John Locke's recipe for Pancakes (2021)

(rarecooking.com)

168 points | by benbreen 11 days ago

25 comments

  • wsc981 11 days ago
    I like Dutch pancakes and French crêpes a lot. The American style thick pancake is not my thing.

    That said, it seems this recipe results in a Dutch style pancake, so I would like to try to prepare it sometime.

    When I make pancakes, I usually just use:

    - eggs

    - flour

    - whole milk + water in equal amounts

    - cinnamon to taste

    - little bit of vanilla extract

    - some sugar and salt

    The resulting mixture should be slightly thick.

    Using whole butter to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan.

    When smoke starts appearing around the pancake, it’s time to turn the pancake around in the pan. Should be baked on medium size fire.

    For every pancake add a little butter to the pan, wait for it to melt. For first pancake use more butter.

    I love this simple recipe.

    • anarbadalov 11 days ago
      We call it a Dutch Baby in this house. Not sure why, or where the recipe came from, but i make this every Saturday for my daughter:

      Cast iron into a 425° oven as it preheats.

      While you're waiting: -whisk 4 eggs. -Add half cup of flour. -Half cup of milk (almond, oat, whole milk all work), warmed up to room temp. -Dash of salt

      Whisk until smooth. When oven is ready, pull out cast iron, add 2 tbls of butter and make sure it gets all the sides. Pour in mixture and bake 12 minutes. Turns into a billowy beautiful eggy pancake. Good with maple syrup or savory with cheese and ham.

      • zwieback 11 days ago
        We call Dutch Baby "Puff Daddy" because I used to make them for my kids and they puff up in the oven. When my kids come home they will still request it from time to time.
    • hiisukun 11 days ago
      When my wife makes crepes, she mixes the recipe the night before in a jug. I don't know why (sorry!) but they turn out delicious and she swears this step is important. Lovely and thin, with a good consistency. I've also no idea if they are legit 'French crêpes'.

      The recipe is:

      - 1 cup of plain flour

      - 1 large egg

      - 1 1/3 cup milk (half milk half water usually too!)

      - 2 tblspoons of melted butter

      The first 3 are combined the night before and whizzed up, then left in the fridge. The melted butter you do on the morning of -- melt it in the pan then tip it into the other mixture and stir it a little. Having made it the night before is ideal if you're visiting a friend in the morning, too.

      Your pan technique sounds identical to us : ) ... enjoy!

      • hailpixel 11 days ago
        The main reason you prepare crêpe batter long before you want to use it is two fold: 1. Allows a bit of gluten development (like cold ferment in bread) 2. And (i believe) most importantly: it allows all the air that was incorporated during whisking to escape, resulting in an even batter

        Always wondering if you could just stick it in a vacuum pump...

        • bobthepanda 11 days ago
          If you want to knock air out of a batter faster just slap the sheet it’s in against the table.
      • lulesp 11 days ago
        We have lots of regional variations for crepes in France. In mine, we add a sip of white beer or even rum to flavor it, you don't need to add much and it changes everything !
      • Someone 11 days ago
        > When my wife makes crepes, she mixes the recipe the night before in a jug. I don't know why (sorry!) but they turn out delicious and she swears this step is important.

        I don’t know the details, but there’s an ongoing reaction involving the gluten in the dough that leads to smoother surfaced, thinner pancakes.

      • dzhiurgis 11 days ago
        > night before in a jug

        I recall this is done for galettes which uses buckwheat flour and is typically savoury.

        Keeping it longer develops gluten which would make it more gummy I suppose? This is when making tempura you wanna use cold water and minimal mixing so it's crunchier.

      • em-bee 11 days ago
        that's pretty much the recipe i learned from my grandmother in austria. without the butter though.

        except i eventually discovered that it doesn't really matter if i use milk or water. since it is less common where i live i simply stopped using milk entirely.

        also my mother puts in sugar in the dough. i don't remember if my grandmother did that, but why bother. you can put enough sugar as topping to compensate.

        i had a batch of dough overnight just thus weekend. i could not tell the difference.

        i make the dough as thin as possible, unless i include a filling that needs to be baked, like cheese, banana or apple

    • nemo44x 11 days ago
      Letting the batter rest after mixing allows the flour to fully absorb the moisture and for the gluten to relax. Ends up with a better texture. No need to rest overnight as a single hour is enough time. However no one wants to wait an hour in the morning so they make the night before.
    • dsego 11 days ago
      For the way me and my wife do thin pancakes, we avoid sugar, I think it makes the pancake stick more to the pan. Less milk is also better and we fry on olive or sunflower oil. And lately we've been using dinkel (spelt) flour instead of plain white flour. I sometimes put in some baking powder, but my wife avoids it.
      • wsc981 11 days ago
        Yeah Spelt flour is nice. Used to use this as well when I lived in The Netherlands. Haven’t seen it yet in Thailand sadly.
    • kgdiem 11 days ago
      > I like Dutch pancakes and French crêpes a lot. The American style thick pancake is not my thing.

