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What The Heck Are Ployes?

If you're from Aroostook County, Maine, you know all about these special buckwheat pancakes, which are a treasured culinary tradition. Learn their interesting history and how they're made.

Here at Farmers’ Almanac, we love exploring the many different regional foods enjoyed by our readers and learning about their history and origin. Recently, we were asked if we had a recipe for a special food eaten here in Maine and in parts of Canada, called ployes, but we didn’t have one in our archives. So we did a little investigating (it is our home state, after all!) and what we uncovered was delicious!

What Are Ployes?

At first glance, it looks like a misspelling of “ploy” (it’s pronounced the same way), but in the simplest terms, a ploye is a cross between a pancake and a crumpet, made with buckwheat flour, which gives them a nutty flavor. The texture is generally light and crispy on one side, with lots of little bubbles, called eyes.

How Do you Eat Them?

Ployes with a side of cretons from a restaurant in Frenchville, Maine. Wikimedia Commons.

Ployes are very versatile. Top with fruit, add some maple syrup, jam, whipped cream, or even a couple of eggs, and you’ve got breakfast. At lunch and dinner, serve them in place of bread. You can dip them in soups and stews, add some homemade baked beans inside and roll them up for the perfect snack. Ployes are sometimes topped with cretons, which is a pork spread, similar to pate.

Ployes were meant to be inexpensive but filling. That is why the ingredient list is always so basic — just buckwheat, flour, water, and perhaps a bit of salt and baking powder. Eggs, oils, milk and other expensive ingredients were precious among early settlers, usually reserved for special occasions or dishes that really needed the extra ingredients.

A Brief History of Ployes

Ployes started as a French tradition that came to North America with the French Acadians. In the 1700s, they settled in Nova Scotia, making ployes with a slightly altered ingredient list compared to similar foods made in Europe. In the Americas, Japanese buckwheat was used because the black buckwheat common in Europe was not available to Acadian settlers.

In 1783, the Acadians settled along the St. John River Valley, which would become the Canadian-American border. With them came ployes, the recipe for which was passed down from generation to generation, resulting in the traditional dish that people of northern Maine enjoy today.

Why Are They Called Ployes?

No one is quite certain exactly how this name came about but it is thought that the name could come from the word “plier,” which means to fold or bend, the way ployes are traditionally eaten. It could also be onomatopoeia; the word “ploye” sounding similar to the sound that is made when one mixes batter.

Ployes Recipe

(Acadian Buckwheat Pancakes)

Ingredients:
2 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Sift the dry ingredients together, then add two cups cold water. Once the batter is mixed, add the boiling water and mix well. The batter should be thin, often compared to the consistency of half-and-half or milk with cream. If it isn’t thin enough, add water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Then let the batter rest before cooking, about ten minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, pour the batter in 8″ – 12″ circles on a hot griddle. Ployes are only cooked on one side, so don’t flip them! Cook until the “eyes” appear and the batter sets. When ready, a ploye should look dry on top, crispy golden-brown underneath and the edges should start to curl. Don’t worry about too many eyes in the finished ploye — more bubbles means a better ploye!

Once finished, top your ployes any way you like — jam, butter and syrup, cretons, or leave them plain to dip in soups and stews.

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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Rick Dubay

You can find the Ploye mix on Amazon, Bouchard Farms sells it on there. Follow the recipe on the bag. Make sure your griddle or nonstick pan is hot!

Susan Higgins

Good tip, thanks, Rick!

Gill Picard

You can’t use just any buckwheat flour. Your ploye should turn out a nice yellow and for that you need some Northern Maine or Northern New Brunswick buckwheat flour. Otherwise your ploye will end up kind of grey and they just don’t taste the same.
Also, we hardly ever fold them, we slather them with butter and roll them up. They often are a substitute for bread the we eat with beans or stew and then after supper, we dip them in molasses for desert.

Susan Higgins

Terrific, Gill, thanks for sharing. Ok, who’s hungry?

Tom Chipain

Great article ( as usual) Amber, can’t wait to try them!
Yum!

Scott Cole

To create a gluten free version substitute 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, and 1/4 cup tapioca flour for the all purpose flour. Will try this weekend.

Susan Higgins

Scott, let us know how they turn out!

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