“A fragrance delicate, but not weak, and slightly male, rides the air. It composes itself of the aromas of solid cooking, of roast geese and ducks, of game and Huhn im Topf, of various things, sour and spicy, and tender cutlets simmering among Steinpilze…Through it is wafted the bouquet of good wines…The orchestra plays…Occasionally a belly laugh echoes through the “Nibelungen Ring” for Lüchow’s clientele for the most part are an uninhibited and happy lot.”
This evocative description of Lüchow’s Restaurant on 14th Street in Manhattan was written by Ludwig Bemelmans in 1952 but many who visited the landmark restaurant before it’s closing in 1982 will recognize in Bemelmans’ Lüchow’s a close kindred spirit of the place they knew in its later years, because, as one New York journalist put it, “In a changing world, nothing changes at Lüchow’s.”
Lüchow’s made its home on 14th Street for a century–a good run for any restaurant. If you never enjoyed the experience of dining there, you may, nevertheless, sample some of Lüchow’s excellent German cuisine in your home. In 1952, Jan Mitchell, Lüchow’s owner at the time, wrote and published a cookbook cum memoir: Lüchow’s German Cookbook: The story and the favorite dishes of America’s most famous German restaurant. Introduction and illustrations were provided by Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the beloved Madeline books for children. The book is a treasure trove of fine recipes and is available here at openlibrary.org. Should the online copy of the original volume (complete with illustrations) be checked out, the plain full text version may always be accessed here at the internet archive. The text and recipes in it are identical to those in the original.
Lüchow’s German Pancake (Pfannkuchen) filled with apples, chocolate sauce or–as in this case–preisselberries, was the star of a show performed at table side by chef and waiter. The description looks lengthy–but that is only by way of helping a first-time maker to visualize how the making goes. It is not a complicated process once you grasp the essentials of it. With or without the theatrics, this is an excellent dessert. How fortunate that Lüchow’s version of this and many other traditional German favorites, did not vanish with the closing of its doors.
Lüchow’s German Pancake with Preisselberry Sauce and Kirsch (for 2, 4 or 6 people)
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.
A Timing Suggestion: If you are practised at making crêpes, there is no need to make these German dessert pancakes in advance. They may be made in a matter of a few minutes for 2, 4, or 6 people. Guests generally don’t mind an interlude before dessert. For anyone who is making a thin pancake of this kind for the first time, the pancakes may be made in advance and reheated. Also, for cooks unfamiliar with Pfannkuchen, Part III: Making the Pancakes, begins in III-A with a brief comparison of a French crêpe and German Pfannkuchen and a suggestion for how to freeze unused pancakes.
I. Lüchow’s German Dessert Pancake with Preisselberry Sauce and Kirsch (for 2, 4 or 6 people….1 pancake for each person).
A Note about Flambéeing the Pancakes: Arrange the pancakes on the plates according to the suggested steps below. Heat the Kirsch just before pouring it on each pancake. It is a good idea to pour the liqueur over a pancake and flambé it before doing another one so that the Kirsch doesn’t cool too much and refuse to light. (There’s no need to be over anxious if this does happen. The dessert will still be good.) At room temperature the liquid Kirsch is still below the flash point (lowest temperature at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air) and there are not enough alcoholic vapors to ignite. By heating it, the vapor pressure increases, releasing enough vapors to catch fire from the match. (For a clear and more detailed explanation of why a liquer must be heated in order to flambé a dessert with it, see the link in the ‘Reading Reference’ at the end of this post.)
- Preisselberry Sauce: See the recipe below in Part II. Proportions for making larger or smaller amounts of the sauce are given there.
- Pancakes: See the recipe below in Part III. The recipe makes 6 or 7 pancakes, each 9 and 1/2 inches in diameter, made in a pan of that size.
- Cinnamon and Sugar: Mix 1 cup of White Granulated Sugar with 2 teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon.