      Me too! I have a hard time finding a good crepe anywhere, even NYC.

      Try telling someone in the US how good an onion and cheese pancake with mayo is for breakfast!

      Thank you for the recipe!

      • dylan604 11 days ago
        you meant bagel, right ;-)
    • Neil44 11 days ago
      Same, every sunday is pancake day in our house. It has to be normal butter. The smell, mixed with coffee, is amazing. But we just switched from gas to induction and I'm still dialling the process in again.
    • clan 11 days ago
      Try with buttermilk. The tartness does good things. If buttermilk is not readily available kefir can be used in a pinch. As it is thinner than whole milk I would skip the water.
      • klondike_klive 11 days ago
        We buy kefir for use in smoothies, but always have loads hanging about. It's a great substitute for buttermilk.
    • formerly_proven 11 days ago
      Change my mind: American pancakes are just waffles made in a pan.
      • wil421 11 days ago
        They are all breads. Waffles have a higher fat content. American pancakes should have butter milk in them and must have baking powder so they rise. American pancakes usually don’t have savory versions like crepes or Asian onion pancakes. I’m sure there’s a savory regional out there.
        • bobthepanda 11 days ago
          While the pancake itself is never savory you find pancakes in savory American stuff often enough. The two egg breakfast with meat and pancakes; pancakes used as buns for breakfast sandwich a la the McGriddle. And given the ubiquity of chicken and waffles I would imagine someone has swapped out the waffles for pancakes on a whim.
      • munificent 11 days ago
        This is sort of like claiming that a tarp is just a tent without stakes, flaps, and zippers.

        Waffles are the more complex product. Someone realized that the best part of a pancake is the crispy edges, so they invented the waffle iron to radically increase the surface area of each pancake.

      • conception 11 days ago
        Put pancake mix in a waffle iron and see if you get waffles?
        • patmorgan23 11 days ago
          The only difference is you add a little bit more oil for waffles.
      • harrydehal 11 days ago
        "If my grandmother had wheels, she would have been a bike?"
    • froh 11 days ago
      smoke? or steam?
  • voidpointer 11 days ago
    In order to get close to how these might have tasted in Locke's time, one shouldn't be using modern white flour which is a 19th century development. Using (stone-milled) whole wheat might come closer to how things were in the 17th century. (Also better for your glucose levels)
    • twic 11 days ago
      In Brittany they make pancakes with buckwheat flour, and they are absolutely delicious:

      https://www.seriouseats.com/savory-buckwheat-crepes-galettes...

    • alephnerd 11 days ago
      > (stone-milled) whole wheat

      If you want it on the cheap, go purchase Atta at your local Indian convinence store. Similar for stone milled cornflour (I've found Hispanic store prices have been going up lately compared to Asian stores)

    • throwup238 11 days ago
      Drowned in butter and real maple syrup there is little difference in taste. You just have to adjust the hydration in the recipe.
      • voidpointer 10 days ago
        Texture-wise it should be very different due to how the gluten will develop. Taste-wise you are probably right. It’s mostly a substrate for the butter and syrup.
    • Exoristos 11 days ago
      They removed the bran, just not the germ. An equivalent today might be white flour with a little added wheat germ.
  • juanrapido 11 days ago
    I believe John Locke spend much of his time between 1683-1689 in the Netherlands as he had fled England for being under suspicion of bad things.

    As mentioned in another reply, this is indeed a Dutch pancake recipe. And the recipe does contain an 85 (or is 86?) in the top right corner. The addition of nutmeg, while very decadent, would have made sense when considering that Locke traveled between the cities of Holland, at that time the heart of the Dutch overseas trading empire. It spanned to such places as the island of Java, where you could pick the nutmeg right off of the tree.

    • eigenket 11 days ago
      I'm pretty sure the 85 in the corner is the folio number 85 given in the description "Oxford, Bodleian Libraries MSS. Locke c. 25, fol. 85.". I.e. its the page number.

      On the other hand you may be right about the rest of what you write.

