May 18, 2012

A Story About Pancakes (not the cat)

Confession time:  Until yesterday, I had never made a pancake, by myself, from start to finish.

It wasn't that I didn't know how.  I mean, theoretically, I understood the concept.  I could read a recipe.  Perhaps the finer details of the execution were lacking, but I'm a clever girl—I'm sure I could figure it out.  But the need never arose, given that it is my lot in life to fall in with a man who makes a mean pancake without any help from yours truly.

Also, I'm not a huge fan of pancakes.  (Pancakes, maybe.  On those few instances when he's behaving.)  Along with tuna on toast, pancakes were something we ate when the adult in charge of my dinner did not feel like cooking.  We had breakfast for dinner so often that the charm of the inverted meals wore thin.

Now, that is fine!  Sometimes I don't feel like cooking, either!  Why do you think we keep a supply of Annie's bunny pastas on hand?  But, for whatever reason, I am generally opposed to eating breakfast (read: pancakes) for dinner.  I have come to re-embrace them as a tasty breakfast food, especially since The Husband makes delicious chocolate chip pancakes and we always have a lot of maple syrup to work through (maple syrup, along with beer, wine, and cheese, is something I frequently smuggle back to the desert after trips to WNY; strangely, Arizona doesn't have a lot of maple trees).

On a recent-ish trip back home, we visited our local pancake-and-turkey purveyor, where I became enchanted with a crow statue (sadly, not for sale) and the idea of buckwheat pancakes.  But not the namby-pamby kind that only makes passing reference to buckwheat—no, I wanted hearty, nutty, earthy cakes, dagnabbit.  And rather than topping them with maple syrup—although it is delicious—I had a fridge full of berries purchased during a sale-and-heat-induced frenzy that desperately needed to be eaten before they sprouted fuzz and melted.

Here's what I ended up with:

A tasty quadruple-decker pancake tower, full of various stewed fruits.  The sweetness in both the cakes and fruits is subtle, with the slight tang of the berries helping cut the dense flavor of the buckwheat.

From top to bottom, we have:  maple–bourbon blackberries, mesquite honey and vanilla raspberries, lemon–poppyseed blueberries, and fig balsamic strawberries with black pepper.

I can't say for certain that these were better than the bunny-shaped pancakes I used to get as a kid.  But they were pretty dang good.

[Food considerations:  Vegetarian, but not vegan.  Gluten-free if you use only buckwheat flour.  Contains dairy and eggs.]


The berries

You can use any variety of berry you'd like, and can add whatever flavors/sweeteners/etc. you think work well together.  They come together pretty quickly; you're not making jam, here, so there's no need to cook it for very long.  You only want to simmer the fruits until they have broken down slightly and have made a little syrup.  Generally speaking, I ended up with half pints of the blackberries and blueberries and full pints of the strawberries and raspberries.

Here is the basic formula, with additions specified for each berry.

Put about 1 c. of washed berries into a medium pan, on medium heat, and stir frequently until the juices start to be released (you can add a tiny amount of water to help this along).  Add the sweetener, then cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to break down and the juice covers the bottom of the pan.  Depending on the berry (blackberries and blueberries particularly), you may need to mash a few of the fruits with the spoon to encourage their tasty destruction.  Keep an eye on them while they're cooking, and once they've reached the state of chunkiness you like best, uncover and continue simmering, stirring more frequently, until the juice has reduced a bit and you have a sticky, unctuous syrup.  Once it's to your liking, remove from the heat and pour into a jar.


Maple–bourbon blackberries:  For sweetener, use 3 or 4 tbsp. of maple syrup.  Once you remove the pan from the heat, stir in a scant tbsp. of bourbon before storing.

Mesquite honey and vanilla raspberries:  For sweetener, add 2 tbsp. of mesquite honey, if you can get it (any honey will work, though).  Before covering to simmer, add a vanilla pod.

Lemon–poppyseed blueberries:  For sweetener, use 2 dessert spoons of caster sugar; add a zest of one lemon and 2 pinches of blue poppyseeds with the sugar.  When you uncover the berries for the final simmer, add the juice of half a lemon.

Fig balsamic and black pepper strawberries:  For sweetener, use 2 dessert spoons of turbinado sugar.  Partway through the covered simmer, add 1 tbsp. of fig balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic is fine, too).  Stir in a couple of grinds of black pepper (probably about 1 or 2 tsp.) once you remove the fruit from the heat.

The pancakes (I ended up with six 3-inch and seven 4-inch cakes [sizes are rough estimates])

In a large bowl, sift together 3/4 c. buckwheat flour, 1/4 c. sprouted spelt flour (AP or other standard flours are fine, too), 2 tbsp. sugar, 3/8 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. baking soda.   Melt 2 tbsp. of unsalted butter and stir in.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together 1/2 c. plain yogurt, 1/2 c. + a slurp of milk, and 1 egg; add to the dry ingredients, stirring as you go.  You want a thickish, but still fluid, batter, so add more milk if it seems too dry.

While you're making the batter, heat up a heavy pan or griddle (I used a small, cast-iron stovetop griddle) over medium heat; you want it ready for the batter as soon as it's mixed.  Add a little knob of butter, swirling it about the cover the pan.  Using a small ladle or measuring cup (a 1/8 c. was a good size for my wee cakes), pour the batter onto the griddle, trying to keep it in a neat circle but being accepting when this doesn't happen.  Cook until bubbles begin to pop through in the middle of the cake, about 4–5 minutes.  Flip and cook for another minute or so, until lightly browned; serve immediately (if not building miniature Leaning Towers of Pancake) or place on a baking sheet in a warm oven until ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment