Every country has its pancake. The French eat crêpes as thin as a sheet of paper, while Americans prefer their pancakes more on a fluffy side, doused in butter and maple syrup. Russians garnish their buckwheat blini with smetana or tvorog, while Lithuanians use the latter ingredient to make their version called syrniki.
The Polish people, I am pleased to write, also have a pancake version of their own. Racuchy, because this is what we call them, are a traditional folk dish. They are so traditional, in fact, that nobody seems to know how they came to be. To me, they simply seem to exist from the beginning of time.
Racuchy are usually prepared during carnival, but they can also be eaten as a simple and inexpensive dinner or dessert. Truth be told, were they not so calorie-dense, I would eat them for every meal. Especially at Christmas!
When it comes to the texture of this particular type of pancake, it is a mix of the American version with the French one. They are a bit smaller and usually thicker than crepes. However, the exact thickness depends on the preferences of the person preparing them. Nevertheless, they should be fluffy and slightly sweet. When well-fried, each bite gives you a pleasant crunch, just to melt in your mouth. It’s the combination of a crunchy exterior with a soft and fluffy interior that makes racuchy so morish. But what exactly goes into the batter?
Batter than the rest?
According to the traditional recipe, racuchy should be made with an addition of apples. They ought to be diced or thinly sliced and added into the mix as its last ingredient. However, the plain version is just as popular so it is not sacrilegious to omit them. Some mavericks even go as far as to replace apples with other fruit, such as bananas or pears.
The batter consists of eggs, milk or buttermilk, sugar, and last but not least, a raising agent such as yeast or baking powder.
Upon serving, racuchy are typically dusted with sugar, either plain or powdered. You can eat them by themselves, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, and/or with a cup of warm milk on the side.
Ruchańce, a special kind of racuchy
One of the regional versions of racuchy has its own name – ruchańce. What differs in their preparation from the more common version is the addition of melted butter to the mixture. Also, they look more like flat pączki.
The name ruchańce comes either from the fact that while frying, the pancakes move in the pan or from the term ruchanie meaning the proofing of the dough (there’s also another meaning but no, not this one).
They used to be as big as the pan on which they were fried. Nowadays, they are a lot smaller. You can eat them with sugar or marmalade. In the past, they were consumed even with quark on top or plain as a kind of bread replacement.
Before you start
Although tasty and inexpensive, racuchy are not very easy to make, especially for those not as proficient at deep frying. Furthermore, the yeast in the batter can also cause some problems. Below, you’ll find some tips about the most problematic aspects of preparing this dish.
The yeast you can do
- Yeast dough needs time to rise. The job is easier when using dry yeast as then you can pour it directly into the bowl with flour. When it comes to the fresh one, you need to activate it by dissolving it in lukewarm milk or water (not too hot, otherwise you’ll kill the yeast!) with a teaspoon of sugar and a bit of flour.
- Also, give the dough time to rise and proof in a warm place, for at least an hour or so. This is essential for the racuchy to keep their shape during frying. Otherwise, they may expand and become very dense.
PANic at the disco
- Just like pączki, racuchy should be fried in a lot of fat. This time, however, a deep pan should do the job. You don’t need a pot.
- The temperature is what’s tricky about it all. Too high and the outside burns while the inside remains raw. Too low and the pancakes will behave like a sponge and soak up the fat.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. Racuchy will probably rise a bit more in there so leave some space for Jesus, as my grandma says.
- Consume immediately after frying. The crispiness won’t stick around, and rubbery pancakes are not as good.
- Transfer them to a paper towel to remove any excess fat.
Now you are ready to get to know a recipe for racuchy.
- 2 eggs
- 3 apples
- 180g of flour
- 240ml of milk (warmed)
- powdered sugar (2tbsp for the mixture, and some for the garnish)
- ½ tbsp of baking powder
- oil (for frying)
- 1 tbsp of cinnamon (optional)
- In a bowl beat the eggs together with warmed milk (it should not be boiled, though!).
- To the mixture, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, and baking powder. Stir it all together until there are no lumps. Leave the batter to rest for an hour or so someplace warm.
- Meanwhile, prepare the apples. Peel them, then grate or dice. When the time comes, add them to the rested mixture together with some cinnamon.
- To fry the pancakes, heat the oil on a frying pan.
- Fry them for 2-3 minutes until golden from both sides (remember about the tips!).
- When they are ready, transfer racuchy on a paper towel to get rid of the excess fat.
- Serve them with powdered sugar on top. You can add some fresh fruit as well.