Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pancake Day

When I think of Mardi Gras, and Carnival, I think of topless women painted purple, green and gold. I think of stuffing myself with chocolate in preparation of going almost six weeks without it. I think of people the world over engaging in drunken debauchery so they can bid it farewell the next day. And then I heard about how the Brits celebrate: Pancakes.

Now, I understand that when this tradition of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday began, times were leaner, and the eggy, buttery, sugary goodness of a pancake was considered indulgent. But, my, times have changed. In a world of deep-fried butter balls, Joel Robuchon's mashed potatoes, and even breve Frappuccino's at the corner coffee shop, pancakes seem so tame. Leave it to the Brits to live up to the (very often misinformed) stereotype of restraint, even on this day of complete decadence.

So, I will go on to say that pancakes are a big deal in our house. A Very. Big. Deal. This started when I was early in pregnancy, and couldn't think of going near meat, eggs, or most dairy products. Just try building a baby out of bananas and rice cakes...see what happens. Mr. Gurgly loves to make Saturday morning breakfast (and until then it was mostly omelets). He needed to change up his game and came up with pancakes. Eggs, yes, but hidden well enough that I could still get some protein without getting squeamish. Every weekend...pancakes. I'll go so far as to say Mr. Gurgly got a shade obsessed. Researching recipes and "pancake philosophies" (whatever THAT is...), perfecting techniques, learning ratios, and eventually "riffing" on recipes he found to concoct his own. Last Christmas, I was at a loss for shopping, and when I said, "but you don't collect things and you have no hobbies," he replied that he makes pancakes. (I ordered some high end maple syrup from VT.). A Very. Big. Deal.

Even with all that, we don't have one go-to recipe two years later. He still "riffs," and I even made pancakes a few weekends ago when he was sick (albeit following a recipe nearly to the letter). So rather than a "recipe," I am going to list some pancake tips that we have picked up along the way.

1) separated eggs and whipped whites = beautifully fluffy pancakes. It is absolutely worth the extra 2 minutes and dirty bowl. Whip to medium peaks (between soft and stiff peaks), and incorporate after mixing together the wet and dry ingredients. If using a hand mixer or stand mixer, use the whisk attachments (I thought this was obvious but Mr. Gurgly treated me like a genius for doing this a few weeks ago!)

2) Buttermilk is delicious, but there are options. If you don't have buttermilk, you can sour some milk at home by adding lemon juice or vinegar to some milk and allowing to sit for twenty minutes. Meyer lemon juice is especially good for this. If you do use lemon, add some zest, too. Yum!
A common sub we use is yogurt. If you keep strained "Greek" yogurt in the house, you'll want about 1/8 - 1/4 of the volume as milk and the rest as yogurt (so about 3/4 c yogurt and 1/4 c milk for most recipes), to compensate for the water that is strained off the yogurt. If you use all Greek yogurt the mixture will be dry.
Sour cream works well, also. If its super thick, mix with milk as above.

3) when it comes to topping a pancake, you can't beat real maple syrup. Grade B is my favorite...not so sweet. It is not cheap, but we have found that we use so much less (because it is more flavorful) that it ends up being about the same price. And extra bonus, no high fructose anything! We also love fruit compotes. I've been known (sorry again people who knew me as a vegetarian!) to put sliced apples and a little bacon inside, fold it over, and make a "taco." It sounds like a crazy pregnancy concoction, but trust me, it's good.

4) if you find yourself in the unique position of having leftover pancakes, they freeze quite well wrapped in foil. You can pop them in a toaster or toaster oven (microwave is ok too) to reheat them for a quick and easy weekday breakfast.

Little Gurgly had a pancake for breakfast this morning (left over from the weekend). He sure did enjoy it! He wouldn't even share with his mama!

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