Poffertjes are an integral part of national holidays, summer festivals and fun celebrations. During the Christmas and New Year season, you will find poffertjes vendors on every Christmas market, usually right next to that other holiday treat, oliebollen.
A recipe for poffertjes (also known as bollebuisjes or broedertjes) first appears in a cookbook from the mid 1700s. Made exclusively with buckwheat flour, water and yeast, it was considered a poor man's meal. Buckwheat only grows on arid, poor ground and provided poor farmers with the necessary substance. And you can see why: a plate full of hot pancakes, covered with powdered sugar and a rapidly melting piece of butter will give anybody enough energy to get back out there and take on the weather elements. Later recipes call for wheat flour, milk and eggs, but always keep yeast as a leavener which gives it its puffiness.
When the Dutch settlers came to America, they brought the poffertjes and the pan they're made in with them. In James Eugene Farmer's book "Brinton Eliot, from Yale to Yorktown" we read: "On the evening of the 4th of May, Jans and Hybert Weamans were seated near the trap-door of the cellar, smoking, drinking beer, and eating puffards from the puffet-pan." Puffards, puffets, bollebouches.......they're all the same name for our beloved poffertjes.
Made on a dimpled cast iron pan for the home cook, or commercially on large copper dimpled plates as seen in the pictures below, poffertjes can also be made at home on a griddle if you don't have a poffertjespan. Just place tablespoons of batter on the slightly greased surface and turn them with the tine of a fork when the outside rim has dried up a bit and bubbles come to the surface. Their name comes from the way these small pancakes act once you turn them over: they puff up.
Traditionally served with powdered sugar and a healthy chunk of butter, poffertjes are a welcome treat!
The buckwheat flour we have access to here in the United States is much darker than the light, white version that is used in northern Europe. If you can find it, substitute half of the flour for buckwheat flour.
1 cup warm milk
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and set aside to proof. When ready, mix the flour with the eggs and slowly add the milk, beating well and making sure there are no lumps. Add in the pinch of salt. Cover and set aside to rise, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Heat the pan and lightly butter each dimple. Pour a small amount of batter into each dimple. I prefer to pour the batter in a squeeze bottle of which I have removed part of the tip: it allows me to control the amount of batter for each dimple.
When the sides dry up a bit and bubbles appear on the surface, use the tin of a fork to flip the poffertjes over. Take a peek here if you're not sure how to do this! This takes a bit of practice, but not to worry, even the spoils will taste good!
Serve hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar and a piece of butter.