A real talent

Anyone for pancakes? I hope so, because that’s what we’re having for breakfast this morning.

Today’s pancakes are brought to you by yesterday’s conversation about the pancakes that we’re planning on eating one week from today. Did you get that? I wrote it, and even I had to go back and read that sentence twice. Let me explain.

The first thing you need to know is that our friends, Eitan and Julia, who relocated to D.C. during the 2009 mass exodus from Cambridge, moved back to town about six weeks ago. They now live in an apartment just four blocks from ours, and if you ask me, four is a much, much nicer number than four hundred and forty-seven, the approximate number of miles between Cambridge, MA and Washington, D.C. We marked their return with pizza, champagne, and Fairytale Brownies. It was late when we left their place that night, but only eight minutes later when we walked through our own front door. I'm so glad they're back.

That our friends are not only back, but four-blocks-away back, means that we often have occasion to walk home together from wherever it is we’ve been. Yesterday, on just such a walk, my thoughts turned to pancakes, and to the shamefully long list of Oscar-nominated movies that I haven’t yet seen, but that I’d like to before the awards ceremony later this month. And so, a plan was hatched: a Sunday morning of pancakes and movies at our place with our home again friends, one week from today. It was a lovely plan. It still is. The only problem is that when you’ve got pancakes on the brain, a week is an impossibly long time to wait to have them on your plate. So we didn’t.

I like to give credit where credit is due, so I should tell you that Eli is the head pancake maker in our household. My role in the process is more like head pancake desirer. It’s my job to recognize the hunger for pancakes when it strikes, and –quick like a pancake-crazed bunny– to alert Eli to the fact that it’s time. I have a real talent for it.

Pancakes around here normally mean Molly’s oatmeal pancakes, for the simple reason that they are amazing. But it’s February, and oatmeal has been in heavy breakfast rotation for four long, cold months now, and though I never thought I’d say it, I needed a break. I asked Eli for a more traditional buttermilk pancake this time around, and boy, did he deliver.

There are three things that set this recipe apart from your standard buttermilk pancake recipe. The first is the yogurt, a whole cup of it. That sounds like a lot of yogurt, especially against a single cup of flour, but the yogurt is barely perceptible in the finished pancakes. All that remains of it is the slightest tang. I think it’s also thanks to the yogurt that these pancakes manage to be both moist and light, a rare combination in the land of buttermilk pancakes, I’ve learned. While we’re talking texture, there’s also the cornmeal, a mere two tablespoons that, if you go for the more coarsely ground stuff, adds some barely-there grit to the smooth batter. It surprised me at first, but Eli said, "Embrace it!" and I did, and then I liked it a lot. Finally, the sugar in this recipe is brown, and that does something quite nice to the flavor. It’s deeper, smoother, more grown-up. I tend to steer clear of traditional pancakes because of the inevitable post-pancake crash, a result, no doubt, of so much unmitigated flour and sugar. These pancakes though, with more buttermilk, yogurt, and egg than flour, cornmeal, and sugar, combined, picked me up and kept me up.

Next Sunday can’t come soon enough.

Buttermilk Yogurt Pancakes
Adapted from Bon Appétit, October 2004

The editors at Bon Appétit call these pancakes “Buttermilk Pancakes With Maple Syrup Apples.” If you click through, above, to the original recipe, you can read all about these maple syrup apples, which earned high praise from home cooks in the reviews. We ate our pancakes with sliced pears (yes, those are pears on that plate up there, not pickles; don't they look like pickles?) and maple syrup, instead. I’d do it again. I decided to rename the recipe “Buttermilk Yogurt Pancakes” because there’s just as much yogurt in there as buttermilk, and it’s the yogurt, I think, that makes these pancakes so special.

