Palacinke is one of the most popular no-fuss sweets in Croatia. Children adore them at any time during the day (or night). But grown-ups are no different. We swoon over them just as much: some for the taste, others for nostalgia.
Croatian palačinke (the correct spelling) are a close sibling of the French crêpes. They are ultra-thin and dressed with a variety of fillings: from homemade jams, chocolate spread (the kids' favourite) to cream cheese.
We often translate palačinke as pancakes but they are quite different from the American-style thick pancakes.
Our version of crêpes doesn’t use any leavening agent. In fact, they shouldn’t puff up at all. When you make Croatian palacinke, your goal is to spread the batter as thinly as possible.
Ready to try?
I have a foolproof recipe for you. But first, a word about the origin of palacinke.
Where do palacinke come from?
To answer this question, we need to consider the word itself. We know that in Austria and Bavaria the same dessert is called Palatschinken. Hungarians call them Palacsinta while in Romania they are known as Placinta.
This last word suggests that palacinke came from ancient Roman times. Their name in Latin was Placenta, which means a flat cake.
Regardless of being such a simple treat, our darling palacinke have survived the test of time. And not just in Croatia. A similar version is popular all around central and southern Europe.
5 tricks for the best palacinke
Here’s the funniest thing about Croatian palacinke. You rarely find a detailed recipe for the palacinke batter. The one which gives you precise amounts of ingredients. But most chefs use that exact batter as a reference point for other recipes.
For example, when you deep fry apples in batter, a recipe might say this... make the batter slightly thicker than the one for the pancakes.
No one tells you what the pancake batter should be like. It goes without saying that all of us are magically born with this knowledge.
To this day, after years of experience, I always follow my recipe. I weigh and measure my ingredients. And my palacinke always come out perfect.
So let me give you the tricks: for the batter, for frying and filling.
1) Perfect pancake / palacinke batter
I always use flour with high gluten content. In other words, bread or strong flour. And I never use any leavening, such as soda bicarbonate, baking powder or fizzy mineral water.
Learn more about Croatian types of flour.
This is because Croatian palacinke should not rise. They need to be thin and stretchy. You can get that consistency when you combine the right type of flour with liquid.
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Children, who are normally the biggest consumers of palacinke, don't forgive thick or chewy pancakes.
I was also a picky kid and I differentiated my two grannies by the greatness of their pancakes. I loved staying over at the grandma who made them extra thin!
2) Mixing pancake / palacinke batter
Great palacinke are made from smooth batter. There is an easy way to mix the batter to break all the flour lumps.
Start with eggs and a bit of flour. Then add liquid and flour interchangeably, so the batter is never too runny. This way your whisk will catch all the lumps.
Use a hand whisk, not a hand mixer. Palacinke batter should be smooth, not frothy. We don’t want too much air in it.
Even when you hand-whisk the batter, you’ll end up with some bubbles on the surface. This is why it’s essential to leave the batter to rest for at least 30 minutes.
For the best results, make the batter a day in advance. In fact, make loads of palacinke batter and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days.
3) Frying the pancakes /palacinke
For me, cooking on the gas hob is ideal. And in the case of palacinke, this is the difference that makes the difference.
A perfectly fried pancake needs to land on a very hot pan. Some electric stoves can’t heat up the pan so much. You can notice this on the first few pancakes. They might turn up mushy. But don’t worry, your dog or cat will love that first imperfect pancake.
Your pan should be non-stick with just a drop of oil. Cooking spray is ideal. But you can also just drop the oil on the pan and spread it with a brush. I often add oil to every other pancake.
4) Flipping palacinke
Flipping palacinke can be a challenge. But not when you use the right tools.
You need a long flexible pancake turner. Not a knife and not a round flipper. The best one is made of heatproof plastic. It needs to be pliable and long enough to reach underneath the entire pancake.
This way you’ll avoid broken pancakes and kitchen disasters.
5) Serving your palacinke
Now that you have your perfect palacinke, it’s time to dress them. Use any type of jam or chocolate spread. Or even just a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. Spread that all over in a thin layer (use about 1 tsp). Then roll up your pancake.
Some of my favourite fillings are raspberry jam with melted chocolate on top. Or chocolate spread with a sprinkle of ground walnuts.
If you get palacinke served in a Croatian home, they always come rolled up. Better yet, they will serve them naked on a plate and present you with the choice of fillings. It’s your job to dress them and roll them up.
In restaurants, however, palacinke are folded twice into a quarter. This is so you can eat them with a knife and fork.
I much prefer to eat them rolled up, with my hands.
Croatian palacinke recipe
Here is my best recipe for Croatian palacinke. Make sure to follow the amounts. Don’t just wing it.
As a bonus, I am including the recipe for cheese-filled baked pancakes too.
Remember that palacinke are so easy to make. It's a treat you can rustle with the ingredients you probably always have in stick.
If someone at home (usually late at night) asks “do we have anything sweet”, it’s time to make pancakes. In most houses, such basic ingredients are always in stock.
Browse more free Croatian recipes.
For the batter
- 200 g all-purpose flour ([1 ⅔ cup])
- Pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- 200 ml tepid milk ([¾ cup])
- 200 ml water ([¾ cup])
- 1 tsp rum
For the filling
- 10 tsp jam or chocolate spread
For the baked palacinke
- 500 g cottage cheese ([2 ¼ cup])
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla-favoured sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
For the topping
- 300 ml sour cream ([1 ¼ cup])
- Prep up your ingredients. Whisk salt and lemon zest into flour to distribute evenly. Combine milk and water. Beat the eggs. Melt the butter.
- Begin by adding a bit of flour to the eggs and whisk until you get asmooth mixture. To avoid lumpy batter, add liquid (milk and water) and flourinterchangeably until you use all the ingredients. Whisk in the melted butterand rum last.
- Let it sit for half an hour at room temperature.
- Coat a shallow frying pan with a few drops of oil andlet it get really hot. If you start too soon, the first pancake will come out fat and rugged. (This one makes a great meal for pets!)
- Choose a ladle which holds just enough batter for a thin layer. Pour in the batter andswirl the pan with your other hand to spread it evenly
- 1-2 minutes in, loosen the edges of the pancake with aplastic or rubber spatula. Once you can easily do that all around the pan, thepancake is ready for turning.
- Fry the other side of the pancake slightly shorter. Continue until you've used upthe batter.
- Serve and eat pancakes straight away. Dress them withjam or chocolate spread and roll them up into a sausage.
- For the baked version, fry the pancakes as described above. Combine cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla-flavoured sugarand lemon zest with a fork or spoon. If you like your filling sweeter, use moresugar.
- Spread the cheese mix on each pancake and roll them up. Cover only two thirds of the surface so the filling doesn't spill out. Place them in an oven dish.
- Combine sour cream and egg and spread on top of thepancakes.
- Bake at 200 °C [400 °F] for about 20 minutes or until they turn golden. Serve hot.
My favorite palacinka filling is poppy seed filling as made typically in Slovakia
what a wonderful idea. I adore poppy seeds.
I add two tbls of oil to my batter…in the beginning..Never need to add additional oil.
That works too.