Wednesday, May 18, 2011
About once a weekend I cook my wonderful boyfriend breakfast, or brunch, or whatever you'd like to call the first meal of the day that usually happens no earlier than 1 p.m. This process typically starts with a variation of an exchange in which I ask him what he'd like for breakfast, I tell him I can make him whatever he'd like, suggest a few things, and then make my way into the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, I only offer to make meals that can be assembled from items that I already have on hand - the first meal of the day is not the time to go out for groceries, is it? (Let's not dwell on the fact that I have to merely cross the street to arrive at a more than serviceable grocery store, okay? Thanks.)
So imagine my displeasure when, after Robbie took me up on an offer of chocolate chip pancakes, I opened my fridge to find myself entirely out of milk, of any sort. No cow, almond or coconut milk, and definitely no buttermilk. Though he (probably) would have been happy with anything (edible) I put in front of him, because that's just the kind of guy he is, I didn't want to let him down.
But I recalled reading a Dear FloFab column in the Diner's Journal that revolved around a secret recipe for pancakes, and whether it was right for someone to insist on being given an old family recipe for pancakes that the question poser was given by her aunt on her deathbed, and is now the only person in the family in possession of the recipe. [Though now that I'm searching for this column I can't seem to find it anywhere, but I'm fairly secure enough in my sanity to say I read it at some point; maybe it just wasn't FloFab? Anyone?]
Scrolling down past Florence's pithy reply (how I love reading her responses to these questions), I came upon the comments. Many of them. And instead of responding to the question posed, instead of chiming in on the merits of keeping such a thing secret, the commenters to the post took turns guessing what that secret recipe might have hidden within it that it creates what must be the world's greatest pancakes. One of the commenters piped in: "beer!" Which makes sense, in a way, since beer contains both yeast and carbonation, which helps keep things light and fluffy, certainly an attribute when it comes to pancakes. I use seltzer in my matzoh balls to help keep those from becoming too dense, so the same logic would seem to apply to pancakes. And while I had zero types of milk in the fridge, I had no less than four types of beer. Problem - potentially - solved.
So I turned to Google, and found a few different recipes for beer pancakes, which I cobbled together. I used part whole wheat flour in part because I felt its nuttiness would play nicely with the malty undertones of the beer. And it did. The pancakes were light, but crispy around the edges, with faint yeasty notes in the backdrop that played surprisingly well with the chocolate chips.
What type of beer you should use will depend on how prominently you'd like to feature it in the taste. A cheap light beer will interfere less with the taste of the other ingredients, but will still provide a noticeable beer flavor. On the other hand, a nice rasperry lambic would work quite nicely as well, providing fruity notes that would play well with blueberries or chocolate chips in the batter. Regardless, once the bottle's open, you might as well finish it up. It's brunch, after all, and is brunch really brunch without booze?
Whole Wheat Beer Pancakes
Adapted from Multiple Sources
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, separated
1 cup beer (I used a cheap light beer, since I didn't want the taste of beer to be too prominent)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional, but why not)
1/4 good quality cup chocolate chips (optional, blueberries would also be good, especially with a fruity beer)
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolk, beer and butter and whisk to combine. Don't overmix - it's okay if there are a few lumps.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with a hand mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. Add a bit of the egg white to the batter to lighten it before folding in the rest, being careful not to deflate the egg whites. Fold in the remaining egg whites to combined.
Note: if you want to skip this step, you certainly can, but I think separating the eggs results in wonderfully light pancakes. If you want to forego whipping the whites, just don't separate the egg and beat it lightly before adding it to the mixture with the beer and butter.
Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium heat and coat with a respetable layer of butter. I find that a little extra butter helps the edges of the pancakes get nice and crispy. Once the bubbles in the butter have subsided a bit, spoon the batter onto the hot griddle or skillet, using about 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake. Dot the surface of the pancakes with chocolate chips or blueberries, if using, pressing down on them gently so that they become slightly submerged in batter. When you see bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, about 3-4 minutes, flip them over and cook until done on the other side.
Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and maple syrup and a healthy amount of bacon if you're hearing the siren song of a salty-sweet breakfast.