- 1 or 2 Lemons, depending on their size and the number of pancakes you are making: Enough to give a squeeze of juice over each pancake before adding the sauce and rolling it up.
- Kirsch: 2 Tablespoons per pancake is a suggestion…but if you prefer, use only 1 Tablespoon or none at all. At Lüchow’s, the pancakes were finished at table side and the addition of rum or kirsch was optional.
- Optional: Orange Segment and Preisselberry Flowers described below in Part IV. Last Touch.
- Dessert Plates of a diameter large enough to hold a rolled-up pancake: If your dessert plates are of the sort that allow for it, heat the plates in the oven before assembling the pancakes on them. This will help insure that the heated Kirsch doesn’t cool down too much to ignite properly.
- a small Strainer
- a small heavy Pot for heating the Kirsch
1. Warm the dessert plates in the oven, if possible. Warm the Preisselberry Sauce and place it within convenient reach on the work space where you are going to put together the desserts. Arrange the dessert plates on the work space.
2. Cut the lemon or lemons in halve and set them also within convenient reach along with the cinnamon and sugar, the Kirsch and a box of matches.
3. Place a warm pancake on each plate. Liberally sieve cinnamon and sugar over each one:
4. Squeeze some lemon juice over each pancake:
5. Divide the Preiselberry Sauce among the pancakes and spread it out over them. Reserve a little for making the Orange Segment and Preiselberry Flowers if you like:
6. Roll up each pancake like a tube and center it on the plate. Liberally sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar over the crepe and on the plate:
7. Arrange the Orange Segment and Preiselberry Flowers on each plate now if you decide to use them so that the desserts may be served as soon as they have been flambéed.
8. Warm the kirsch in a small pot without letting it boil. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to flambé the pancakes sequentially so that the Kirsch doesn’t cool to much before it’s ignited. Quickly pour some Kirsch down the center of a pancake, letting it trickle out onto the cinnamon and sugar in the plate:
…and ignite it:
8. Serve the pancakes as soon as they all have been flambéed.
Part II: Preiselberry Sauce
A Timing Note: Preiselberry Sauce may be made several days in advance, cooled, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Reheat the sauce right before assembling the dessert.
Ingredients: Amounts of ingredients are listed first for making sauce sufficient for 6 pancakes and in parentheses for 2 pancakes. For 4 pancakes simply double the quantities of berries and sugar for 2. Amounts of lemon and orange peel and cinnamon stick do not vary.
- 3 cups of drained Preisselberries in syrup–3 glass jars of 365 g each will be enough: ‘Preisselberry’ is sometiimes translated ‘Cranberry’, but Lüchow’s Preisselberry Sauce is intended to be made with the berries that are also known either as Lingonberries or Airelles Rouges. (1 cup of drained berries–a single 365g glass jar for 2 pancakes)
- 3/4 cup of granulated White Sugar (1/4 cup)
- a strip of Lemon Peel
- a strip of Orange Peel
- a stick of Cinnamon
- a Strainer placed over a Bowl
- a heavy-bottomed Pot or Casserole
1. Drain the preisselberries, reserving the liquid to add a bit to the finished sauce to adjust thickness and flavour if necessary.
2. Put the berries, sugar, lemon and orange peels and the cinnamon stick in the pot. Do not add any water. Stir everything together. The sugar will begin to dissolve and create a juice with the berries. Simmer the mixture over low heat. In about 20 minutes, the juice will become a syrup and the berry mixture will be reduced to a thick sauce. A wooden spoon will cut a clear path through the sauce and the syrup will only gradually creep out into it:
3. Taste the sauce. If the sauce has thickened more than you like or to sweeten it more according to your taste, add a little of the reserved syrup from the drained berries. Remove the cinnamon stick, and the orange and lemon peels, as well–or leave them in the sauce, but make sure they don’t end up in anyone’s pancake.
