I am ¼ Finnish, and while that is only a small part of what makes me whole, it has become an important part of who I am.
I first came to realize my Finnish heritage when we moved to Virginia and lived near my great grandparents, or Isoukki and Isomummi. One vivid memory I have with them is eating stuffed cabbage rolls at the dining room table, while Isoukki instructed me on proper dinner etiquette.
“You sit like this, not like this,” he said in his strong Finnish accent.
Apparently sitting with your elbows on the table, knife and fork in hand, is not proper etiquette.
A major in the Finnish Army, Isoukki was forced to flee Finland after a plot to hide arms from the Soviet Union was discovered at the end of WWII. He then sought political asylum in America and lived here for three years before being reunited with Isomummi and their four children. Isoukki soon joined the U.S. Army and went on to lead the first American over-ice expedition to the South Pole.
My grandmother, or Mummi, was the youngest of the four children. She was only three years old when they arrived in America, and unlike my grandparents, Mummi lived most of her life as an average American girl.
Born Marjatta Havola, Mummi soon adopted her American nickname, Marge (like Marge Simpson), which Isoukki hated. She moved to California, married a little Italian guy with a thick black moustache and had two kids of her own.
So, while I came to realize my Finnish heritage with Isoukki and Isomummi, my desire to learn more came when Mummi died from cancer six years ago. She may have seemed like any other American girl, but here was this other side to her that I only got a glimpse of through my great grandparents. Now, I am able to keep a part of her with me by embracing the culture she ultimately passed on.
I have many vivid memories with Mummi, but something that stands out to me is that she was always a great cook. Many of my family’s favorite recipes come from her or Isomummi. One Finnish recipe that showed up often throughout my childhood (and that we all love) are what we call “Finnish Pancakes.” I don’t know what they’re called in Finnish, but they are similar to very small crepes. We use a special pan with seven small circular indentations to make the pancakes. You can buy a similar pan by Nordic Ware if you’d like to be true to the recipe, but I have made them in larger sizes in a regular non-stick pan as well.
The pancakes are typically eaten with lingonberry jam, but to mix it up a little, I’ve come up with four additional sweet/savory toppings for you to enjoy. These are delicious for a special breakfast or would be great to set out as an easy appetizer that can be made ahead and assembled when ready to eat.
Topping Ideas (all pictured above):
- Traditional lingonberry jam
- Mixed berries with cardamom whipped cream
- Strawberries with ricotta and honey
- Mushrooms with cheesy bechamel
- Ham with wilted greens and dijon
A family favorite, these small crepe-like pancakes can be customized with sweet or savory toppings for a special breakfast or an easy make-ahead appetizer for your next get together.
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 + 1 1/2 c milk 2 c total
- 1 c flour substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour, if desired
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp melted butter cooled to room temperature (I used salted)
Beat eggs and ½ c milk with a whisk. Slowly add in the flour and beat smooth. Beat in the remaining 1½ c milk and then the butter and salt.
Heat pan on medium heat until a drop of water sizzles in it.* Lightly butter each circle.**
Drop about a tablespoon of batter into each circle, just filling the bottom. Do not fill it to the top or the pancakes will be too thick and not cook all the way through. When the edges begin to brown, flip the pancakes and cook another minute.***
Serve with traditional lingonberry jam or see additional topping suggestions above.
This recipe can be made ahead of time and kept warm in the oven. Keep covered to prevent them from drying out.
*The type of pan you are using will dictate how high you should set your burner. In my experience, cast iron cookware does not need very high heat to get extremely hot, so start on medium to medium low heat depending on your stove. If you are using a non-stick pan, then try medium . Don’t be discouraged if the first ones don’t turn out perfectly as the recipe makes quite a few. My first batch is often too dark or too pale. You’re looking for a light golden color.
**The batter itself has a good amount of butter in it, so for the first batch I butter each circle and then find it is not necessary to butter again for the remaining batches.
***I usually use a butter knife, occasionally with the assistance of a fork, to flip them over. Wait until the edges are set before trying to flip or it will be difficult not to break them.