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Sweet or savoury: pan-fried egg dishes can be made in many different ways.
Even within Switzerland, the omelette appears in different guises as it is prepared differently from one region to the next. The slightly modified recipes certainly don't make it any easier to understand the difference between a Swiss omelette, a pancake and a crêpe. We've set ourselves the challenge of exploring the complex world of egg dishes.
Whether you have it for breakfast, lunch or as a hearty snack, the omelette will never disappoint. There are thousands of different variations and millions of recipes online, and yet every cook has their own preferred recipe for making what they believe to be the perfect omelette. In German-speaking Switzerland, omelettes are considered the equivalent of the German pancake or Austrian pancake (Palatschinken) and are therefore made with flour. In French-speaking Switzerland, however, the French version is referred to as an omelette and is traditionally made without flour.
German pancakes and Swiss German omelettes are made with eggs, flour, milk, salt and often a little sparkling water to make them fluffier. The American equivalent is already well established in our part of the world under the term “pancake”. Either baking powder is added or the egg white is beaten until stiff, making these little pancakes wonderfully light and thick. Pancakes are traditionally served with maple syrup, however the possibilities are endless. Whether they include batter flavoured with lemon or buttermilk, for example, or toppings such as mascarpone or peanut butter ice cream, there are recipes to suit every taste.
In Austria, pancakes are more commonly known as Palatschinken. Unlike in America, raising agents are not added, which makes the batter more runny and results in the Palatschinken being much thinner. These thin pancakes are usually filled and rolled together. They can be filled with anything from berry compote and whipped cream to jam or Nutella. But Palatschinken also make a great savoury dish, especially filled with mince, cheese and vegetables, before being gratinated in the oven. And if you find you've made too many, simply cut them up into thin slices and add them to your soup – as long as you keep to the original recipe and don't add any sugar to the batter.
Melanie, you offer a broad selection of crêpes and galettes in your bistro – where do these dishes come from?
"Both originate from Brittany in France. Although galettes are still not so well known here, they have been around for some 500 years, while crêpes only date back around 100 years".
What exactly are galettes?
"One difference has to do with the batter. Galettes are made with buckwheat flour, water, salt and – in some recipes, as in ours – egg. Crêpes, on the other hand, are made with conventional flour, icing sugar, milk, egg, salt and butter, all whisked together into a batter. Galettes also tend to be a little crispier than their softer counterpart, the crêpe. The difference to a Swiss omelette or German pancake lies primarily in the preparation. Crêpes and galettes are made much thinner."
Do you have any tips for the perfect crêpe or galette?
"In both cases it's important to let the batter rest. We leave it 48 hours. The pan should be very hot and well greased so that nothing burns. Ideally use a small ladle so that you don't end up with too much batter in the pan. As soon as the edges start to come away from the pan, add the filling. Make sure that the ingredients you use are not too runny. Proper preparation is important too, as you need to be quick."
As omelettes, crêpes and galettes are far from the only things you can make with a couple of eggs, flour and a pan, we've come up with a few other egg-based dishes for your delectation.
Blinis are small, thick Russian pancakes made with buckwheat flour and served as a starter or accompaniment. In Russia, they even have special blini pans for cooking these little pancakes. Blinis are often enjoyed with caviar and sour cream as part of an extravagant brunch. Whether topped with smoked salmon or simply spread with butter, blinis make a perfect starter, snack or accompaniment to a main dish. Blinis are also delicious served sweet. In such cases, the batter can be made using cinnamon instead of salt, for example. These mini pancakes can then be served with ice cream, fruit compote or jam.
When we talk about tortilla, we think of the Latin American flatbread made from cornmeal and used for fajitas, tacos and wraps. However, if you ask a Spaniard, they would tell you that tortilla is also an egg-based dish. The "tortilla de patatas" is a Spanish omelette made with eggs, potatoes, onions, olive oil and salt. It is one of Spain's national dishes – alongside paella and gazpacho – and can be found on menus and in supermarkets throughout the country. Adding vegetables, meat, sausage or fish will give the tortilla even more flavour.
The Italian version of an omelette is known as a frittata and can be enjoyed hot or cold. The eggs are beaten and then mixed with a selection of other ingredients, such as vegetables, mushrooms, herbs or even meat or fish, as desired. The mixture is then transferred to a pan and cooked (relatively thick) and then served open (like a Spanish tortilla) rather than folded. This dish makes a great starter or main course and can also be cut into small slices and served as an aperitif. It was first introduced to New York by Italian immigrants and is available in almost all delis.
Dutch pancakes (Poffertjes)
The small Dutch sibling of the American pancake is known as Poffertjes and is a thick, coin-sized pancake topped with butter, icing sugar and often Stroop, a Dutch sugar syrup. This speciality pancake originates from France – legend has it from a monastery near Bordeaux where the monks began using buckwheat flour for their communion bread and thus first invented Poffertjes. Enterprising businessmen introduced Poffertjes to the Netherlands where they are now considered a national dish and are sold on many street corners. They are made with wheat flour and buckwheat flour (1:1 ratio), milk, eggs, yeast, salt, butter and sugar. They are cooked in a special Dutch pancake pan with small wells in the base so that the batter cooks perfectly.
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