Sunglasses wrapped like a fallen angel’s
~ John Kinsella, Divine Comedy – Canto of Wings
“Pancakes” – a word for any Dictionary of Words that Elicit Smiles. It seems to me that every time the word “pancakes” is uttered, ears prick up and faces start glowing with warm-fuzziness while mouths chime in on a chorus of “Mmmmm…”
I remember that four years ago, when I cooked so poorly that a certain flatmate tried to ban me from the kitchen permanently (I kid you not – he trembled on my Cooking Nights and once stood at the entrance to the kitchen begging to know what I would come up with this time)… one of the things I desperately wanted to learn to make was pancakes. I thought that if I could just make them, I would be well on my way to being a Wonder Woman in the kitchen. Wonder Woman in general. With Nigella coursing through my veins.
I did make pancakes that year. Sometimes they resembled good pancakes. Sometimes they did not. One time I made these blueberry pancakes that looked a great deal like a freckled face dotted with pimples and bruises. My friend Justin ate them with a bright smile, and then we sat down and watched “Star Wars” DVDs till Yoda snuggled into my eyelids.
I am sure that must be one of the reasons Justin and I are still good friends – I admire the qualities of humour and courage very much. (Justin likes berries and madness.)
Mastering the art of making pancakes was to me so synonymous with achieving success in cooking (plus I knew no one who disliked them), that I was pretty blind to the shortcomings of pancakes. It took me a while to realise I was more in love with the idea of being in love with pancakes, than actually in love with them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had jolly good pancake/crepe/hotcake meals. I remember in particular one pancake party my friend Hellie hosted a while ago – it kept me in a reverie for days afterwards! Also, I like maple syrup as much as anyone could like maple syrup, and they happen to take to pancakes exceptionally well :-)
It’s just that, good as they are, pancakes seldom taste as good as they look and smell to me. (Some say the same about coffee).
The truth is that, most of the time when I DO venture to eat pancakes, they excite me at the start, evoke boredom and a bloated stomach midway through the meal… and I leave the table sad.
So, all that said, I awoke at 6.30 this morning and was pretty surprised that I had a picture of pancakes in my head. I peeked at a few sites on Google, scribbled down a list of ingredients and decided to make a small batch of pancakes.
I had buttermilk, condensed milk and pomegranate seeds on hand, so that is how this recipe came into being.
And, you know, it wasn’t so bad.
Bejewelled buttermilk pancakes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
pinch of lemon zest (optional)
1 egg, separated
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
2-3 tbsp condensed milk
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and cinnamon if using, then set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg yolk and butter. Add this to the dry ingredients and whisk together. Do not over-whisk.
In a separate bowl, whip the egg white, then fold it into the above mixture.
Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Grease with a pat of butter or some olive oil (butter tastes better in this instance). When it shimmers, ladle batter on to the skillet, making pancakes of any size.
I found these cooked pretty quickly – keep an eye on them and flip them before they burn (approximately 1-2 minutes)! Once the second side is lightly browned, rescue and keep them in a warm spot in your kitchen.
Once they are all done, place a pancake on a clean plate, drizzle condensed milk and scatter pomegranate seeds on it, then add a pancake on top and repeat these steps till you have a sparkling pancake stack. Substitute condensed milk and pomegranate seeds with your favourite pancake toppings if you wish.
Open the windows, greet the morning, and eat your meal with fork and knife.
This recipe yields three small pancakes – when cooking for a crowd, you can probably adjust the dry ingredients to scale (i.e. 1/4 cup flour for three pancakes, 1/2 cup for six pancakes, etc) but I think you’ll have to adjust the number of eggs and amount of wet ingredients based on how your batter looks! This batter seems pretty forgiving, anyhow, so just experiment and have fun. Also, preheat the oven to 50°C and keep the stack of pancakes warm in the oven while you cook all of them.
P.S. Through a stroke of great fortune, I got a complimentary ticket to attend the opening night of Cav & Pag last night. Blood, jealousy, love, blue skies and the scent of orange trees. Pathos. Humour. Surprises. Themes reflected in colours, posture, juxtaposition. A moving stage set. Luring singing. Enjoyed the two hours of magic! In Auckland? Get your tickets here.