1 c. all purpose flour
2 Tbsps. yellow cornmeal
2 packed Tbsps. light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. plain whole-milk yogurt
1 large egg
1½ Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
Additional butter for the pan

Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk to blend. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until just blended, but still lumpy. Don’t over-mix the batter, or your pancakes will be heavy. Gently mix in the melted butter.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or pan over medium heat and melt just enough butter to thinly coat the entire surface. Working in batches, drop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls into the pan. The pancakes will spread slightly, so be sure to leave some space between them. Cook the pancakes for about 3 minutes, until they are golden brown on the bottom, and bubbles form on top. Turn the pancakes over and cook until the bottoms are brown and the pancakes are barely firm to the touch. Transfer to an oven-safe plate, and keep warm in a low oven until you’re ready to serve.

Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the pan, as needed.

Serves 3.


Shayne said...

I hope you run the Nashville Half Marathon one day. Because it's awesome and when you are done you get to go to The Pancake Pantry. That's the real reason to run 13.1 miles my friend: light, fluffy sweet potato pancakes oozing cinnamon cream syrup.

Lauren said...

I'm always for pancakes! My favorite recipes all include buttermilk, so I know I would love these :).

Andrea [bella eats] said...

Mmm...we had pancakes this morning as well. Buttermilk pancakes with dark chocolate chips, a special treat from me to Brian. They were the traditional kind, fluffy but dense, hefty little gut-bombs that had me craving a nap just 2 hours later. If I'd seen this recipe first, I'd have certainly tried it instead. Next weekend...

Danielle said...

This will be our dinner tonight! Thanks, Jess. I'll report back.

Gail said...

I'm craving pancakes now Jess and it's only 1PM. I guess it's because I don't make them very often unless one of the girls and their friends come to visit. Hope you have loads of New Hampshire maple syrup to pour on them. Can you tell I'm a little biased about where my maple syrup comes from? LOL.

Carolyn's Mom

Rosiecat said...

Mmm, these sound terrific! I'm very loyal to my morning oatmeal, but I'd love to make these pancakes as an afternoon snack or even an after-diner dessert. (And yes, I did think they were pickles!)

Char said...

those sound absolutely delish!!

Amy said...

Just make sure you ALWAYS use REAL VERMONT maple syrup...not that fake stuff...for fabulous pancakes.

Julie said...

This is our family's favourite pancake recipe. As a little variation I've used vanilla yogurt and then cut back on the sugar. For World Nutella Day on February 5th (who knew?) we slathered these pancakes with some homemade chocolate hazelnut spread. Sounds weird but tasted pretty great! Looking forward to trying Molly's oatmeal pancakes next...

Shelby @ Lady Gouda said...

I thought they looked like artichokes! I am excited about this recipe. It has the things I like to add to pancakes (yogurt, buttermilk, cornmeal) and something I never thought to add (brown sugar).

Also, the thought of inviting your friends over for pancakes and Films with a capital "F" sounds lovely.

Michele Napoli said...

It so nice that you have your friends back in town and so close! Enjoy them, the pancakes and the films.It sounds just perfect.

kamran siddiqi said...

These look absolutely wonderful, especially the photos (I am in love with that blue trim on your white plates, btw)! I do have to agree with you, I first looked at the photo with the sliced pears and thought they were pickles, then I looked closer and said, "oh, pears!"

Catherine said...

Beautifully written post, not to mention delicious looking pancakes! I've been craving pancakes for a couple of weeks now and I think these have finally pushed me over the edge, it's going to be pancakes for dinner for me tonight I think.

Danielle said...

Alyce adored them and they are my new favourite pancake recipe. They were so light, and I am notorious for making non-light pancakes. They will be our new standard for dinner pancakes.

Jess said...

Ohhhh, Shayne. "The Pancake Pantry?" I'm speechless. (I love that you know your races by the post-race food!)

Lauren - I just clicked over and saw those chocolate chip banana pancakes on your site. Whoa. I may have to take a page from your book (er, blog) the next time around.

Okay Andrea, clearly you, Lauren, and Shayne are in some kind of decadent pancake club. I actually think dark chocolate would work well in this recipe against the slight tang of the yogurt. As you say, there's always next weekend!

Pancakes for dinner. I knew I liked you, Danielle. How'd it go?

Oh dear. We used maple syrup from Morrisville, Vermont. Can we still be friends, Gail?

