Filling treat, hearty dessert, or a great accompaniment to tea or coffee.
ON THE cruise ship from Turku to Stockholm, I was gazing nonchalantly from the ship’s round windows when the captain suddenly announced that we had arrived in Mariehamn, the capital of Åland (Ahvenanmaa in Finnish). I dashed to the deck and I looked at a very placid, idyllic place, whose natural beauty simply stunned me. Later I found out that Åland is connected to a multitude of fascinating things, such as summer cycling, long-lost champagne bottles buried deep in its waters and, finally, the Åland pancake.
Just like Åland differs quite a lot from the Finnish mainland, its trademark pancake is unlike any other conventional pancake in form, texture and taste – for some it even qualifies as “baked custard pie”! This delicious dish in fact contains porridge (usually semolina, but some islanders also use pudding rice) and is served with a hearty dash of whipped cream and – the magic ingredient – stewed prunes. An admittedly heavenly desert, popular with both locals and tourists alike, it is also an ideal snack for the cyclists swarming the islands during the summer months, searching for a calorie refill during a stop at one of the numerous cafeterias.
• Heat the semolina in the milk for a few minutes to a porridge consistency, and let it cool down. Mix eggs, sugar, salt and cardamom separately, then stir this mixture and the flour into the semolina.
• Pour the mixture into a baking dish greased with butter, and scatter a few small knobs of butter over the top of the pancake. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius until the surface of the pancake is golden brown.
• Serve hot or cold topped with whipped cream and stewed prunes or jam. Popular jams in Åland are made of local apples, strawberries, rhubarb or buckthorn berries.
Less a seasonal product or fancy dessert and more a part of the history of Åland, it has long been established as a culinary classic. Despite the number and variety of first-class restaurants offering exquisite gastronomic experiences in Åland, it always occupies a special place in the hearts of locals and never ceases to impress foreign visitors with its taste and its appearance – nothing could ever compare to the Åland pancake as an accompaniment to afternoon coffee!
Some claim that whoever invented this pancake must have been a genius, but thankfully no special culinary skills are required to make this delicacy at home. All it takes is to follow this recipe and enjoy the mouth-watering result!
ANNA MARIA ALEXANDROU