Recipe-phile: A new take on 'cakes is a sure post-holiday breakfast pleaser
After the blitz that was Thanksgiving dinner, most cooks (myself included) enter into a period of low-energy expenditure - off-peak hours, if you will. Utilizing all the leftovers from the big dinner is an art, but one that takes more creative thought than real effort.
But if you have a pleasant lingering holiday houseful, with sleepy friends or relatives wandering around your kitchen in search of coffee cups, breakfast can take its turn as the main event - especially if you keep it simple.
If you're like me and don't cook well before you've had your coffee, consider pancakes. Flapjacks will work, but there are so many other interesting variations. Just four ingredients - eggs, sugar, butter and flour - can make infinite combinations. Recipes are so close that even the mistakes work out to be something. So if you flub and overwhip the griddle cake batter, you can thin it out and make an acceptable crepe or palatschinken or blintz.
And I have a book that pretty much proves it: Pancakes Aplenty, by Ruth Ellen Church, 170 pages stacked with pancake recipes. In it I can find everything from flannel cakes to Wai-Kiki Crabmeat Pancakes. I dug it from the pile in the back room of Rich's Antiques, its pages tanned like old linen and splattered enough to tell me that it was once a reliable source for someone.
For years I've been waking up dreaming about the perfect baked oven pancake, an inflated, perfectly caramelized dutch baby. No recipe I've tried has been bad, but I've found that adding a pinch of baking powder to the batter keeps the pancake balloon aloft longer. It will eventually deflate and settle, but the eggy filling remains soft and delicious and besides, a warm pannekoeken, puffed and cracking, usually doesn't stick around long.
Aebleskivers are another fun one, but you do need a special Danish aebleskiver pan. Years ago they called it a "munk pan" (according to Ruth Ellen Church) and I found mine in a dusty hardware store in a small Scandinavian town in Iowa, next to a lefse flipper, or whatever it's called. The pan is small and round and handled, with six deep spherical pockets. You heat the pan and add plenty of butter, then a dollop of batter, followed by a smaller spoonful of apple butter or jam in the center. As the pancake balls cook you flip them by poking a toothpick at their edge, nudging them over. Eat them sprinkled with plenty of powdered sugar and, as is the Scandinavian way, with melted butter to pass.
Blue Ribbon Country Cookbook by Diane Roupe
My favorite recipe for American flapjacks, tender and light. For maximum height, be sure not to overmix the flour.
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 extra-large egg
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon butter
maple syrup, warm
Into a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar; reserve.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. All at once, pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture Using a small mixing spoon, stir and fold only until the flour disappears. The batter will be lumpy.
Preheat a griddle or large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the skillet; using a spatula, spread the butter out over the skillet. Spoon the batter onto the sizzling skillet, cooking two or three 5-inch pancakes at a time. Using the spatula, turn pancakes once when bubbles form and break on the top of the batter, and the underside of the pancakes is browned (cook about 1 ½ minutes on each side). Serve immediately.
Brown Sugar Dutch Baby
1 apple, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large (9- or 10-inch) cast-iron pan, fry the apples in butter and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar.
Mix the eggs, remaining brown sugar and milk until smooth and then sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Beat lightly to combine.
Pour the batter over the apples and gently nudge the apples toward the center. Put the pan in the preheated 450 degree oven and bake until dark golden brown and puffed, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, with butter and maple syrup.
From Pancakes Aplenty by Ruth Ellen Church
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
butter for lining cups
1/2 cup apple butter or tart berry jam
Sift together flour, salt, sugar and soda. Blend well-beaten egg yolks with 1 cup buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until smooth. Add remaining buttermilk and vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Brush cups of aebleskiver pan generously with butter, heat to sizzling, then spoon or pour in batter 1/4-inch from the top of each cup. Drop 1 teaspoon of apple butter or jam into the center of each aebleskiver.
Cook until delicately brown underneath, loosen around edges with a toothpick, quickly turn over and brown the other side. Use a cake tester to determine when done. Remove from pan and keep warm in a low oven as you fry the rest. (Or simply serve immediately to waiting and ready eaters.) Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve warm, with melted butter.