  • gearhart 11 days ago
    I tried following this recipe - it was tasty but very heavy and greasy. Perhaps philosophy and cooking do not require the same talents.
    • morsch 11 days ago
      Yes, it seems like an insane amount of butter and heavy cream. Maybe butter in those days wasn't 80% fat and heavy cream wasn't 40%? Also, and it was covered by other commenters, but that amount of nutmeg, wow.
      • OJFord 11 days ago
        I believe 'sweet cream' just means not sour cream. Similarly I imagine 'sweet butter' simply means unsalted.

        'Heavy cream' I think is a mistranslation in the reformulated recipe, that's a modern American higher fat (a bit less than double cream, but roughly substitutable) cream; I expect at that time it was a cruder process & product, more literally creamed off raw milk, resulting in something unhomogenised probably on the milky side of single cream. Which would make sense, since it's typically milk one makes pancakes with anyway, not any sort of standardised modern cream.

        > Also, and it was covered by other commenters, but that amount of nutmeg, wow.

        I don't follow you there though, I think that description ('exceptional, expensive amount') in OP meant for Locke at the time. These days it's (probably top-25 percentile of spices but) relatively cheap, half a nutmeg for 10 pancakes doesn't seem remarkably excessive to me? I mean, assuming it's 'nutmeg and orange blossom pancakes' that you're going for anyway.

        • throwway120385 11 days ago
          I'm also noticing a lot of "heavy whipping creams" in my part of the US come with a thickening agent like xanthan gum in them to make them whip into whipped cream quicker. So there might be significant differences there.
          • OJFord 11 days ago
            Interesting. In the UK we have 'whipping cream' & 'double cream'; the former is actually closer to US 'heavy cream' (we don't have something named as such) at almost 40% fat (double would be about 50%) but even that doesn't contain such things, despite being named specifically for the purpose I mean. I think the purpose is probably stabilisation post-whipping though, rather than to whip faster?
        • morsch 11 days ago
          I guess I'll have to try it. Apparently 1 nutmeg yields about 2-3 tsp ground nutmeg, and modern nutmeg pancake recipes seem to use about as much as Locke's recipe does.

          The only thing I add nutmeg to on a regular basis is mashed potatoes, and then it's just a few swipes of the grater -- can't be more than 1/3 tsp -- for a family-sized portion, and the aroma is still very distinct. A single nut lasts me year or so.

      • eigenket 11 days ago
        I think based on some inexpert googling that what Locke calls "sweet cream" is what a British person today would call "single cream" (or just "cream"). Based on comparing fat content (about 18%) this is roughly between what Americans seem to call "half-and-half" and "light-cream".

        On the other hand the butter content in this recipe is bonkers. The only way that makes sense to me is if you lose a lot of butter in the process of clarifying it, which is a step in the original recipe which isn't mentioned in the translated version in the article.

        • cloudbonsai 11 days ago
          I tried this recipe too, and came to the same conclusion. It has too much oil.

          Some historical context seems to be missing here, or Locke must have been an Epicurean.

          • perihelions 11 days ago
            That's not really [0] the point of Epicureanism; it's sort of an uncharitable parody of it.

            [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus#Ethics

          • ido 11 days ago
            I don't know how wealthy Locke was, but people generally ate less back then cause food was less readily available. Meat was more of a special occasion rather than everyday staple like it is for a lot of Europeans today.
          • bratwurst3000 11 days ago
            Btw French Omelette has also a ridiculous amount of butter in it. I think 2 eggs and 120g of butter.
    • kwoff 11 days ago
      Reminded me of Sartre's Cookbook: https://pvspade.com/Sartre/cookbook.html
  • Fricken 11 days ago
    In 1621 The Dutch waged a bloody battle to secure control of the Banda Islands, which was for the west the only known source of Nutmeg, and prior to knowing the source Europe paid exorbitant prices for Nutmeg that came to Venice via Arab traders.

    The colonial history of the Banda Islands is fascinating and terrible:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banda_Islands

    • pjmorris 11 days ago
      I've heard people speak of the book 'The Nutmeg's Curse', Ghosh, which dwells on the history here.
  • orblivion 11 days ago
    Mix your labor into the pancake batter and you will be the rightful owner of the pancakes.
  • autarch 11 days ago
    How close or far is half a nutmeg from hallucination and death territory? Seems like an awful lot of nutmeg!

