In those days, blueberry pancakes were either made by my mother, or later, myself, from a mix, or they came freshly made with real blueberries from a diner or restaurant like Bob Evans.
Grandma made real pancakes from scratch, but she never put blueberries in; blueberries were one of the things that we never grew on her farm. It is a surprise to me that we did not, being as they seemed to be easy enough to grow, but I guess they just were not part of my Grandpa’s world growing up, and he didn’t much care for them, so why bother learning to grow them?
Of course, this led me to believe that the only way to have blueberry pancakes was to make them from a mix that included dried blueberries, or worse yet, artificial blueberry nugget things that to this day contributed to my mother’s belief that she despised blueberries. Because of the smell of the artificially flavored mixes, she stopped cooking blueberry pancakes for me, and it fell to me to cook them for myself.
Which I didn’t much mind, but as I grew older, I started thinking that maybe Mom was right. They really didn’t taste very good at all, and the texture of them was godawfully mealy, cottony and spongy, and when they soaked up the artificially maple-flavored corn syryp they were doused in, they generally fell apart.
So, about the time I was in high school, I stopped cooking them, and only ate them when I was at a diner, and even then, though they used real berries, I found that I didn’t really like them all that much.
This summer, now that I had in my possession another quart of blueberries filled to bursting with rich flesh and juice that balanced floral sweetness with a jolt of acidity, I decided I had to try and make real pancakes with them.
My first attempts turned out quite well, but it is when I really began to experiment with the recipe and tweak it and make it my own that I was truly pleased with the results. The recipe I used and then changed about came from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, a fine little tome with recipes and instructions for making griddle breads, quick breads, egg dishes, waffles, creals, potatoes and meat dishes for that most maligned and distregarded of meals–breakfast. I played with it a good bit and finally came up with my own recipe for nine-ten four inch diameter pancakes. They are delicately crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with a plethora of meltingly-sweet blueberries cooked in the center. Knowing that lemon is a lovely foil for the flavor of blueberries I added cardamom, which has a slightly lemony flavor, and the zest of one lemon, which plays a wonderful game of tag with the cardamom on the tastebuds.
What is even more exciting: these pancakes are simple enough to make that I didn’t miss the mix, and in fact, I feel that they are so easy that they can bring spontenaity back into the morning kitchen.
Though, I have to admit, that I think that these lovelies would make a fine late night repast for night owls as well, as they are not so heavy as to disturb the stomach if one went to bed soon after ingesting them, while at the same time, they would give one plenty of energy to stay up and finish a writing project or just watch a trilogy of foodie movies one after the other. (My three favorites are “Mostly Martha,” “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,” and “Babette’s Feast.”)
Fresh Blueberry Pancakes
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
finely grated zest of one lemon
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly.
Canola oil spray
1 cup or so fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed and dried completely
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees F and put your serving plates in there to warm. Also, warm up your real maple syrup, if you use it. My stove has a nice little warming area just for such activities, so I put syrup into a cute little cobalt blue Fiestaware cream pitcher and let it warm on top of the stove while I cook.
Mix together all dry ingredients, including lemon zest, in a medium sized bowl.
Mix together eggs, milk and vanilla until well combined.
Add egg mixture to the flour mixture, and using a silicone spatular or similar flexible utensil, mix until well combined.
Once batter has come together completely, whisk in butter until a smooth, fairly thick batter is achieved.
Heat up a cast iron or non-stick skillet or griddle on medium high heat. (If you use nonstick, be sure and use the spray oil stuff first to keep from burning off your teflon coating.) When the pan is heated, remove from heat, and spray with the canola oil and put back on the heat.
Using a 1/2 cup capacity ladle, pour out a measure of the batter into the center of the skillet, and allow it to cook until there are some bubbles coming up and bursting, and leaving round holes on the top of the batter. (The flat-bottomed ladle pictured is really handy for this, because you can scrape the bottom of the ladle on the batter bowl, and thus reduce the amount of glumpy mess you make by drooling batter onto the stove, the counter and everywhere. Very handy things, flat-bottomed portioning ladles.)
At this point, pick up about twelve blueberries, and scatter them one by one onto the top of the batter. Using your fingers or a spatula, pat the berries down into the batter. Wait until the bubbles pop and leave holes all over the pancake, including the center before flipping it.
After flipping it, I like to pat the pancake down a bit to get the blueberries well and truly in contact with the hot skillet. This assures that they will cook to a melting, syrupy texture full of deep violet juice. Generally, I cook the second side between thirty to forty-five seconds.
After the second side is cooked, lift it up with the spatula, check to see that it is cooked if you don’t trust your pancake sense to know when it is done, and then open up the oven door and flip the pancake onto one of the serving plates.
Using a paper towel, wipe off the skillet, repspray it and repeat the steps of making the pancakes until you have either made enough or run out of batter.
This makes about nine or ten smallish pancakes.
Always warm your plates and hold the pancakes in a hot oven, especially if you are cooking for a crowd.
Always warm your syrup–nothing is nastier on nice warm, fluffy pancakes than cold syrup.
Oh, and please only use real maple syrup on these. That corn syryp crap is nasty.
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