Introduction: How to Make Croatian Palačinke (pah-lah-CHEEN-kay)
Palačinke are essentially crepes, but are slightly thicker and can be made with a variety of ingedrients and finished with a variety of toppings. They can be sweet or savory. I will show you how to make a slight variation of the basic sweet recipe in order to demonstrate how you can use your own, favorite ingredients when you make the palačinke for yourself. They are very delicious, and one recipe can yield a lot of palačinke in a short amount of time, making them good for quick, homemade snacks and for entertaining guests. This is your chance to experience traditional Croatian sweets for yourself!
Technical ability: basic knowledge of the use of kitchen tools and appliances
Time to complete: 30-45 minutes
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients!
For my recipe, you'll need:
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-2 large eggs
-3/4 cup one- to two-percent milk
-1/3 cup water
-a pinch of salt
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-2 tablespoons melted butter
-a little bit of vegetable oil
Note 1: For the most basic recipe, the cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar may be dropped. For different flavors, you may choose to add ingredients such as orange zest (1 ½ teaspoons) and orange juice (1/2 cup) for orange palačinke, honey (2 tablespoons), or cocoa powder (1/3 cup), etc.
Note 2: If you find you're running low on milk or simply wish to use less or more of it, you may. Palačinke may even be made with just water or just milk. Just make sure that the total amount of liquid is about 1 to 1 ¼ cups to 1 cup of flour.
Step 2: Prep Your Kitchen!
You'll need a stovetop (either gas or electric may be used), a frying pan (either normal or nonstick is fine), a wide spatula, a ladle or soup spoon, a whisk, either an electric mixer or a mixing spoon, a medium-sized mixing bowl, a large, heat-safe dinner plate, and some napkins or paper towels.
Note 1: In Croatia, many families own actual palačinke pans, which are essentially crepe pans. You may use one if you have one. Any size is fine. In fact, you can make palačinke in any sort of skillet as long as it's not too heavy. If the pan is made of something heavy and dense, such as iron, then you probably won't be able to flip the palačinke by hand.
Step 3: Make the Palačinke Batter.
You may use an electric mixer or just a spoon for mixing by hand. In the medium-sized mixing bowl, briefly whisk the eggs just enough to thoroughly break the yolks and blend them slightly with the whites. Add the flour. Mix the eggs and flour together. Gradually add in the milk, water, and sugar, and beat thoroughly. If the mix feels very watery at this point, add more flour. If it's very thick and lumpy, add more water and milk. Add the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the butter and beat until smooth.
When you're finished, there should be a few small bubbles on the surface of the batter. When you whisk or stir the batter with a spoon, you should feel tangible resistance in the mixture, but it should rest without any dents or drip piles on its surace (if this is the case, then it's way too thick). The batter should drip off of a whisk or spoon thickly, not as quickly or easily as water.
Step 4: Prep the Stove.
Heat a burner to medium-high heat – if the heat is on too low, each palačinak will take a long time to solidify in the pan. If the heat is on too high, each palačinak will brown too quickly and be in danger of burning. If you're not using a non-stick pan, soak a part of a paper towel or sturdy napkin in vegetable oil and wipe the entire surface of the pan with it. Keep an oiled paper towel or napkin closeby for later use. It doesn't hurt to do this very lightly even with a non-stick pan. Let the pan get hot on a burner – for about a minute or until it's just about too hot to touch (Be careful! Check how hot the pan is by holding the underside of your wrist a few inches above its surface.). Keep the dinner plate closeby, but out of your way.
Step 5: Pour the Batter.
The size of your palačinke is totally up to you. For a pretty standard-sized palačinak, fill a large ladle up to about half or three-fourths of the way full of batter. Pour it quickly into the pan. Keep one hand on the pan handle. As soon as all the batter you want is in the pan, immediately tilt the pan left, right, up toward you, and back away from you so that the batter covers as much of the surface of the pan as possible before it begins to solidify. You can slow the solidifying process by picking the pan up briefly by the handle.
Note 1: I always mix my palačinke by hand, so the bumps you see are just flour lumps. These are extremely common in the first two or three palačinke in a batch.
Step 6: Flip the Palačinak.
While the down-side of the palačinak is solidifying, keep a close eye on the up-side. You'll know it's ready to be flipped when the outer edges have begun to look very dry, leaving only a small patch of wet batter left in the middle. It may be covered in bubbles. If you pick up the pan and shake it from side to side and the palačinak slides around, it's definitely ready. Flip the palačinak by hand (with one hand on the pan handle; it's all in the wrist) or with the spatula. Never flip a palačinak more than just this once!
Note 1: If you're trying to flip by hand and you mess up, don't worry! You can always use the spatula to rescue your palačinak. Just keep practicing and you'll be a pro in no time. Ten points if you get one stuck on the ceiling.
Step 7: Finish Cooking the Palačinak.
After the palačinak has been flipped over, it won't take more than several seconds to finish cooking. You can take a peek at the palačinak's progress by lifting its edge with the spatula. Once the palačinak is completely dry and not shiny on either side, it's done! Slide it off the pan and onto the heat-safe dinner plate. You may choose to cover it with a paper towel or something like parchment paper if you wish, since you'll be stacking each consecutive palačinak on this plate.
Step 8: Keep Making Palačinke Until the Batter Is Gone!
If you start finding that bits of batter are getting stuck to your pan, very carefully use the oiled paper towel or napkin to grease the pan's surface again. Speed is key. If the process takes too long, your pan will just get hotter and hotter and each palačinak will cook faster and faster, increasing the chance that one might burn. You may choose to lower the stovetop's heat slightly with every 2-3 palačinke you make. Don't worry about making each palačinak paper-thin; palačinke may be very thin, but they can also be quite thick or even fluffy, almost like a pancake. Ideally, each should be a golden-brown color when done. If your palačinke have dark brown spots on them, that's okay – the spots are simply places where there were lumps of flour in the batter. Stir and whisk the waiting batter regularly to minimize flour buildup.
Step 9: Grab Your Favorite Toppings!
Once the batter is gone and you've made all of your palačinke, don't leave your palačinke plain! There are a variety of spreads and toppings you can dress them up with. Croatians' favorites include chocolate spreads such as Nutella or Eurocreme. You may also use butter with cinnamon and sugar, powdered sugar, squeezed lemon, squeezed orange, whipped cream, cream cheese, crushed Graham crackers, Speculoos, fruit, peanut butter, and more! Spread your chosen toppings on the surface of each palačinak.
Step 10: Fold Your Palačinke!
Like crepes, palačinke are floppy, yet are considered finger food. You must fold them or roll them. The most basic fold is just folding the palačinak in half like a taco, then folding it in half again like a hamburger bun. You may also just roll the palačinak into a tube shape.
Congratulations! You have made Croatia proud! Please enjoy this small piece of this country's amazing culture.