purchased in bulk at Costco!) It’s a whole-grain baking mix, kind of like Bisquick; you can use it in muffins and things, too. The whole grains add protein, which is great, as well as fiber and vitamins.
The egg and milk also contribute a little protein, and the butter gets him some needed fat. I’m fairly pleased with the result, as well as the fact that my son actually eats them!
How to Serve ‘Em
There’s really no wrong way to eat these. I ate more than… ten… just plain, folded up, while I cooked the rest of the batter.
My son and husband prefer to eat them with butter and syrup, like traditional American pancakes.
They’re also good with chocolate chips sprinkled over while the first side cooks, with or without banana slices rolled up in the middle afterwards. And whipped cream on top. (This is straight from the diner whence the dream for these pancakes came.)
I like them with butter and sugar, like a French crepe.
Or, of course, you can slather them with Nutella (and bananas, strawberries, raspberries…).
This morning, we ate ours spread with a thin layer of jam and rolled up, to be fancy.
If you leave the sugar out, they’re relatively savory (Kodiak Cakes has some sugar, but not enough to be obvious) and could be served with mushrooms, spinach, or chicken.
Whole Grain Crepe-Style Pancakes
Typed up, I think this recipe sounds a little intimidating, but it isn't. Pancakes and crepes are all about getting the hang of them, and I'm hoping to convey what I know with the long-form instructions here. I think the worst that will happen is you'll burn a couple; just turn the heat down. If you tear some in flipping, those are for the cook to eat! After a few rounds of making these it all becomes very zen and relaxing.
- 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup + 2Tbsp milk, preferably whole milk
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup Kodiak Cakes baking mix
Managing the temperatures of the various ingredients is the only tricky part of making this batter. What I actually do is this: Crack an egg into your liquid measuring cup, then add milk (I use whole milk) to the 1-1/4 cup mark. It's about 1 cup and 2 tablespoons. Cover this and let it come up to room temperature for 15 minutes or so.
Melt the butter (I use the microwave, and I use Kerrygold butter here) and whisk it into the milk and egg mixture. Add the vanilla and sugar and whisk again.
Add the Kodiak Cakes mix right on top and whisk to combine. (I use a 4-cup liquid measure, and it's easy to pour batter out of. You might need a bowl if your measuring cup is too small.)
If you can, let the batter rest for 20 minutes in the fridge before using it; re-whisk at cooking time. If not, it's OK to just go ahead and cook.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. You want it to be quite hot. Throw a few drops of water at it and see if they sizzle and skitter over the surface; that's where you want it.
Add about a teaspoon of butter to the hot skillet and swirl to mostly coat the bottom. No need for perfection.
And now, the only tricky part about making crepe-style pancakes (or crepes); don't worry if you mess up a few. They'll still taste good, and everyone borks the first pancake. That's why it's a saying.
Pick up the pan and tilt it slightly. Pour a little batter in while tilting and swirling the pan. You want to just coat the bottom. It's OK if it's not perfectly round. The more batter, the thicker your pancake will be, so you can also experiment with this a bit.
The batter will first start to look dry around the edges, and you'll see bubbles come up in the main "body" of the pancake. The edges will start to brown and lift away from the pan slightly. It takes about a minute or 90 seconds, usually, but this is one of those things you have to learn to see and feel and smell.
Use the thinnest flipper-spatula you have and at this point, work it under the edge of the pancake. I often use my fingers to grab the dry edge to help. Continue to wiggle the spatula under the pancake until you've hit about half or 2/3 of the way across, then pick it up, flip it, and drop it. If it gets wrinkles you can often kind of press them out but really, it's just breakfast, so don't worry about it.
Cook for another 30ish seconds - right after it's flipped you'll see steam start to come out from underneath. It'll still be steaming when you slide it out onto a plate (I don't bother flipping them out, I just shake the pan a little and they slide right out).
Throw another teaspoon of butter in and repeat until you've made all the pancakes.