The kids had a snow day today, so I decided to take a snow day too, and there is only one thing to have for breakfast on a snow day: pancakes.
With lots of maple syrup and bacon. And gallons of steaming hot coffee. Mmmmm…
For the past couple years I’ve worked as a professional pancake maker at a bed & breakfast, which means that I’ve worked every weekend for the past couple years, which in turn means that I’ve made pancakes at least four days a week for the past couple years, but that my kids have very rarely had pancakes during that time since they are on their own at home most weekend mornings. So, with this being a very snowy day, I knew making pancakes was the right thing to do.
I began by putting on the music of Spencer Lewis. He is my favorite Vermont musician. I have two of his albums, Gardener’s Rain and Lighter Than Fancy, and I think his music is the soul of Vermont made audible. These two albums are all instrumentals, acoustic guitar and fiddle, and they are sublime. It was his music that I used to accompany the slide show of photos of my father at his memorial service, but it is also the music I listen to when it’s raining in the spring and I want to just relax and enjoy the sound of the rain on the roof.
It happens that I have buttermilk in the refrigerator today because I made Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and while I do often have buttermilk on hand, I don’t always have it. This recipe is just as good with regular milk as with buttermilk – either will work. And although I would have preferred to have blueberry pancakes this morning, I didn’t have any blueberries in the freezer. I considered making apple cinnamon pancakes, a favorite at the b&b, but opted instead for peach pancakes, to use some of last summer’s canned peaches. You can use whatever fruit you have available, or none at all if you prefer, but regardless of which you choose, be sure add the cinnamon to the batter – it makes the best difference.
My kids are big pancake eaters, so I always make a big batch. The batter will keep overnight if you want to make it before you go to bed the night before you want to eat the pancakes, or, if you make a big batch today, the leftover batter will be fine to use tomorrow, if you want to have pancakes two days in a row. The butter in the photo is locally made from the milk of only Jersey cows, so it’s yellower and sweeter than regular butter.
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 tbs sugar (better if it’s maple sugar, which is what I use at home)
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg if you are adding peaches
a pinch of cloves if you are adding grated apple
2 tbs canola oil (or melted butter if you want the bother of melting it)
2 c. buttermilk or regular milk, whole or skim (whatever you have around will be fine)
blueberries, peaches, grated apple, mashed ripe banana, or whatever fruit you like, if you want fruited pancakes
Whisk together the dry ingredients until they are well combined. I like the flavor of maple sugar in the pancakes, but if you don’t have any, regular sugar will be just fine. I always add cinnamon, even if I’m making blueberry pancakes, as it complements everything, including the maple syrup. You won’t go wrong if you also add a little grated orange zest, since that complements everything too.
Lightly beat the eggs in the milk or buttermilk with the oil. I used to use melted butter, but I finally realized that there is so little butter in pancakes that there is no flavor difference between using butter and oil, and rather than dirtying an extra dish and taking the time to melt the butter, I was just as satisfied using a little oil.
Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients all at once and stir just until all the flour is moistened. The batter should be very lumpy and bumpy. The milk or buttermilk will begin reacting with the baking powder and baking soda right away and you will have lots of bubbles from the start. If you need to add a little more milk or buttermilk to make a batter that you can spread on the griddle, go ahead and add a little more, trying to keep from stirring the batter too much. Add the fruit by very gently folding it in with the ladle you intend to use to scoop to the batter onto the griddle. It’s best to let the batter sit for at least five minutes before you begin frying the pancakes. It can sit out for two or more hours without losing quality.
I have a definite preference for cast iron cookware, and I always use a cast iron griddle when making pancakes at home. My cast iron is well seasoned from years of regular use, so it’s all nonstick. I never, ever use nonstick cookware, as I’m convinced it’s poisonous. Electric griddles are good because the temperature is usually quite accurate (and they definitely don’t need to be nonstick), whereas on my electric stove it’s often difficult to tell when the griddle is the right temperature. At the b&b, we set the burners on the new electric stove at 2.4 for pancakes. This morning at home, I had one burner set to 2.5 and the other set to 3.0 since I discovered that they are not both the same temperature at the same setting. It’s up to you to know your stove – you want the griddle to be hot enough that the pancakes don’t stick, but not so hot that they burn on the outside before the middle is cooked. The pancakes are ready to turn when the top is covered in little bubbles and the outer edge looks dry.
It’s best to flip the pancakes only once, although it’s better to have a second go on the first side if you’ve turned it too early than to have the pancakes be runny in the middle. If you’ve added frozen blueberries and they’re still frozen when the pancakes go on the griddle, the temperature difference between the batter touching the frozen berries and the rest of the batter can be enough to make underdone portions in your pancakes, so it’s better to have your batter turn a little blue from thawed berries than to try to keep the batter light by using the berries when they are still completely frozen.
The sugar added to the batter will help the pancakes cook up to a golden brown and add tenderness.
And really, pancakes are nothing more than a vehicle for maple syrup.
Even the picture on the plate is of sugaring – the sleigh crossing the bridge is hauling buckets of maple sap.
And since it was snowing this morning, and I was listening to Spencer Lewis, and I had some bacon in the freezer, I thought I would be remiss not to fry it up. If you want to make maple glazed bacon, it’s the easiest thing to do.
This is thick-sliced, applewood-smoked bacon from North Country Smokehouse in New Hampshire. It’s my favorite, after Singleton’s, of course. I fry it in a cast-iron frying pan until it’s dark golden brown, and then I pour maple syrup over it, stirring it around in the pan until the syrup begins to boil.
After about a minute of boiling, I remove the maple glazed bacon to a platter. Mmmmm….
Thank God for snow days!