    Edit: So I looked into this. A single nutmeg is 5-10 grams. That means the pancakes will have 2.5-5g between all of them. According to a reddit post (https://www.reddit.com/r/nutmeg/comments/nd5d9q/nutmeg_effec...), it seems like 5g of nutmeg could be enough for a trip, but it won't come even close to killing you.

    So if you make this recipe and eat _all_ the pancakes yourself, you might go on a trip.

    • mtlmtlmtlmtl 11 days ago
      It may be that myristicin(the active compound in nutmeg) breaks down during cooking. Additionally myristicin is not very well absorbed, and the fact that it's mixed into food would likely reduce its absorption significantly.

      Also, I just want to mention that tripping on nutmeg is not something I'd recommend to anyone. It may not kill you outright, but it will make you delirious enough that you're no longer aware of your surroundings, what you're doing, and you may end up harming or even killing yourself. It's a deliriant, not a psychedelic. You're also likely to get intense muscle aches that will make it thoroughly unenjoyable even in sub-hallucinogenic doses.

      • red-iron-pine 11 days ago
        i know someone who has tried it. you need a large amount of raw, powdered nutmeg, like 1-2g per kg of bodyweight, and that much is hard to get down.

        then you don't really trip, you just kinda hallucinate, something closer to extreme sleep deprivation hallucinations than talking to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

    • reedf1 11 days ago
      Apparently there have only been two recorded deaths from nutmeg. One was an eight year-old boy who consumed at least two whole nutmegs and the other a college student who consumed 4 tablespoons (28g) of powdered nutmeg.

      Although there are cases of much much more nutmeg being consumed that were not lethal. There is one case in historical literature where a pregnant woman consumed 10-12 nutmegs (70-84g) to induce intoxication.

      This leads me to hypothesise that perhaps historical nutmegs were smaller, or that they were grown in unoptimal conditions so produced less myristicin.

      • t-3 11 days ago
        Transport by ship (probably not in a very good container) could have made a difference, there may also have been changes in the harvesting or drying process in the time since. Storage containers were also likely less well-sealed.
      • cubefox 11 days ago
        Also plant breeding may have progressed a lot since Locke's times, making them larger.
      • wil421 11 days ago
        Nutmug intoxication?
    • eigenket 11 days ago
      This is a lot of pancakes to eat by yourself. Just eyeballing the recipe it looks like you're looking at the order of about a kilo of pancakes at the end.

      If you solo these I think the nutmeg is going to be the least of your worries.

    • Sakos 11 days ago
      https://www.healthline.com/health/high-on-nutmeg#warnings

      LD50 seems to be on the order of grams per kg. Wild that 5g are enough for a psychoactive effect and that this recipe might in some cases be enough.

  • dang 11 days ago
    Related:

    John Locke’s recipe for Pancakes (2021) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30132612 - Jan 2022 (155 comments)

  • juliusdavies 11 days ago
    Very appropriate post for Shrove Tuesday !
    • pzmarzly 11 days ago
      Coming from a country where Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Tuesday) is not a thing, thank you for explaining to us what's happening :)

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrove_Tuesday

    • jamesblonde 11 days ago
      Pancake Tuesday it is in Ireland.
      • twic 11 days ago
        The rest of Europe gets some variety of carnival, mardi gras or what have you, and here in These Islands we just get pancakes.
      • jamesblonde 11 days ago
        In Sweden, it's "Semmeldagen" today - same principle. Stuff your face before lent starts.
    • PaulRobinson 11 days ago
      A strange state of capitalism that a day on which the religiously observant would use up things that could not be consumed during Lent, has been turned into an event where people go out and buy things for it specially. Which reminds me, we're out of nutella...
      • PaulRobinson 11 days ago
        Ah, the "mention religion and get downvoted" downvote...
  • kwhitefoot 11 days ago
    Strange (or should I say typical) that the author should give us an updated recipe that partly shows the weights in grams and then proceeds to use cups and tablespoons without specifying the actual volume.

    Locke's original is more precise.

  • MichaelMoser123 11 days ago
    my pancakes aren't philosophically inclined, still here are my tips:

    - you need to add in the flower gradually, sifting it through a sieve while stirring the milk.

    - it helps to grate an apple and add that to the mixture, very recommended.

    • ackbar03 11 days ago
      > you need to add in the flower gradually, sifting it through a sieve

      This sounds like equal wealth distribution by the state. John would not approve

      • MichaelMoser123 11 days ago
        an ideological interpretation of a pancake recipe would be a totalitarian approach - i think that would be too modern for the 17th century.
    • ycombinete 11 days ago
      Adding the flour slowly sounds like a way to create stronger gluten chains, and a chewy pancake. If you’re making Dutch pancakes, or crumpets, this is ideal. American pancakes I prefer softer.

