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Sunday pancakes

September 27, 2009

There is a tradition in my family of making pancakes on Sunday mornings. Growing up, my dad was the pancake maker – and I have no memories of him ever using a written recipe. The best part of the event was how he customized them for everyone. Mom likes bananas in hers. Dad likes butterscotch chips. I liked chocolate chips. Sometimes there were blueberries, sometimes nuts. He’d divide the batter into several bowls, adding the goodies according to request.

The recipe has undergone serious changes in the last ten years or so with the onset of allergies in my family. First a batch with no cow dairy. Then a batch with no cow dairy and one with no gluten. Then no dairy at all, no gluten and no eggs. I can’t imagine that the recipe looks much at all like the original. But it’s still customized according to request with fruit, candy, nuts.

My grandfather, however, is who started the Sunday pancake tradition. My grandmother cooked all meals for the first thirty years of their marriage. On their 30th anniversary, she told him he could cook her breakfast for the next 30. He made breakfast every day of their lives together since then. I don’t know if he’s still doing it since her passing this spring, but I hope so. It was never a simple affair. His breakfasts were always hot, always elaborate, often with complicated place settings and cutlery. You have to appreciate the effort and artistry involved.

When my husband and I went to visit my grandparents in Colorado several years ago, he modified his recipe to accommodate my inability to eat gluten. Those pancakes were half cornmeal, half buckwheat flour with chopped walnuts. I came home from that trip and made pancakes the next Sunday, and Ralph and I have been eating them most Sundays since.

True to form, my recipe changes a lot, mostly according to what’s in my refrigerator. I never have buttermilk, which is what the original recipe calls for, so I use plain yogurt or ricotta. I started off with a combination of buckwheat and corn meal and have since shifted to corn meal alone after running out of buckwheat and deciding I liked it better with just the corn. I’ve used frozen raspberries, purchased on a whim (10# of them) last fall from Adam’s Berry Farm, or fresh blueberries. I’ve made them with diced nectarines, plums, and peaches. I’ve made them with bananas, walnuts, frozen blueberries. When our first strawberries were coming out of the garden, I chopped them and added them to the batter. I hesitate to say it definitively, but I think the peaches might have been my favorite.

Ralph laughs at my constant adaptation of this recipe. Each Sunday, I open the door to the refrigerator and announce, Oh, we don’t have any…(cornmeal, buckwheat flour, yogurt, ricotta…). He laughs at this but it’s really what I like about them. Just about the only ingredient I haven’t done without or substituted for is the single egg. Though given my dad’s current recipe, there’s no reason I couldn’t, I suppose. I don’t usually offer actual recipes on this blog, but with the assumption that if you try this one you’ll change it to suit your taste, here’s the one I made today.

Cornmeal raspberry pancakes

1 egg
1 c. plain, whole-milk yogurt
2 T. grape seed oil
1 c. coarse-ground corn meal
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
~1 c. frozen raspberries

Whisk egg, yogurt and oil together in a mixing bowl. When smooth, add all dry ingredients at once. (Yes, I know, bakers would shudder that the dry ingredients aren’t mixed together first. This is what I like about this recipe- one bowl. You are perfectly welcome to adapt it to two bowls, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to). Gently mix the dry ingredients together, stopping as soon as they’re blended. Add fruit and mix gently.

Heat non-stick griddle over medium low heat. Spread spoonfulls of batter onto griddle and cook on the first side until bubbles appear and start to pop. Flip and cook for another minute or two until sides look firm. Don’t smoosh them with your spatula. Transfer to a plate in a warm oven. Repeat until all batter is done.

We eat these with butter and maple syrup. My parents skip the butter. My grandparents ate them with jam. This recipe serves Ralph and I with leftovers to toast the following morning. I double the recipe when we have more than the two of us. Enjoy.

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