Note: This month’s meal comes to you courtesy of Ted. I’m really excited about it, because his pancakes are EXCELLENT. The recipe is based on an old family recipe that comes from Weaverville, California. That place is really special to us, and so are these pancakes. I hope you enjoy them. -Kerry
In my family, pancakes are not just a breakfast item, they are a right of passage between the generations. My grandfather, who is one of my heroes on many levels, has for all intensive purposes, perfected breakfast. From the most amazing coffee of all time, to eggs with chives to buckwheats, his arsenal is deep and robust. All of us routinely make the 5+ hour drive to see him for the slower pace of life, rich conversation and of course, the food. I have completed nearly 30 years of pancake apprenticeship and now I feel confident in my abilities to share the process and formula with all of you. Please keep in mind, this will take time and practice – but when you get it, the results will be worth the wait.
Pancakes vary widely and one of the best parts is experimenting with new methods such as cornmeal, buttermilk, etc… I have found however, that I enjoy getting the texture, consistency and flavor to were I want it, that I have really been sticking to one type for a while now. The other cool thing is that pancake batter can be easily adjusted to make waffle batter which is also amazing!
The real trick for good pancakes is sour milk. I know, gross right. Wrong. There is simply noting like it and buttermilk just doesn’t produce the same results. Because we are blessed to live in California, we have access to raw milk which really is like gold for this. If you are a germa-phob, this will not be your favorite monthly meal as you will have to not only stomach the thought of raw milk, but rotten raw milk. For those of you that worry raw milk will KILL you, my family has been using it for a really long time with stellar results, so maybe this is your chance to let that argument go. I used to wonder about it until my grandfather told me he used to take the sour raw milk, warm it up and drink it as “scalded milk”. Mmm. If you don’t have access to raw milk, you can also use sour pasteurized milk, although I would probably recommend just purchasing buttermilk. To me, I would rather mess with something nature soured as opposed to a product that’s shelf life has been massively extended through a mechanical process. That’s just me though.
The other thing that will make a huge difference is the quality of your eggs and fat used. When I was growing up – we lived right up the hill from my grandparents – we would just go to the barn and grab a few eggs. Costco eggs really just aren’t the same you know? Seriously though, the eggs are critically important to your cakes. We have a great local farm that treats the chickens humanely – they even live with the sheep like when I was little – and they produce a beautifully rich egg. If you can find a farmstead with real eggs, you will reap huge rewards. Finally it is really important to get a high quality grass-fed butter. If you can’t find one in your store, try Kerrygold – it is a good quality and works really well.
Once you have accomplished all of your hunting and gathering, you are ready to go.
(Sift before measuring):
-2 cups organic unbleached white flour
-2 tsp. sugar
-1 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
-1 tsp. baking soda
(In a separate bowl combine):
-2 egg yolks (set whites aside in another bowl)
-2 cups sour milk
-4 Tbsp. melted butter (allow it to cool slightly before putting in with the eggs)
In the bowl with the egg whites, use a hand mixer and beat them until light and fluffy
Once you have the wet ingredients combined, pour them into the dry ingredients. You will want to account for this in your bowl selection. THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT PART – do not as most recipes tell you, just beat them all together. This will make really tough and chewy cakes. You need to fold it together and just enough to get the ingredients mixed, nothing more. The best method I have found for folding is to start in the center of the bowl and pull the spoon gently towards the outside. I use a large spoon for best results, but you can also use one of those cake spatulas if easier. Once you have a nice fluffy batter going, gently fold in the egg whites and let the batter stand uncovered while you start the bacon and make the coffee (see instructions below).
Once the bacon is in the oven and the coffee is made, you are in a carefully organized timing race. The last thing you want is cold bacon with hot cakes, or vice-versa. I use a griddle – I would recommend the same for you as a pan on the stove just doesn’t work as well. Make sure it is hot – I set mine to 400. Lightly coat it with butter and then spoon the batter onto the griddle in large silver dollar sized portions. Keep in mind they will expand a little. When I was young I used to watch my grandfather’s technique and he would explain that you should watch for the holes on the surface of the cake. It really is a matter of practice on this one. The biggest things to remember are that you only want to flip it once and you don’t want it to be overdone. I hate to say this, but you sort of just have to feel it. Until I was comfortable, I always made the first 1-2 rounds for the dogs and I would adjust my timing by sampling. You will get the feel for it. Once they are done, I put them on a plate and cover them with a clean kitchen towel until they are all ready to be served. You can also serve them as they are hot for best results.
So, there you have it. A recipe from my family to yours. I hope you enjoy as much as we do!
Once I have the batter finished, I place the bacon on a sheet of foil into a pre-heated oven on broil. There is no specific timing I can find for bacon, so you have to watch it until it gets to the doneness level you like. I usually put Kerry on this and we watch it together. I don’t like burnt crisp bacon, personally, but some people like it to be bordering on charcoal, so whatever floats your boat.
It is basically impossible to re-create my grandfather’s coffee as he has a system so intricate, it would take NASA engineers to decode it. I have tried, but it involves specific equipment that I cannot find so I will instead refer you to the coffee he uses and the method we use at home. It produces good – not great – results.
My grandfather purchases Community Coffee from New Orleans. While my friends at Allegro say Community is average coffee, when he makes it, magic happens. Perhaps it’s the well water. I personally use Allegro as I have been to the source and met the people making it which is always a good feeling.
To make the coffee I start with boiling some cold water. Then I grind 3 spoonfuls of whole beans stored in an airtight container. Once they are ground, I pour them in the bottom of the french press, add the boiling water, and let it stand for about 4-5 minutes. Any longer and it starts tasting acidic. Kerry and I both like our coffee strong, but not burnt, so we buy light to medium blends. This is totally an area of preference.
We use the time when the coffee is standing to prepare some fruit. Because the fruit is an accessory in this case, you can really vary widely on what you serve. We usually work within the seasons by serving everything from cut grapefruit, to poached prunes with cream to fresh strawberries. Any way you go will be fine.
Ted’s Album Pick: Bach, Brandenburg Concertos
One thing that is so funny about visiting my grandfather is that breakfast comes early and if you miss it, you are out of luck. There is no going back for another round. While it is being prepared, there are either one of two things playing on the stereo -Bach or Mozart. I was remembering this with my brother today and we realized the famous “pancake” music which always plays – or at least in our memories – is the Brandenburg Concertos from Bach. I think you will find the mood it sets is wonderful. For me, it takes me back to my childhood. I look forward to continuing this tradition when we have kids.
Kerry’s Album Pick: Judy Collins, Fifth Album
I love Bach and the Brandenburg Concertos, but I figured that many of you aren’t as keen on classical music as we are. So I picked my favorite Judy Collins album, whose songs I also associate with Ted’s grandparents’ house Weaverville. I think this album is perfect for spring, because it has a tone that’s as upbeat as it is mature. Judy Collins has a knack for choosing the perfect songs to sing, songs written by people like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, ad I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the collection she chose for her Fifth Album.