Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pancakes 101

Good cooks become good cooks over time, developing recipes through trial and error, experimenting with ingredients and methods until they finally find the mix that works for them. Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food has done just that with pancakes, and this week he shares two of his favorite recipes with us.

My pancake touchstone is the recipe in my 1943 Joy of Cooking. A couple of eggs, milk, salt and flour, the batter leavened with double acting baking powder. When our boys were young I made it with buttermilk, Nancy’s yogurt and a blend of white and whole wheat flour. We ate them with jam and yogurt mostly, sometimes fake maple syrup. My approach has evolved a bit over the past couple of decades.


For basic pancakes you need three mixing bowls. In one combine about a cup and half of whole wheat flour (or mixture of unbleached white, white whole wheat, etc.) with a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt. Blend well.

Use the other two bowls to separate two eggs. In the bowl with the yolks, blend in about a cup of buttermilk (or milk and yogurt mixed, or just milk). Set the whites aside for a minute.

Make a depression in the flour mix in the dry bowl, pour in the milk blend, and mix gently until combined. It should be fairly thick, but not that it won’t pour, so add a little more milk if necessary, but don’t mix any more than you need to.

Use a manual eggbeater to beat the whites to soft peaks, then gently fold them in to the batter.

Your griddle or skillet should be heated already (low heat, preferably cast iron). Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the griddle; keep them small and the cakes will be easier to manage. Don’t crowd them, either.

Ignore them for about 3-4 minutes, then look to see if the edges are drying out and small bubbles are forming on the top. When the bubbles on top begin to open, gently slide a thin metal spatula under the edge of the first cake. Lift it a bit to make sure it’s brown, then loosen the edges before flipping it over. Flip the rest, cook for another 3-4 minutes, then remove to a warm plate for eating.

After I started getting the incredible corn meal produced by Carol and Anthony Boutard at their Ayers Creek Farm, I made corn cakes by substituting the corn for some of the flour. These are also delicious, especially with the addition of some chopped cooked bacon, or, even better, candied bacon.

But after making some fritters from cooked winter squash and polenta, and liking how the squash blended with the corn, I thought the same combination might work with pancakes. It does.

Winter Squash Corncakes with Bacon

In one bowl, combine the dry ingredients: 1 cup good cornmeal (Ayers Creek, Anson Mills or similar whole grain ground corn), 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon each baking soda and salt. Add about a half cup of chopped, cooked bacon.

Separate two eggs. To the yolks, add a cup of cooked winter squash, and a cup of milk (or buttermilk or yogurt or a mix). Blend well, then combine with the dry ingredients. Add more milk if the batter is too thick to pour. Beat the whites to soft peaks and fold in.

Cook as described above. I like to eat these with maple syrup and creme fraiche.

Top photo: For a great topper, check out this recipe for Braised Apples, Maple Syrup and Bourbon.

No comments: