I do believe that pancake-making is an act of love. Whipping up pancake batter is a cinch, but my goodness, all that ladling and watching and flipping, over and over again. Pancake-making is an eminently rewarding activity, but it’s an activity we do with and for our loved ones. For why else would we spend all that time at the stove other than to hang out in our pajamas with our favorite people and then eat the fruits—er, cakes—of our labor?
I am all in favor of acts of love. Doesn’t “act of love” bestow a sense of the extraordinary on what might be a mundane task? But to me, an act of love is an act done with great care and compassion, and it is the intention and emotion underlying the act that elevates it to greatness. The reciprocity of these acts of love bind us together and steadies us in the wake of life’s trials. Forget diamond rings, fancy vacations, expensive cars—make me some pancakes and I will love you forever.
My sister, Theresa, who hardly ever cooks (as far as I know), is one of the best pancake-makers I know. Her pancakes are always perfectly cooked, fluffy and delicious. Unfortunately, Theresa lives far away, so I can’t just call her up on a Friday night and ask her if she wants to have breakfast together the next day. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’m not that easily defeated, so I take it upon myself to make the pancakes. But given my previous statements about making pancakes for loved ones, what are we to make of the solitary pancake-maker? I say let us ALL make pancakes, alone or together. Then we will all have the necessary skills to griddle up something delicious for breakfast. I consider my solo pancake breakfasts a treat and good practice for future group breakfasts.
Call me spoiled, but my favorite pancake dishes are a little more complex than cakes, butter, and maple syrup. I am a big fan of interesting toppings for pancakes, and I think sweetened sauteed apples just won my heart. I adapted the following pancake recipe from a recipe in Crescent Dragonwagon’s beautiful new book, The Cornbread Gospels. The original recipe, Ned and Crescent’s Favorite Multigrain Pancakes, serves 2-4 people; I cut it in half to serve 1-2 people. That way I can make it for myself and practice my pancake-making in small batches. The topping recipe is adapted from the recipe for Warm Maple-Apple Saute, which Crescent recommends as the topping for these multigrain cakes. My version makes enough for 3-4 pancakes, which is the perfect amount for me to eat in one sitting. It's also a little richer than the original version. These hearty pancakes are going into my regular rotation: substantial, crisped on the outside, and lovely when served with Warm Maple-Apple Saute. A perfect breakfast for a lazy winter morning.
By the way, The Cornbread Gospels is a fantastic cookbook, and I highly recommend it, especially to any bakers. I am sure I will be cooking a lot from this book in the months to come. I received it as a birthday present from my brother John. Thank you, John! You can see I’m putting your gift to good use. And if you, dear reader, happen to be connected to me by family or friendship, don’t buy your copy until AFTER the Christmas holidays…
Multigrain Pancakes for Two
Adapted from Ned and Crescent’s Favorite Multigrain Pancakes, The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon
Serves 2 (makes about 8 pancakes)
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt (or a bit less—I found these cakes to be a little salty but still quite delicious)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. butter, melted
A bit of vegetable oil for the pan
Warm Maple-Apple Saute (recipe follows)
1) In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flours, salt, and baking soda.
2) In another mixing bowl, beat the egg and then beat the buttermilk and butter into the egg.
3) Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Try not to overmix the ingredients; just mix until there aren’t big dry patches of flour. Lumps are okay.
4) Grease a skillet with a little vegetable oil. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so. Lower the heat to medium and ladle a quarter cup of batter into the center of the skillet. The batter is thick and so the pancakes will be small, about 3-4 inches in diameter. Cook the first side for about one minute. The pancake is ready to be flipped when the edges look a bit dry and you have seen several bubbles surface in the center of the cake. Flip the pancake and cook the second side for another minute or so. Serve immediately or slide the cakes onto a cookie sheet in a warm oven to keep them warm until serving time.
Warm Maple-Apple Saute
Serves 1 (double the recipe to serve two at once)
1 apple, cored, peeled, and sliced into thin slices
½ tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
Cinnamon to taste
1) Prepare the apple as directed above. Melt the butter into a skillet and add the apple slices to it. Saute the apple slices over medium heat for several minutes, stirring them occasionally.
2) The apples are done when they have softened and browned a bit. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon (if using) to the apples and stir everything together. Spoon the apple mixture into a serving bowl and serve with love at the table with the pancakes.