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’).
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups plain flour
- Any grease
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!
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).