Yes, I know it's Friday and not the weekend, and I know that pancakes are a weekend food, but I've been thinking a lot about living in the moment and gratitude and the fleetingness of life lately and so, when I woke up this morning wishing for pancakes, I decided I should be grateful for the fact that I am currently in a work situation that allows me to make pancakes on a school day (so to speak) and just do it, instead of settling for dryish spelt flakes and skim milk and feeling Grinch-ish about, well, everything.
So I did! I boiled up a quick pot of oatmeal, I used my new orange spice grinder (thrifted by a very resourceful friend of mine) to grind up rolled oats into velvety-soft oat flour and I made us pancakes for breakfast. Max, still sleepy-eyed and soft around the edges, was a little confused when he walked into the kitchen and saw the detritus of flours and pans on the counter, butter melting on the stove. But he's a good sport. He dug right in.
Oatmeal always makes me think of my grandmother in Philadelphia, my father's mother. I still remember the bowls of oatmeal she made me eat as a kid, a pat of butter melting on top of the small hill of creamy oats. I didn't love oatmeal, but I was an obedient child and so I ate it whenever she put it in front of me. It made Grandma so happy to feed people. Whenever we visited, after driving for hours on the highway between Boston and Philadelphia, we'd find their refrigerator swollen and stuffed for our arrival. Pans of freshly made Jell-O, stewed pears and pink applesauce, brisket, tomato soup casserole, fresh bagels and scallion cream cheese, the works. My grandmother would serve us breakfast and ask us what we wanted for lunch. We'd eat lunch and she'd ask, between bites, what we wanted for dinner.
So today, still, when I make oatmeal, I think of her. The kitchen fills with the milky, grassy smell of oats softening on the stove and I remember her mauve nails, her sensible shoes, her golden lipstick case.
Max grew up eating a different kind of oat soup, oats soaked in cold milk and eaten with a mashed banana. Just the thought of it makes me shudder, if I'm honest. The comfort, the smooth slip and tender bite in a bowl of hot cooked oatmeal is nowhere to be seen, just cold, sludgy bananas and soggy oats. But while my oatmeal came from my sweet Grandma, his cold oat soup came from his father and was served up with no less love or affection.
Anyway, I am of the school that believes in not wrinkling one's nose at the table at the other person's beloved meals. There's something sort of unfair about it, like being laughed at when your pants are down. Instead, I decided to try and see if I could get him to embrace oatmeal with some secret ninja stealth moves.
In other words, I cooked him some oatmeal, drizzled milk and maple syrup on top and tucked a few frozen blueberries in and around the steaming oats. Bam! A convert was made. Now Max gets up most mornings and cooks us oatmeal and it just tickles me to pieces, it really does.
I love the whole morning ritual of padding into the kitchen, getting the kettle for tea going, measuring oats and water into a pot and watching the two turn into this lovely, creamy cereal, steam rising reassuringly from various pots on the stove. In Good to the Grain (nominated for both an IACP and James Beard Award, people! Eeeep!), Kim Boyce writes about cooking oatmeal for her daughters most mornings and folding the leftovers, when there are any, into a barely sweet oat-flour pancake batter. And that is what was on my mind when I awoke this morning, little fingers of sunlight creeping across the sky still gray from the night before.
As I'm without both a gas stove and a cast-iron pan, the pancake-cooking situation in my kitchen isn't particularly satisfactory, so, while we're on the subject of gratitude and so forth, I think it would be lovely if you could give your gas stove a cuddle and a loving pat from me. Still, these pancakes are such lovely little things. Soft and tender and as wholesome as pancakes get, they pack a wallop (a gentle, soothing wallop) of pure oat flavor that tastes very nice if, for example, you use them to mop up a puddle of maple syrup in your plate. They don't leave that sort of strange heavy feeling in your belly that many pancakes do and I love that the oat flavor is what really shines here.
And best of all, you don't have to cook all of the batter all at once. We made enough for our breakfast, then put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow morning. Pancakes two days in a row! Scandalous. And wonderful. Lucky me.
Have a good weekend, folks.
Makes about 18 pancakes
3/4 cup oat flour (pulse 3/4 cup rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal*
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs
1. Whisk the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a light hand is important for tender pancakes; the batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface. Although the batter is best if using immediately, it can sit for up to 1 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, one tablespoon at a time, with milk. Take care not to overmix.
2. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.
3. Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven.
* Make oatmeal, if you don’t have any leftover: Bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rolled oats and a pinch of salt to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Let cool. You’ll have some extra oatmeal, which you can eat while you’re cooking.