What are crepe-style pancakes? Think French crêpe meets fluffy American diner pancake. Inspired by the hotcakes served at Pittsburgh’s famous Pamela’s Diner, these crepe-style pancakes are simultaneously elegant and simple, thin and puffy. And while there are dozens of ways you can serve them, this Pittsburgh breakfast specialty is best served with sour cream, fresh strawberries, and a sprinkling of sweet brown sugar.
Mother's Day is just around the corner, and it's the perfect excuse to enjoy an extra-special weekend brunch. And if we’re talking about a special breakfast, these crepe-style pancakes immediately come to mind.
French Crȇpe Meets Fluffy Diner Pancake
I've always loved diner-style pancakes, but the crepe-style pancakes served at Pamela's Diner here in Pittsburgh are out-of-this-world delicious! Just like my favorite chocolate chip cookies, these pancakes have delightfully crispy edges with soft centers. Crepe-style pancakes are not as thin and delicate as a traditional crêpe, making them easier to flip and cook. They're also not as thick and fluffy as traditional American diner pancakes, so they’re perfect for wrapping around your favorite fillings. Think fluffy diner pancake meets French crȇpe, and trust me when I say this hybrid pancake is goood! The famous “hotcakes” served at Pamela's Diner are the inspiration for this recipe.
Fun Fact: President Obama dined at Pamela’s Diner while visiting Pittsburgh during his 2008 campaign and was so smitten with the pancakes that he invited the owners to the White House to serve pancakes during a special Memorial Day breakfast.
Milk - I almost always use whole milk in baking, though any dairy milk will work for this recipe. I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk and so I’m not able to recommend a diary-free substitute.
Active Dry Yeast - This pancake recipe uses yeast - along with baking powder - to leaven the batter, which gives these pancakes a bit of lift and helps to achieve their soft centers. Instant yeast can be used in place of active dry, and the batter will become bubbly and be ready to rest overnight in the fridge more quickly if instant yeast is used.
Vegetable Oil - Vegetable oil is used both in the pancake batter to add fat and moisture and also in the pan in conjunction with butter when cooking the pancakes. Cooking the pancakes with both oil and butter is what gives these pancakes their perfectly crispy edges, so don’t skip this step.
Sour Cream - Though there are many ways to serve these pancakes (see some of my suggestions noted under Recipe Tips), the way that I first enjoyed them is with sour cream, fresh strawberries, and brown sugar. Yes, I realize sour cream on pancakes sounds strange, but trust me! You can use whatever type of sour cream you like best.
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
MAKE THE PANCAKE BATTER
- Heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave so that it's lukewarm (about 105°F/41°C. An instant read thermometer comes in handy here.) Pour the warm milk into a small, heat-safe bowl and immediately sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk. Let the milk and yeast sit for 5 minutes while you move on to the next step.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Check your milk and yeast. After resting for 5 minutes, the yeast should appear foamy on top of the milk. If the yeast does appear foamy, continue with the recipe. If it does not appear foamy, see my tips for troubleshooting yeast in the Recipe Tips below.
- Add the milk and yeast plus 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the flour mixture. Stir gently until combined.
LET THE BATTER REST
- Cover the bowl loosely with a lid or plastic wrap, leaving a small opening for air to escape. Let the batter sit at room temperature for 3 hours. It will become slightly bubbly.
- After the batter has had time to rest at room temperature and become bubbly, transfer the bowl of batter to the fridge to rest overnight.
COOK THE PANCAKES
- In the morning, just before cooking the pancakes, remove the dough from the fridge. The mixture may have separated slightly; this is okay. Beat the egg in a small bowl and add it to the batter, stirring gently until combined.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon of butter to a 10-inch skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat and swirl it around so the melting butter and oil coat the bottom of the skillet.
- Add about ⅓ cup of the batter to the skillet and quickly swirl the skillet around so the batter coats the bottom of the skillet and forms a round pancake (A). Cook the pancake for 2 to 2 ½ minutes, until the underside is golden brown. Flip the pancake with a spatula and cook for another 1 ½ to 2 minutes so that both sides are golden brown (B). Transfer the pancake to a plate. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more oil and butter to the skillet before cooking each pancake.
SERVE THE PANCAKES
- To serve, spread sour cream (about 2 Tablespoons per pancake) onto each pancake in a line down the middle (A). Top the sour cream with fresh strawberry slices and a sprinkle of brown sugar (about 1 teaspoon per pancake) (B). Fold the sides of each pancake up over the filling and serve (C).
- The first step in this recipe is to add yeast to warm milk to “proof” the yeast. This is done to ensure that the yeast is alive before using it in the recipe. The yeast should become foamy after it sits in the warm milk for 5 minutes. If the yeast does not become foamy after 5 minutes, give it 5 more minutes. If after 10 minutes there are still no bubbles among the milk and yeast, then the yeast is dead and should not be used. This is likely due to one of two reasons: 1) either the yeast was not properly stored or is beyond its expiration date or 2) the milk used was too hot and killed the yeast. Try again with fresh yeast and be extra careful to heat the milk to the proper temperature.
- Don’t skip refrigerating the batter before baking. This stint in the fridge gives the flour time to hydrate.
- Be sure to add oil and butter to the pan before cooking each pancake. This is key to creating the beautifully browned, crispy edges and also ensures that your pancakes won’t stick to the pan when cooking.
- To serve these pancakes the way that I like to order them at the diner, smear a strip of sour cream down the center of the pancake and top the sour cream with sliced strawberries (or blueberries) and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Fold the two sides of the pancake up over the filling in the middle, and you’re ready to serve! The brown sugar will develop a caramel-y taste when it meets the juice of the sweet strawberries, and the sour cream balances the sweetness beautifully. Sour cream on pancakes may sound strange, but trust me, this combo is sure to be a hit!
- Instead of filling the pancakes with fresh berries and sour cream, they can be served like classic pancakes with butter and maple syrup or filled like traditional crepes with jam, lemon curd, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream and berries, Nutella, and more!
- If you’re cooking pancakes for a crowd and want to serve them all at once (rather than one at a time as they cook), preheat your oven to 200°F (93°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper just before you begin cooking the pancakes. As you finish cooking each pancake, place it onto the lined baking sheet in the warm oven to keep the pancakes warm. Then serve all of the pancakes when you’ve finished cooking the batter.
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This post was originally published in May 2018. It was updated in April 2021 to include new recipe photos and additional recipe details.