      My way of making soft pancakes is to mix the dry and dry wet ingredients quickly but gently, stirring as little as possible. I leave the batter it a little chunky even.

    • dhon_ 11 days ago
      I don't like sifting flour. I add the wet ingredients slowly to the dry and mix well while it's thick to a smooth consistency before slowly adding the rest of the wet ingredients.
  • mjhay 11 days ago
    > Take sweet cream 3/4 + pint. Flower a quarter of a pound. Eggs four 7 leave out two 4 of the whites. Beat the Eggs very well. Then put in the flower, beat it a quarter of an hower. Then put in six spoonfulls of the Cream, beat it a litle Take new sweet butter half a pound. Melt it to oyle, & take off the skum, power in all the clear by degrees beating it all the time.

    As wonky as English orthography is, I'm still very glad it has been largely standardized.

  • Pete_arten 11 days ago
    I thought it was a recipe from John Locke for the TV series Lost.
    • Jazzfussion 11 days ago
      Same, but it is even more interesting to think that a philosopher of his caliber was so drawn by the simple pancake. It shows that all humanity finds the little joy in the simplest things.
    • Cthulhu_ 11 days ago
      Close, the TV character was named after the philosopher (according to season 5, episode 7, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke_(Lost) ).
    • jader201 11 days ago
      Don’t be ridiculous, it’s from the 17th century.

      This is Richard Alpert’s recipe.

  • ListeningPie 11 days ago
    I remember seeing this recipe a couple of years ago, but I still haven’t made them. They just seem so expensive and unhealthy compared to a regular crepes recipe. 7 eggs for a 100 grams of flour, usually it’s 1 egg per 100 g. There is double the butter to the flour, my crepes recipe has 10 g of butter to 330 g of flour. I just can’t justify the experiment. Maybe I will make a 1/7 portion, but I can’t see it working out.
    • Ensorceled 11 days ago
      Eggs were much smaller. For instance, my grandmother had free range chickens in the 70's and the eggs were all what would be labelled "small" with a few "medium" mixed in. Most modern recipes assume large eggs.

      But it is still a LOT of butter, cream and eggs.

    • eigenket 11 days ago
      I think it mostly makes sense except for the amount of butter. Maybe in the process of clarifying butter back when this was written you'd lose a lot more butter? I don't know if modern butter has changed that much.
  • samstave 11 days ago
    If you havent seen this channel on YT; cowboy cooking:

    https://www.youtube.com/@CowboyKentRollins/videos

    Its really fn great.

    The video on how to stock a chuck wagon was great. Its all outdoor cooking over fire - and there is so much great knowledge in these vids.

  • jszgembo 11 days ago
    In the final photo, the pancakes appear to be somewhat dry and thick. This might be more characteristic of Slovenian or European styles, where we typically cook them until they're just lightly browned and thinner. :)
  • economicalidea 11 days ago
    I made this a lot of times, it’s my favourite pancake recipe now - I go a bit easier on the eggs and butter but the nutmeg is the real trick!
    • nemo44x 11 days ago
      If you’re changing the amount of eggs and butter then you aren’t making this recipe. Your favorite pancake recipe is inspired by this one.
      • t-3 11 days ago
        It's probably reasonable to assume that the eggs he was using were smaller and less consistent in size than the sorted and graded eggs available at the grocery store.
  • Sardtok 11 days ago
    "take off the skum". They totally forgot this step in the updated recipe. Now your pancakes will be full of scummy butter.

    Didn't know "skum" used to be an English word, or that its meaning changed to what is scum today. In nordic languages it still just means foam.

  • geye1234 11 days ago
    This recipe looks most substantial, which is not what you'd expect.
  • offices 11 days ago
    What an enormous margin - presumably left intentionally, for later notes
  • pfdietz 11 days ago
    This was more than a century before the invention of baking powder.
  • flr03 11 days ago
    I prefer Chef Raymond Oliver's version https://www.aboutahandful.com/crepes-oliver/
  • LaurenSerino 11 days ago
    I, too, enjoy a nice, fluffy, social contract
  • ofslidingfeet 11 days ago
    We should be reading his Second Treatise on Civil Government not his pancake recipe.
    • ofslidingfeet 8 days ago
      The glowie who dowmodded can bite me. Fuck you.
  • LuciBb 11 days ago
    [dead]