Ooo, yes, pancakes for dessert! You're so smart, Rosiecat. I've actually been toying with that idea since eating blini for dessert in St. Petersburg last summer. I guess the key would be to mix up the batter before dinner, so that it wouldn't be too time intensive come dessert time?

Thanks, Char.

Uh oh, Amy, it looks like you and Gail are going to have to fight it out. (For the record, yes, we did use Vermont syrup.)

I can understand why, Julie. Thanks for sharing your variations. Chocolate hazelnut spread on pancakes sounds anything but weird, to me. I may have to celebrate World Nutella Day a couple of weeks late when we make these pancakes again this weekend!

Hi, Shelby. Nope, not artichokes, either. But ha, you're right! Those slices by the knife do look like one big artichoke leaf. I'm glad to hear that you're excited about this recipe. Just wait until you try it!

Hello, Michele. Yes, we're so, so happy to have them back. Friends, food, and films. It really is a perfect combination.

Hey, thanks, Kamran! I love those plates, too. Glad you had a closer look at that photo, lest you think I've totally lost it. I do love pickles but, um, not with my pancakes.

Thank you so much, Catherine. And hey, congratulations on your shiny new blog! It's lovely.

Jess said...

Whoops, Danielle, I must have been typing up my own comment when you posted yours. Success, hooray! That makes me so happy. Especially the thought of your sweet Alyce digging in.

Tracy said...

I did see pickles :) Your photos are always lit up with their own little micro stories. A thousand words and more. And to use a much overused word...Lovely. Just lovely.

Steph said...

Hi Jess. I've been gone for awhile but I'm back and have returned to such a sweet delight. Pancakes. Not sure I can get buttermilk in Israel- haven't seen it. What do you think about doubling the yogurt? Beautiful post. I miss you.

Jess said...

Tracy, your kind words brought a big smile to my face this afternoon. Really, thank you so much.

Hey, Steph! I miss you, too. Yes, you can find buttermilk in Israel! It's called "rivyon" (רוויון), and it comes in a blue and white carton, like this. I discovered it in 2007, when I was living in Haifa. I wanted to make buttermilk biscuits for my Israeli roommates who had never heard of such a thing. They looked at me like I was crazy when I asked them where I could find buttermilk, "you know, buttermilk, the liquid that separates out when you make butter. It's sour...? You bake with it...?" I finally found it with the help of a very patient grocer. It's actually everywhere, and very easy to spy once you know what you're looking for. xo.

Molly said...

I thought they were artichoke leaves, but I couldn't figure out how they would work with pancakes. Pears make much more sense.

Žiupsnelis Druskos said...

I love pancakes!

I imagine - one day - when I have a family (i.e. kids), we'll have pancake sundays every week! The things I dream about..! :))

Jess said...

You and Shelby both, Molly! You've made me suddenly very excited for artichoke season.

Hi, Žiupsnelis Druskos. That's a beautiful dream. Your future kids are very lucky. (Though I say, why wait? Pancakes are for grown-ups, too!)

Sprinzette said...

Your pictures and posts are lovely. I'm new here, so just wanted to say how much I enjoyed them.

Jess said...

Thank you so much, Sprinzette, and welcome! I hope you'll come around again soon.

Marianne said...

Thank you for the info about finding buttermilk in Israel. My son's best buddy loves biscuits. He is from Atlanta but is currently in the Israeli army. He didn't know how to find buttermilk at his local store in Tel Aviv to make his own biscuits. Now I have the Hebrew word and a photo to go with the recipes I have given him.

Jess said...

You're very welcome, Marianne. So glad I could help!

JMS said...

Hi there Jess,

It's Jess here too. I found your blog the other day and proclaimed to my sister that I am going to narcissistically obsess over this blog (if only because we share the same name and you sound awesome). That said, I am sitting at work, which is supposed to be this beyond quiet place (think library and then add more quiet) and I started laughing outloud at your comment about being a pancake desirer. Oh man. So great.

Happy Tuesday!