May 18, 2012

Cornmeal griddle cakes (pancakes)

One of the best things I discovered this past year was the rewards of making pancakes from scratch.  Sounds like a simple thing, and it is, but I used to rely on the boxed stuff and didn't realize the real thing was way better with just a bit more effort. 

I've now banished those box mixes from the pantry in preference for the homemade variety.  Since we love our pancakes (we love waffles too but I've yet to invest in a waffle maker), it often makes its appearance on a lazy Sunday morning when we decide to have a long, relaxing family breakfast.  A cup of coffee (or milk for the little one) and some ham or bacon alongside is a very nice thing.  I really savor those breakfasts, not just for the food but for the company and quiet time that it is.  I find myself setting more time aside for these family breakfasts lately - it's a leisurely way to start the day.  I also find that entertaining at breakfast or brunch time is a lot less stressful too.
That was my very long-winded way of saying I recently tried another pancake recipe.  (I apologize but I am just not a concise speaker or writer.)  What I should simply say is I made some cornmeal griddle cakes or cornmeal pancakes/hotcakes/flapjacks recently in hopes of expanding my pancake making repertoire.  This sort of "old-school" cornmeal griddle cake recipe, which I found in Baked Explorations, appealed to me since my husband is a particular fan of cornbread and I saw buttermilk as an ingredient and we know how good that kind of pancake can be.
Alas, I did not discover a new favorite in the pancake category.  On the plus side, these cornmeal griddle cakes are fluffy yet have a nice, slightly grainy texture to them courtesy of the stone ground cornmeal.  We just prefer those melt-in-your mouth buttermilk pancakes and they remain our favorite, followed by the more basic but still fluffy version.  This cornmeal variety was a bit more involved to make and it took a couple of batches for me to get the pancakes to brown properly.  It was worth a try but I'll reserve it for the true cornmeal enthusiast. 

And that concludes this morning's kitchen experiment.

For someone who loves a corn muffin, this could be something worth trying.  The buttermilk flavor in the batter is not very distinct so there's not a lot of tang.  What you should get is a fluffy pancake (thanks to the baking powder and baking soda) with an interesting cornmeal texture.  I like to use yellow stone ground cornmeal. 

I divided the recipe in half, which made about 10 medium size pancakes. 

The batter starts with sifting the dry ingredients together: flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Also whisk an egg, then add half a cup of buttermilk (half recipe) to it to combine. 
Then I put half a cup of cornmeal into a large bowl and add 3/4 cup of boiling water to it while stirring.  Stir until the mixture cools to about lukewarm.  Then stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar.
Add half the dry ingredients into the cornmeal batter and stir in...
...followed by the buttermilk mixture.
Finish with the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Add a tablespoon of melted butter. 
The batter will be nice and fluffy.  Heat a griddle over medium-low heat with plenty of grease (didn't like this part that much; I used a combination of cooking spray and butter) so that they brown and crisp up properly.  Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake for these medium-size cakes.  I took my third batch to get them to brown up properly. 


Cornmeal Griddle Cakes (pancakes)

- Yields 10-12 large or 20 smaller pancakes (I divided the recipe in half) -

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I use the stone ground kind)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter for the griddle

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. 

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Place cornmeal in a large bowl.  Add the boiling water to the cornmeal while stirring continuously.  Keep stirring until the mixture cools to lukewarm.  Add the brown sugar and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until pale yellow.  Add the buttermilk and whisk until blended.  

Add half the flour mixture to the cornmeal, stirring to combine.  Then stir in the buttermilk mixture.  Finish with the remaining flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Stir in the melted butter.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium-low heat.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter to evenly coat the surface.  The first batch (or two, in my case) of cornmeal cakes will soak up the butter and not look their best.  Subsequent rounds should brown and crisp up nicely.  Place 1/4-cup of batter per griddle cake and cook about 3 minutes on the first side, until tops are bubbly.  Flip and cook for about another 2 minutes.

Serve immediately with butter and/or maple syrup.

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