Pancake Day (Part Two): Cryspe

The second medieval pancake recipe I tried this Pancake Day comes from the 15th century Harleian Manuscript (279) and is cited as the first pancake recipe in English. This manuscript demonstrates a contemporary French influence on cooking and refers to these pancakes as ‘Cryspe’ after the French crêpe (meaning ‘crispy’).

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Ingredients

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • Any grease

 

 

Original Method:

Take Whyte of Eyroun, Mylke, & Floure, & a lytel Berme, & bete it to-gederys, & draw it þorw a straynoure, so þat it be renneng, & not to styf, & caste Sugre þer-to, & Salt; þanne take a chafer ful of freysshe grece boyling, & put þin hond in þe Bature, & lat þin bature renne dowun by þin fyngerys in-to þe chafere; & whan it is ronne to-gedere on þe chafere, & is y-now, take & nym a skymer, & take it vp, & lat al þe grece renne owt, & put it on a fayre dyssche, & cast þer-on Sugre y-now, & serue forth.

 

I interpreted this method as follows:

  • Activate the yeast in the warm milk and sugar.
  • Add milk mixture to the egg whites and combine.
  • Whisk in the flour a bit at a time to make a runny batter (add more milk if necessary).
  • When the mixture is combined strain the batter to remove any lumps.
  • Place a heaping spoonful of batter into your hand and let the mix run through your fingers into a shallow pan of hot oil.
  • Create a thin lattice of batter in the oil.
  • Flip the cryspe to ensure that it is cooked on both sides before removing from the oil.
  • Drain the cryspe and repeat.
  • Serve warm with sugar.

 

 

 

Unlike Apicius’ 5th century Ova spongia ex lacte, these 15th century cryspes have a more traditional pancake batter recipe. However, the slightly unconventional French ‘drizzle’ method renders these cryspes more akin to a funnel cake than a crêpe-style pancake. (For more information on medieval funnel-cakes see the 14th century guidebook:  Le Menagier de Paris, Trans. Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose (New York, 2009).) Nevertheless, this recipe was delicious!

 

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Cryspe

While modern style pancake recipes don’t appear in English until the 16th century, the two ‘pancake’ recipes I tried  provided a glimpse into the fascinating medieval history of this humble dish.

 

For more information on the global origins of the pancake, please see: 

Albala, Ken. Pancake: A Global History (London, 2008).