I hadn't planned on a pancake column this year, but with four callers in one day telling me they couldn't wait to choose their recipes for Pancake Day, I figured I'd better rethink. There are, after all, endless possibilities.
I have a few pancake tips to get us started today. The batter always benefits from resting for a few minutes before you start to cook, but it can get too thick to spread out on the pan, so you may have to add a couple of spoonfuls of milk at the last minute. Don't mix dry and wet ingredients together too vigorously - you will develop gluten in the batter and toughen the pancakes. Lumps won't hurt a bit.
Get the frying pan hot and grease lightly with oil. I am willing to sacrifice the first pancake to get the temperature perfect, and that's when the top of each one becomes pock-marked with bubbles before the bottoms burn.
If you're frying a big stack, put waxed paper between the layers. Pancakes freeze well; reheat in the microwave or, believe it or not, in the toaster.
Corncakes with spiced blueberry sauce
Let's start with something off the beaten path. These little darlings make a fantastic side dish with chili or soup, making you feel better if the idea of pancakes for a whole meal bothers you. If you add the slightly hot, wonderfully flavourful sauce, these make the best dessert you can imagine. Make them a little smaller than regular pancakes to maximize the crispy edges. To sour milk, put 2 tbsp. of white vinegar in a 1-cup measure and fill up with milk. Allow to sit 5 minutes. This makes about 36 small pancakes.
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (medium grind works the best but coarse is fine)
2 cups buttermilk or soured milk
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 whole red Thai chilies
1 pinch salt
Whisk together cornmeal, buttermilk and honey and allow to soak 10 minutes, until thickened. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt and stir into cornmeal mixture. Beat egg until thick and frothy and stir into batter. Stir in melted butter and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a greased frying pan over medium heat. Cook on one side until golden - these won't bubble up on the top the way most pancakes do - then flip and cook on the other side. For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the berries burst and the mixture thickens - about 10 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't boil dry - add a little water if needed. You may need a little more sugar, as well, so taste when it's just about done. Discard the chilies before serving.
Buttermilk pancakes with orange sauce
Real buttermilk makes a world of difference in these. You can substitute soured milk if you like, but a trip to the grocery store won't be wasted. These are fantastic with maple or table syrup, or a spoonful of jam and a sprinkle of icing sugar, but the orange sauce adds a fresh taste that is most welcome this time of year. This recipe makes 16 good-sized pancakes.
1-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk or soured milk
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. melted butter
3 cups orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. grated orange rind
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. orange liqueur (optional)
For the pancakes, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat eggs until light and frothy. Add buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter. Add liquid ingredients all at once to dry, stirring until just combined. Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased hot frying pan. Cook until bubbles break through the top and the bottom is golden, then flip and finish cooking on the other side. For the sauce, bring orange juice, sugar and orange rind to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thick and syrupy. Whisk in butter until melted and sauce is glossy. Stir in liqueur and serve.
Lemon ricotta pancakes
These are so delicious just as they are it's almost a shame to put topping on them, but they are also fabulous with strawberry preserves or maple syrup, so it's up to you. Expect about 24 smallish pancakes, but they won't feed as many people as you think.
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, milk, egg, melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Add liquid ingredients all at once to flour mixture and stir just until combined - don't worry about the lumps. Allow batter to rest at least 15 minutes. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a lightly greased frying pan. Cook on one side until golden brown and bubbles burst in the surface. Flip and cook another few seconds on the other side, just until golden.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, N.L., A1E 4N1.