Monday, February 06, 2006

Strawberry-Banana Corn Mountain Pancakes

The door to a girl’s heart lies in a fluffy pancake. I do not take comfort in flabby, thin pancakes I have sometimes been served. Nor am I much a lover of the generic buttermilk pancake. Though good, I have grown tired of their monotony. Recently, I was served a wheat germ pancake larger than a Frisbee. I was more impressed by the size than the flavor. At this same meal, I was told my friend’s upcoming wedding will serve pancakes at the reception. From my favorite pancake spot I used to order 10 little dollar pancakes. Sometimes known as silver dollar pancakes, I enjoyed these because my tiny hands could cup a pancake, and easily be shoved whole onto my delicate palate. My grandmother makes pancakes without following a recipe, effortlessly puffy, requiring all grandchildren to drench them in her homemade jam. If another’s jam is brought to her kitchen she will “forget” to put it out amongst her own.

I have required D to make these pancakes for me often. They are his family’s “secret” recipe—taken from a cornmeal box long ago. They are the pancake of his youth and happily remembered breakfast table. The first time he made these pancakes for me he held the phone to his ear, mixing ingredients, as his mother retold the recipe she refused to write down. A few weeks later, he had called so often, the recipe was mailed to him.

The perfect fluffiness, the perfect denseness, the perfect sweetness, these pancakes are bold enough to stand on their own. One day, behind D’s back, I added chopped apples, mimicking my grandmother’s perfect pancake. When he turned around to witness the horror I had created he refused to proceed. Just go on, I encouraged. Before long he happily exclaimed the apple to be the perfect complement to the cornmeal and molasses base. Since then, D and I have made these pancakes in countless fruit forms: apple, pear, banana, blueberry, strawberry, peach...

We have also altered the original recipe slightly. Again to D’s horror, I emptied a jar of applesauce into the batter. You’ve ruined it, he moaned. Remember the apples, I pushed. When the pancakes were complete they were fluffier than ever. Since then, whenever applesauce is in the house, we happily add it, along with any fruit we may have.

D and I normally make a whole batch of these pancakes. Their subtle aroma fills the house and two or three days later we pop them cold into our mouth on the way out the door. We offer them to friends who are overly impressed with their not-so-simple looking nature. Little do they know how simple they really are.

The key to these pancakes is in the cornmeal and molasses. Only top-quality ingredients should be used. Last summer at the Indiana State Fair, D’s mother gifted us a bag of cornmeal from Sunny Slopes Farm. It is the perfect cornmeal for this pancake (they do not take online orders: 765.874.2170). A few months later when we ran out of cornmeal, I called Sunny Slopes. As I spoke to Mrs. Slope herself about the benefits of farm-fresh products I told her I would only buy direct from farms in the future. She laughed and sent me 2 lbs of cornmeal, complete with invoice. A few days later I kept my promise, ordering goat cheese I had fallen for from a farm outside of Poughkeepsie.

These pancakes are simple and delicious. Making them takes little effort. They are sure to become a household favorite. With this recipe, you may now discard all other pancake recipes (except for maybe the baked apple pancake). Play with the amount of molasses used. D and I actually use Sorghum, about double the asked for quantity. We also usually throw in fruit-- this is optional, but delicious. Do what you may, but never say these babies are dull, lacking flavor or fluff.

Makes about 15 4-inch pancakes. Prep time= 10 minutes.
* 1 egg
* 1-1/4 cup milk
* 5 Tbl vinegar
* 2 Tbl molasses
* 1/4 cup butter, melted
* 1 cup flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
* 3/4 cup applesauce
* ripe fruit, sliced into 1/4-inch discs (optional)

1) Beat together egg, milk, vinegar, molasses, butter, and applesauce.
2) Add flour, sifted with salt, baking soda and baking powder, stir until blended.
3) Add cornmeal, stir until just blended.
4) Warm a skillet on mediu-high heat. Melt 1 Tbl butter. When pan is hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop and drop even batter. Place fruit slices ontop of batter. Cook until bubbles begin to appear, about 3 minutes. Flip, cook for another 2 minutes.

NOTE: Sliced apples, pears, blueberries, or any other fruit is amazing with this batter. Another version is to use buttermilk instead of regular milk and vinegar.

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