Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Pancake By Any Other Name…

My dad called them pancakes.  His dad called them flapjacks, and his mom called them hoecakes.  My mom called them griddlecakes.  Her dad called them johnnycakes, and her mom called them skillet cakes.  I called them breakfast.

In the mid ‘sixties I discovered a restaurant devoted to pancakes.  I sampled my way through the menu over the course of many weeks, and I came to the conclusion that some pancakes are better than others.  Not just at that restaurant, but anywhere I had a pancake.  What is so difficult about making a pancake? I decided to find out.

The first batch of pancakes I ever made was from the memory of watching my grandmothers making them.  Did I ever have a lapse of memory!  I couldn’t call them pancakes, but I did have another name for them.  Into the trash they went.  My next batch was from a box with the picture of someone’s aunt on it.  It was much better, but my pancake cooking skills needed developing, so I began to make a lot of box mix pancakes.  Finally I reached a place of being comfortable with the cooking process.  Now I needed a good recipe.

I tried to make pancakes the way my grandmother’s did, but I just couldn’t get it right.  I had watched them for years, and I knew I had the right ingredients and about the right proportions, but something wasn’t right.  I asked my grandmothers about this and even made pancakes right beside them, but theirs were good, and mine were not good.  Mine looked as good as theirs, but the taste was completely different.  They both said they made pancakes by ‘feel.’

I’ve heard this many times by seasoned cooks.  A recipe is just a guideline, after that it’s intuition.  After all these many years of cooking, I finally understand.  And I’ve developed several kinds of pancakes I really like.  One of my favorites is a cornmeal pancake.

Cornmeal Pancakes
Serves 6.

2 cups all purpose flour                                       
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal                                        
1/2 cup blue cornmeal                                           
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar                                        
2 tablespoons baking powder                                    
1 1/4 teaspoons salt                                           
3 large eggs                                                    
2 teaspoons Home Made Pecan Flavoring*                          
2 cups milk                                                    
3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter                         
3 tablespoons corn or canola oil                                       

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, Home Made Pecan Flavoring, milk butter and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. Turn the pancakes over when bubbles form on top, and cook until the second side is golden brown.

I serve these with butter only or butter and jam.  Occasionally honey or molasses finds its way onto the pancakes, but never syrup.

*Home Made Pecan Flavoring:  Fill a jar with pecan halves or pieces.  Cover with inexpensive vodka.  Tighten the lid on the jar and set aside in a cool dark place for about 6 months.  Shake the jar from time to time.  Strain through several layers of cheesecloth into a clean jar and allow to settle for a few days.  Strain again being careful not to disturb the sediments.  It's ready to use.  Do not try to use the pecans for anything else.  Just toss them.  They’ve done their job.

I’ve tried this pancake recipe with vanilla extract, pecan-butter flavoring, and no flavoring at all.  There is no substitute for the Home Made Pecan Flavoring.

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