PUBLISHED: 6/27/2012 3:38 PM |  Print |   E-mail | Viewed: times

Go beyond basic mixes for fabulous flapjacks




There's a reason for that phrase "selling like hot cakes."

On a lazy Sunday morning, the fragrant flapjack makes a perfect vehicle for maple syrup, fruit compotes, yogurt, sliced berries or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

But why not up your game? The new wave pancakes envisioned by award-winning food writers Heidi Swanson and Betty Rosbottom mix things up with multi-grains, lemon-ricotta fillings, homemade syrups and fabulous riffs on a classic.

It's enough to make you get up early.

"Pancakes," Rosbottom said, simply, "are a universal favorite."

The Krusteaz and Bisquick crowd may think those mixes are easier routes to pancake heaven, but the reality is making flapjacks from scratch takes barely more time than a mix - and it gives you the freedom to tweak flavors to your heart's content.

For Swanson, a Los Gatos, Calif., native whose "Super Natural Every Day" (Ten Speed Press, $23, 250 pages) cookbook won a James Beard award last month, it's a matter of making that carb load more healthful by using a mixture of oat flour, rye flour and whole wheat pastry flour instead of the generic white stuff. (You'll find those flours in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and other markets.)

"Oat flour is incredibly fragrant," she said. "Rye flour brings a bit of spicy depth, and whole wheat pastry flour is perfect for pancakes, muffins and quick breads."

Whole wheat pastry flour makes for a tender, light crumb, she said. As for the convenience of a mix, Swanson has an answer for that, too.

"If you premix the dry ingredients - a day before, a week before - and keep it in a jar," the food blogger said, "you're just a couple wet ingredients and a few minutes away from a great homemade pancake batter - weekdays, weekends, either way."

And while we've all added chocolate chips or blueberries to our pancakes, Swanson suggests trying more creative ways to enhance flavor and texture by stirring in lemon zest and poppy seeds, for example, or a splash of vanilla and chopped strawberries. Rosbottom adds a Thanksgiving pie's worth of spices to hers.

Creativity can even be found in the concept. At St. Michael's Alley in Palo Alto, Calif., for example, they mix both bananas and blueberries into the batter and call the delectable result Blue Monkey Pancakes.

Homemade toppings and syrups are wonderful ways to add seasonal twists. At this time of year, Swanson tops her hot cakes with a deeply purple, blackberry-maple compote, or roasts strawberries with maple syrup, olive oil and a splash of port wine for a topping that's "outrageously delicious."

Rosbottom tops her spiced pancakes with maple-butter in the fall, and her perfect-for-spring lemon-ricotta hot cakes with homemade blueberry syrup or poached apricots and Greek yogurt.

If Rosbottom's name looks familiar, it's probably because the Massachusetts-based writer has penned so many food stories for Bon Appetit magazine over the years. Her newest cookbook, the irresistible "Sunday Brunch" (Chronicle Books, $19.95, 120 pages), touts the idea that brunch can go in many culinary directions, from baked sweets to savory treats.

But Rosbottom is the first to admit to a soft spot for pancakes, perhaps because she's made them with her grandchildren since they were old enough to clamber on a kitchen stool and don an apron. But it's not just her grandchildren who are crazy about the lemon-ricotta pancakes. Rosbottom sent advance copies of the new book to friends, family and her small army of recipe testers, as a thank you. Without fail, the one recipe everyone singles out is that one.

The beauty of pancake recipes, she said, is that they're templates. So consider the savory possibilities of Rosbottom's spiced pancakes, too.

"It's easy to change up a pancake," she said. "The pattern - the amount of butter and flour and liquid is pretty set. Take out the spices and add some corn and chili powder. Make them more savory with avocados and tomatoes."

And don't forget that pancakes make perfect little appetizers, too.

"The week before last was graduation at Amherst, and I did a brunch," she said. "I made blini with different toppings - smoked salmon, creme fraiche, lemon zest, capers. People were just wolfing them down."

