The term “flapjack” means different things in different countries. In Britain, flapjack is a dense, chewy bar cookie baked in a large sheet pan, rather like brownies. The ingredients in British flapjack vary widely, and often include fruit and nuts. In the United States, flapjacks are sweet flatbreads cooked on a griddle. They may also be called pancakes, hotcakes, or griddlecakes, and they are a common feature of American cuisine. The humble griddlecake has played quite a role in the history of American breakfast foods, and most Americans are familiar with the simple but satisfying food.
The origins of American-style flapjacks are quite old. Humans have been baking flatbreads for thousands of years, and the concept of a sweet flatbread as a breakfast food has been around for quite some time. Typically, flapjacks include milk, eggs, flour, sugar, and a rising agent, and they are served with syrup, fresh fruit, and other toppings. Ingredients such as rolled oats may also be added for additional texture and flavor. Most of the individual names for these sweet flatbreads are regional variations, and do not actually refer to totally different foods.
In general, flapjacks are larger than more ordinary pancakes, and they are cooked from a slightly runny batter, so they end up thin, chewy, and slightly crispy. They are often served in stacks, with ingredients layered between the individual flapjacks. When stacked, some people call flapjacks hotcakes, and several American slang terms reference hotcakes, as in “selling faster than a stack of hotcakes” for a popular item. While the food is most commonly cooked on an oiled griddle, it is also possible to bake flapjacks for a more low fat version.
To make basic flapjacks, sift together three cups of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, four teaspoons of baking powder, and one teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add two tablespoons of melted butter, two cups of milk, and two eggs. Mix until just combined before adding inclusions of choice such as fresh fruit, cinnamon, applesauce, chocolate chips, or cooked oatmeal, if desired.
Heat a griddle or a large cooking pan on medium heat and melt a small amount of butter on it. When the griddle is hot, use a measuring cup to ladle batter onto the griddle. Generally, a three quarter cup measure works very well for flapjacks. As the bottom layer of the flapjacks on the griddle becomes golden and crispy, flip them to cook the other side. Serve warm, layered with melted butter, syrup, fruit compote, whipped cream, or other ingredients.