Buckwheat pancakes are a healthy and flavorful way to start your day. Buckwheat gives traditional pancakes a rich, nutty flavor, and it also has a long history in the Finger Lakes region. Birkett Mills in Penn Yan made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for baking the world’s largest pancake during the Buckwheat Festival. This Buckwheat Pancake recipe doesn’t create nearly as big of a pancake, but it’s definitely a winner!
What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat falls into a group of grains that is actually the product of thousands of years of selective breeding, these grains are usually referred to as ancient grains. But, buckwheat isn’t technically a grain, but actually a fruit seed from a plant that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. The buckwheat seeds are called groats and can be processed into flour, or used in cereals similar to oatmeal.
And, despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat at all, making it totally safe for those who are intolerant or allergic to gluten.
The Finger Lakes region is well suited for growing buckwheat, and There are some 300 buckwheat farms scattered across Upstate New York. The climate is ideal and this ground cover group can be planted as a secondary crop after early vegetables are harvested to prevent weeds, and improve the availability of soil nutrients to the next season’s plantings. New York State’s Buckwheat doesn’t have far to travel to be processed either, most of New Yorks Buckwheat is processed right here in the Finger Lakes at Birkett Mills in Penn Yan.
The World’s Largest Buckwheat Pancake
If the name Birkett Mills rings a bell, it might have something to do with the world’s largest pancake, a record that was set in 1987, but has since been broken, at the Buckwheat Festival in Penn Yan.
The Buckwheat Festival was actually a big deal around Upstate New York. The idea was simple, host a weekend event that was held in September, a time when things are slowing down for the season in the Finger Lakes region, to draw visitors back out to our area after the summer months. Sponsored by Birkett Mills in Penn Yan, one of the oldest and largest buckwheat mills in the country, the weekend event featured a parade, buckwheat food items, performers, family activities, and of course in 1986 a world record-breaking pancake. The event was undoubtedly a success, the year of the World Record Pancake attendance was estimated to be a crowd of 30,000. Within 13 years the event became so popular it just became too big to be managed by the staff at Birkett Mills and local volunteers, and the last Buckwheat Festival was held in 1999.
Making a World Record Setting Pancake
The Pancake that broke the world record was 28″ and 1′ in diameter. The record has since been broken, by Rochdale, Manchester, UK when it made a 49-foot pancake in 1994. The batter was mixed in a cement mixer that was brand new at the time, and sanitized by the company who owned it. The custom griddle the huge pancake was cooked on was made by a local fabrication company. In fact, the massive griddle still exists, the top and bottom of the griddle are on display separately, one outside the Birkett Mills complex and the other at the fairgrounds.
The buckwheat pancake batter that was mixed in the cement mixer was poured into one part of the griddle using one of those cement chutes you see construction crews use to pour foundations and sidewalks. I am not sure why, but I am oddly fascinated by this batter delivery method! Workers then used wooden “rakes” to evenly spread the batter.
When the pancake was nearly cooked, the top part of the griddle was clamped onto the bottom griddle and the entire thing was flipped by a construction crane, apparently flipping the pancake is a requirement set by the Guinness people. The ginormous pancake was then cut up and served to attendants with maple syrup and butter for $1, not a bad deal to taste local history.
I wasn’t there to see all this go down, although I really wish I was.
Who knows maybe with the rise in the popularity of Buckwheat again, we will see another Buckwheat Festival, but until then we have this great recipe for buckwheat pancakes we can enjoy at home, sans cement mixer.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 3 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 3/4 cup Buckwheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Beat the eggs and milk until light and foamy, about 3 minutes at high speed of a stand or hand mixer. Stir in the butter or vegetable oil. Whisk the dry ingredients together to evenly distribute the salt, baking powder and sweetener. Gently and quickly mix into the egg and milk mixture. Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes, while the griddle is heating; it will thicken slightly. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat, or set an electric griddle to 375°F. Lightly grease frying pan or griddle. The pan or griddle is ready if a drop of water will skitter across the surface, evaporating immediately. Drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the lightly greased griddle. Bake on one side until the edges look dry, and bubbles begin to form and break, about 2 minutes; then turn the pancakes and cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn over only once. Serve immediately with maple syrup.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112 Total Fat: 4.5g Saturated Fat: 2.5g Cholesterol: 41mg Sodium: 193mg Carbohydrates: 15g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 3.4g Protein: 3.7g
Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour
If you try this recipe, or were actually at the Buckwheat Festival in 1986 for the making of the massive pancake I would love for you to tell me what you thought about it in the comments!