And that's a grand way to start the day.

---

MULTIGRAIN PANCAKES

Makes 24-26 silver-dollar pancakes

Note: This batter, which keeps for days, works well in a waffle iron too.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

¬½ cup oat flour

¬½ cup rye flour

1 ¬½ tablespoons natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)

1 tablespoon baking powder

Scant ¬½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 cups buttermilk

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit, plus more for the skillet

1. Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Whisk buttermilk and eggs together, add butter and whisk again.

3. Heat a griddle until medium-hot, and brush with a bit of butter. If a drop of water dances across the surface, you're in the ballpark. Pour wet ingredients over dry, and stir until just combined.

4. For silver-dollar pancakes, pour the batter 2 tablespoons at a time into small puddles on the griddle. For larger pancakes, pour ¼ to 1/3 cup at a time onto the griddle. Cook until the bottoms are deep golden and the tops have set a bit, then use a spatula to flip the pancakes. Cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

5. Serve warm, topped with butter and Blackberry-Maple Compote.

-Heidi Swanson, "Super Natural Every Day" (Ten Speed Press, $23, 250 pages)

---

BLACKBERRY MAPLE COMPOTE

Makes 1 ¬½ cups

Note: Make fresh ginger juice by pressing freshly grated ginger through a fine strainer. Muscovado is a very dark brown sugar.

2 cups blackberries, coarsely chopped, divided

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons maple sugar, natural cane or muscovado sugar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice, plus more if needed

1 ¬½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed

Tiny pinch of fine-grain sea salt

1. Combine a third of the berries with the maple syrup and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gently simmer 3 minutes.

2. Drain syrup through a strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract the juice. Combine the syrup with remaining berries, ginger and lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust with more lemon or ginger juice, as needed.

3. The compote will keep 1 week in the refrigerator. Serve over pancakes, crepes, oatmeal, gelato or even goat cheese-slathered crackers.

-Heidi Swanson, "Super Natural Every Day" (Ten Speed Press, $23, 250 pages)

---

LEMON-RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Serves 4

Blueberry sauce:

1 cup cold water

¬½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups blueberries

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Pancakes:

2/3 cup flour

¬½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1 cup whole milk ricotta

¬½ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Canola oil

1. Blueberry sauce: Blend the water, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, until cornstarch dissolves. Add berries and raise heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

2. Puree the sauce until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve back into the saucepan. Return to medium heat and simmer until reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon. (Sauce can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Reheat over low heat to serve.)

3. For pancakes, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, ricotta, milk, sugar and lemon zest until well blended. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients.

4. With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the egg whites until just firm. Gently stir a third into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining egg whites.

5. Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot, then brush with just enough oil to coat the surface. Working in batches, pour a generous ¼ cup of batter onto the hot griddle. Cook until bubbles appear on top, and pancakes are golden brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil. Repeat, adding more oil as necessary. Serve with blueberry sauce.

-Betty Rosbottom, "Sunday Brunch" (Chronicle Books, $19.95, 120 pages)

---

SPICED PANCAKES WITH WARM MAPLE-BUTTER SYRUP

Serves 4

Maple-butter syrup:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

6 tablespoons maple syrup

Pancakes:

1 ¬½ cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¬½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup whole milk

3 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the griddle

Powdered sugar, to garnish

1. For the syrup, heat the butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan, until the butter has melted and blended with the syrup, 1-2 minutes. (Can be done up to 2 hours ahead. Leave at room temperature and reheat, stirring over medium heat.)

2. For the pancakes, whisk together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, and whisk to combine.

3. Heat a griddle or large, heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Brush with just enough butter to coat the surface. Pour generous ¼ cup measures of batter onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles appear on top and the pancakes are golden brown on the bottom, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil. Repeat, adding more butter as needed. Serve with warm syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar.

-Betty Rosbottom, "Sunday Brunch" (Chronicle Books, $19.95, 120 pages)

---

©2012 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

-----

PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PANCAKES