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Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst says pancakes aren’t just for weekend brunches. Lemon-ricotta pancakes and buttermilk-walnut pancakes can be mixed the night before and cooked up quickly the following morning. Savory pancakes with cheese and herbs can be a side dish or a light lunch. Kathy also shares some tips for pancake making with host Robin Young. For information about gluten-free flours for gluten-free pancakes, Kathy recommends checking out Gluten-Free Girls flours.
Kathy’s Note: Fresh ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest are the flavor base for these exceptionally light, fluffy and flavorful pancakes. Serve with real maple syrup warmed up until almost hot.
Makes about 20 2 1/2-inch pancakes; serves 4 to 6.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup ricotta*
2 tablespoons real maple syrup, plus syrup for serving
2 tablespoons lemon juice or Meyer lemon juice**
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest**
*If the ricotta is very moist place it in a strainer for at least 15 minutes to thicken it.
**Zest the lemon and then juice it
In a large heavy skillet melt the butter. Remove 1 tablespoon of the butter and leave the remaining butter in the skillet for cooking the pancakes.
In a bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks, milk, ricotta, 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup, the lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon of reserved melted butter. Fold in the flour mixture until the batter is almost smooth.
In another bowl whip the egg whites with a mixer until they form soft peaks. Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped whites into yolk/flour mixture. The batter can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to make the pancakes. Bring the batter to room temperature and whisk before cooking.
Heat the skillet with the remaining butter in it over moderate heat. Add a scant 1/4 cup batter to the skillet, making sure not to crowd the skillet (make about 3 to 4 pancakes at a time depending on the size of your skillet). Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and very slightly puffed. Serve hot with maple syrup.
Producer Emiko Tamagawa’s Note:
When I was making these pancakes for Robin, I was left with a half-empty container of ricotta cheese and an open container of maple syrup. Suddenly I had a brainwave: I mixed about 2/3 of a cup of ricotta with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup and served it alongside some of the pancakes to the folks at Here & Now. It got a rave review, especially when I added some leftover lemon juice for brightness. The filling/topping really heightens the flavor of the lemon-ricotta pancakes. You can play with the amounts of lemon and maple syrup, make it sweeter, or not so sweet. Enjoy!
Kathy’s Note: Serve these savory crepes with salads, roast chicken or meat, or as a first course. You can serve the crepes with melted butter heated with chopped fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary.
Don’t be discouraged if the first crepe sticks to the bottom of the skillet; the first crepe almost never comes out well. A tip for flipping crepes: in order to keep the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pan, slide a thin, flat, flexible spatula periodically under the crepe, moving it from one side to the other to keep the crepe loosened.
The batter needs to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours before cooking, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Makes about 12 crepes; serves 6.
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 packed cup grated cheddar, or your favorite hard grating cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few grindings of black pepper
Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
Add the milk, water, and eggs to a bowl and blend with a hand-held mixer for about 1 minute. Sift the flour on top and gently stir it into the batter. Add the melted butter and mix briefly on high. Fold in the cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper. Let the crepe batter sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to 6 hours, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Very lightly grease a heavy 8-inch skillet or crepe pan over low heat. (The best way to grease the pan is to use a pastry brush so there is only a light coating.) Add about 1/4 cup batter to the hot pan, immediately swirling the batter around the bottom of the pan so it creates a thin, even pancake. Cook the crepe for about 45 seconds, loosening with a spatula as described above. Gently flip the crepe and cook for another 45 seconds. Use the spatula to loosen the crepe and transfer to a plate. Repeat to use up all the batter. You can make crepes ahead of time, layer them on a plate, and keep them warm in a low, 250 degree oven, or simply reheat them, one at a time, in the crepe pan just before serving. Serve folded in half or rolled in a cigar shape topped with a touch of the herb butter.
Kathy’s Note: Fluffy, nutty, and perfumed with allspice, these pancakes are topped with thin apple slices lightly cooked in maple syrup. Serve with warm maple syrup on the side. This recipe makes about 8 pancakes, but can easily be doubled to serve a crowd.
Makes about 8 to 9 pancakes.
The Pancake Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts*
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Maple Syrup for serving, optional
The Maple-Glazed Apples:
1 tablespoon butter
2 apples, such as Macoun, Jonathan, Delicious, or your favorite variety, peeled (optional), cored and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Pinch ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons maple syrup
*Place 1 cup walnut halves on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and the kitchen smells nutty. Remove from the oven and pulse in a food processor or blender. You don’t want the nuts to be like sawdust; they should be just finely ground. If you buy finely chopped walnuts, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until very lightly toasted.
Make the pancake batter: In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground walnuts and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Whisk in the buttermilk, melted butter, and maple syrup. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and blend until just incorporated using a light touch. Set aside and let sit for 15 minutes and up to several hours. (If making ahead several hours, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook the pancakes. Bring the batter to room temperature before using.)
Meanwhile prepare the apples: melt the butter in a medium skillet set over moderate heat. Add the apple slices, sprinkle with the allspice and nutmeg and cook 1 minute, gently stirring. Add the maple syrup on top and cook 2 minutes, gently stirring. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To make the pancakes: preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Heat a large skillet or griddle over moderate heat. Brush lightly with the canola oil. When the pan is hot add 1/4 cup pancake batter to the pan. Add another 2 to 3 pancakes or so depending on the size of the skillet making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Place about 3 to 4 of the apple slices on top of the pancake, gently pressing it into the batter. Cook 2 minutes or until the bubbles begin to surface and the pancakes appear golden brown on the underside. Gently flip the pancake and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the apples are caramelized and the pancake is golden brown. Serve immediately or place on an ovenproof plate and keep warm in the preheated oven. Repeat with the remaining batter and apples. Heat any remaining apples in the skillet until warm and serve on the side or spoon on top of the pancakes. Place the cup of maple syrup in small saucepan and warm over low heat. Serve the warm syrup on the side, if desired.
It’s always a little tricky figuring out when pancake griddles, waffle irons, and crepe pans are hot enough and ready to cook in. Here’s a little trick: heat the skillet, griddle, or waffle pan with just a very light brushing of oil and place over moderate or moderately-high heat. After about 2 minutes place your hand over the pan. If it feels comfortably warm (meaning you can keep your hand there without any fear of burning it) it’s not ready. You want the pan to be hot enough so you can feel the heat, but don’t really want to keep your hand there too long. Add the batter and if it seems to be cooking too rapidly – bubbles forming very quickly and a brown color forming on the underside of the pancake – it’s too hot. Reduce the heat (or take the skillet off the heat) and proceed. The trick: you want it hot enough to cook efficiently, but not so hot that you burn the pancakes. –Kathy Gunst