If I ever have a restaurant, or a homey little cafe, or a bed and breakfast out in the wild, these will be my pancakes. Not only because cranberry and cornmeal are a combination made in heaven and should be served at every breakfast, every day, but because these pancakes are all the things bad pancakes are not.
They are not too sweet, and the chopped cranberries enliven each bite with a sour tang that is softened by a slick of maple syrup. They are not too heavy, the ridiculous amount of baking powder ensures a fluffy crumb (how fluffy? this fluffy!). They are soft and yielding, yet the cornmeal threads through each one with an agreeable crunch and gives these cakes some body and character. Adapted from the Breakfast Goddess herself, I think this recipe is probably worth the price of the book (incidentally? this is my favorite shower gift, along with a seasoned cast-iron pan).
I have to say that when I first saw this recipe, in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, I was a bit turned off. For these gorgeous pancakes were apparently supposed to be drenched in not only a pumpkin-pie spiced (eek) apple compote, but with a cream-cheese caramel sauce to boot. I sort of had to refrain from snorting at the idea. Luckily for all of us, both of those sauces can be left by the wayside. Why would you want to muffle this sparkling example of a pancake with a barrage of spices and gloppy sauces?
Would Johnny Apple really have endorsed that?
So keep your condiments to a minimum, maple syrup or, if it must be, confectioner's sugar, and make sure you put these on your weekend to-do list. If you're like me and simply couldn't wait until the weekend, get up a little earlier tomorrow. You and your co-breakfasters will be so happy you did. And don't anyone go opening a bed and breakfast featuring these pancakes before I do. Or, if you do, let me know so I can plan my next long weekend.
Makes about 24 4-inch pancakes
10 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks, plus more for greasing pan
2 cups milk
4 large eggs
2 cups flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ¼ cups chopped fresh cranberries
1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the butter and milk until the butter melts. Set aside until lukewarm, about 15 minutes. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly stir in ½ cup of the warm milk mixture (it cannot be hot, or it will cook the eggs). Pour in the remaining milk mixture and stir to combine.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture a little at a time, stirring slowly, just until the dry ingredients are well moistened. The batter should be lumpy and will start to bubble.
3. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat until a few drops of water sprinkled on it sizzle. Lightly grease the pan with butter, then add 3 to 4 tablespoons batter to make a 4-inch pancake. As soon as the batter sets, sprinkle the top with cranberries. Cook until bubbles break on the surface. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds, or until the bottom is lightly browned. Repeat, buttering the pan and adjusting the heat as needed. Serve with maple syrup.