When I was young, I used to have “sleepovers” at my Grandparents’ house. Even on the weekends, they would be out of bed at 7:00 a.m. (reading the paper, drinking coffee, and doing whatever people do that early in the morning), while I was still snuggled under the covers in the guest bedroom. Then, around 8:30 or 9:00, slowly and subtly, a warm aroma would creep under the door and tickle my nose. Soon my eyes would crack open and I would lay in a sleepy yet euphoric stupor, drinking in the unmistakable smell, the promise of pancakes.
Everyone in my family makes pancakes. Grandma Lois usually made blueberry pancakes from a muffin mix. Grandpa Chuck (on my Mom’s side) has a solid buttermilk pancake recipe and regularly feeds a whole pack of family members. When specially requested, both sets of grandparents would occasionally make my favorite—Swedish pancakes (eggy crepe-like pancake rolled up with lingonberry sauce and served with whipped cream). Kelsey, my youngest sister, loves mix-ins, and can always be counted on to make pancakes filled with coconut, chocolate chips, nuts or granola. Even my Mom, who hardly ever bakes and would never cook for “fun,” makes buttermilk pancakes from scratch whenever she gets the urge. (I was floored when she remarked to me once, “They’re so easy to make and so good that it isn’t worth buying a mix.”)
And me? Mornings are always better if they begin with a plate of pancakes. I’m a proud owner of an electric griddle and I know how to use it. I’ll eat or make pancakes any day of the week, any time of day. I always made the same tried and true recipes, but one cookbook recently changed my flapjack philosophy.
I came across The Pancake Handbook sitting on my parents’ kitchen counter, a souvenir from their trip to San Francisco. This cookbook, from Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkley, suggests different techniques and new ingredients (within the normal simple formula), drastically changing the essence of the traditional pancakes I was used to. I’ve been working my way through this cookbook weekend by weekend. (Poor Geoff has been requesting normal chocolate chip pancakes for months.)
My new favorite pancake technique is beating the egg whites to stiff peaks before folding them into the batter, which creates fluffy pillow-soft pancakes. The concept is taken to the extreme in this recipe for Souffléed Lemon-Poppy Seed Pancakes. Lemon juice and zest makes them tangy, the poppy seeds add delicate crunch and texture, while the beaten egg whites make the small pancakes puffy and souffléed. They’re rich moist and light as air—I call them little bites of heaven.
The recipe says to serve these with strawberry or blueberry preserves, but I bought a carton of fresh strawberries, sliced them up, mixed with sugar, squished them up a little with my hands, and let them chill out in the fridge while I made the pancakes. The juice of the strawberries is drawn out by the sugar and creates a sweet saucy strawberry mixture.
Souffléed Lemon-Poppy Seed Pancakes
Adapted from The Pancake Handbook
3 eggs, separated
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
(My whole-milk yogurt was expired, so I substituted 3/4 cup Fat-Free Fage Greek Yogurt and 1/4 cup sour cream)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon juice and zest, since they’re in season a bit longer.)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar, fruit preserves or fresh fruit mixture for serving. I used fresh strawberries, but I think blueberries or raspberries would be just as good.
Beat the egg yolks with the yogurt, butter, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and poppy seeds. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir gently until just combined (do not over-mix!). At this point the batter should be slightly lumpy. Find another bowl (or clean the first bowl) to use for the egg whites and salt. Beat them with an electric mixer (or a whisk, but be warned that this requires more time and great arm muscles), until the whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the batter until just combined.
Heat a lightly oiled electric griddle to 360°F. (You can also use a heavy skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat.) Use a tablespoon to portion heaping dollops of batter onto the hot griddle. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until there are some bubbles on the surface of the pancakes and the underside is golden brown. Gently turn them over and cook for another 1 to 3 minutes, until the other side is browned. Dust the pancakes with confectioners sugar and pass the fruit with the plate of hot pancakes when they are served.
(To keep pancakes hot while I’m making the whole batch, I stack them in a glass pie dish and keep them in a 200°F oven. Sometimes I cover the dish with foil, but it depends on how long I think I’m going to take.)