Part III: Making the Pancakes-
III-A: Pfannkuchen and crêpe–how they differ and how to reheat and store them
1. A Pfannkuchen is somewhat less flexible than a crêpe. In the photo, the crêpe is the pancake next to the butter:
2. A Pfannkuchen (the one below the egg in the photo) looks more substantial than a crêpe…
…and, in fact, it is–as this close-up (Pfannkuchen to your right) comparing the two illustrates:
3. Rolled up, unfilled, a Pfannkuchen (in the foreground) will hold its shape; a crêpe will collapse in upon itself:
4. Both the pfannkuchen and the crêpe freeze well. Stack them, separating them between sheets of waxed paper:
5. Place a sheet of waxed paper over the top pancake in the stack and then wrap the whole bundle of them in plastic wrap. Some other day, when you want to serve a Pfannkuchen or a crêpe, you can peel off as many as you like from the stack and return the rest to the freezer. Thaw the pancakes either in the refrigerator or at room temperature. To reheat the cakes, remove the waxed paper separating them, wrap them in a single stack in a cotton towel, and then wrap the stack, towel and all in aluminum foil. Place them in the oven, preheated to 325 F for about 15 minutes.
III-B: Making the Pancakes: The recipe below makes 6 or 7 pancakes, each with a 9 and 1/2-inch diameter. The pancakes take only minutes to make if the batter is made in advance and you have some crêpe-making experience. If you are uncertain about making them at the last minute, make them in advance, cool them completely and then stack them and reheat them according to the suggested method given above in III-A for reheating thawed pancakes.
- 3 Eggs
- 3/4 cup Sifted, White Unbleached flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of Salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Sugar
- 1 cup of Milk
- 3 or 4 Tablespoons of softened Butter on a saucer to smear on the pan with a paper towel each time just before pouring batter over it.
- a Mixer, standing or hand
- a Mixing Bowl, which could be the bowl of the standing mixer
- a Crêpe Pan: The one used for the photographed dessert measures 9 and 1/2 inches in diameter. A Flat-Bottomed Pan with Sloping Sides will also make a good pancake of this sort. Lüchow’s used a very wide pan and made in it one pancake that would serve two people very generously. Whatever size pan you use, the basic method for making the pancake remains the same.
- a Spatula
- some Paper Towels to use for smearing butter on the pan between pancakes
1. Beat the eggs lightly. Beat in the flour, salt and sugar, and finally, the milk. Continue beating for a few minutes until the batter is thin and smooth. If you aren’t making the pancakes right away, cover the batter and set it aside at room temperature for a few hours.
2. When you are ready to make the pancakes, heat the pan well over medium heat. Swipe the paper towel in the butter and rub the buttered towel quickly all over the bottom of the pan. Grasp the handle of the pan and with the other hand, pour about 1/4 cup of batter all over the pan while tilting the pan this way and that to spread the batter out over the surface of the pan.
3. Cook the pancake for 2 -3 minutes and then turn it and cook it for a minute longer on the second side. Shift the pancake to a plate lined with a cotton towel, cover it lightly with the ends of the towel or with another towel draped over the top, and continue making pancakes in the same way. Swipe the buttered paper towel over the surface of the pan between pancakes.
IV. Last Touch: Orange Segment and Preiselberry Flowers
- 1 or 2 Oranges
- Some of the Preiselberry Sauce
1. Cut the orange slices into triangular segments. Before the pancakes have been flambéed with Kirsch, form a flower on each plate, using the orange segments as petals and a small spoonful of Preisselberry Sauce for the center.
A Note: Lüchow’s German Dessert Pancake with Preisselberry Sauce and Kirsch is included as the Dessert in the Occasional Menu: An After-Theater Supper.
A Reading Reference: A clear explanation of why a liqueur must be heated in order to flambé a dessert may be found here in this passage from Chemical Connections: The Chemical Basis of Everyday Phenomena by Kerry K. Karukstis and Gerald R. Van Hecke (2003).
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012