It's interesting to see how traditions start out, and how they become engrained in national culture as soon as people run with it. Like this one, for example. On November 29th, many of us celebrate Sint Pannekoek, Saint Pancake. It started out as the brainchild of Jan Kruis, a writer and cartoonist. The story of Saint Pancake first made an appearance in a cartoon episode of the famous Jan, Jans en de kinderen (Jack, Jacky and the Juniors) in 1983, in Libelle magazine. 

Here's how it happened. In the cartoon, Grandpa Gert is staying for dinner, and, while they're cleaning the green beans, granddaughter Catootje confides in him that she doesn't really like beans, but that she loves pancakes. Cunningly, grandpa Gert (Jan's dad) asks Jans what the date is. When she says November 29th, Grandpa proudly proclaims that it's Saint Pancake day! 

According to him, it's an old Rotterdam tradition that they used to celebrate each year when Jan was still a boy at home. Jans exclaims that she loves old traditions and hurries back to the kitchen to start baking a pile of pancakes to surprise her husband. In the meantime, grandpa and Catootje rejoice because the plan succeeded: they are going to have pancakes for dinner instead of green beans! 

Grandpa then explains that, in order to celebrate the tradition correctly, each member of the family places a pancake on their head when the head and exclaims joyfully : "We wish you a happy and blessed Saint Pancake!".

Jan, coming home from work and never having heard from this made-up tradition, wonders if his whole family has gone mad. 

The cartoon has always had a great following, and it wasn't surprising that this new "tradition" was quickly adopted by its fans, and has since become a national movement! People meet up, put the first pancake on their head to wish each other a happy and blessed Saint Pancake day, take pictures and have a grand ole time.  And why not? 

As you know, pancakes are one of our favorite things to eat. Not the American thick fluffy pancakes, but flat, thin pancakes as big as your biggest frying pan, that you can sprinkle with powdered sugar, or smear with butter and jam, or apple syrup, or bake with apple and/or bacon. And we don't have just one pancake celebration day, but two! The other one is on a Friday in March. And of course, we also serve pancakes with split pea soup!

For today, we baked a pannenkoekentaart, a cake made of pancakes, for dessert, and used the remaining batter to bake a small pancake for our head :-). Sweet versions like this one are popular for dessert, filled with jam or fresh fruit. Savory ones can be eaten for dinner warm, where you layer them with caramelized onion, cheese or bacon.

2 cups (250 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups (500 ml) milk
2 tablespoons (30 grms) butter, melted and room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 gms) butter for the frying pan

For the topping:
Flavored fruit yoghurt (I prefer skyr, if you can find it), fresh fruit.

Mix the flour and half of the milk together, whisking out the lumps. Mix in the eggs, then the rest of the milk, the salt and the melted butter, and give it a good whisk to blend it all together. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. 

Heat the tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan at medium heat. Pour in 3/4 cup of batter (depends a bit on the size of your pan, mine is an 8 inch) and swirl the pan so that the batter spreads thinly over the whole bottom of the pan. Bake one side for about 2 minutes, then flip over until both sides are golden. Stack them, as you bake them, on a plate. 

When they've cooled down, place the first pancake on the bottom. Slather a thin layer of fruit yoghurt or skyr and fresh berries in between and top with the next pancake. Repeat. At the top, dress with dollops of yogurt, add the rest of the fruit and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Refrigerate until serving. Slice wedges, like a pie, out of the cake. You can also try Nutella with fresh bananas, cherry yogurt with canned cherries, etc etc. Makes about 14 medium size pancakes: 10 for the cake, and four for your head ;-).

Happy and blessed Saint Pancake Day! 

It's also fun to do this for a kid's party: make plenty of smaller pancakes, lay out a table with different kinds of toppings, and have the kids make their own pancake cake. In that case, five small pancakes per kid should suffice. 

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