Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Favorite Family Food Tradition--Special Breakfast

Archeologists believe that the pancake is one of the oldest grain based foods.  The original pancake was not unlike those consumed in many of today's world cultures.  The pancakes of ancient cultures were made from seed and grain based flours moistened with eggs and milk and cooked on hot flat stones.  Most regions of our world have a pancake-like food in their culinary traditions.  Among them, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Europe, the United Kingdom, North, Central, and South America, and Africa. 

Pancakes can be sweet or savory.  Some are made with a yeast-based batter, but most are classified as quick breads, which means they use baking soda and baking powder as a leavening agent.  The type of flour used also varies—buckwheat, corn flour or corn meal, oatmeal, and “plain” flour are among the most common.  Over the years we’ve tried many different types of pancakes, but always return to our cultural pancake roots.  It is these pancakes that serve as the foundation for one of our favorite family food traditions—Special Breakfast.

The tradition of a special Sunday breakfast began when Bella was very little. Sunday was the lazy day, and a Special Breakfast helped set the tone for our day.  These Special Breakfasts were among Bella’s first adventures in cooking, and how she learned to measure.  Bella remembers having to get off her stool to check the level of the buttermilk in the measuring cup before pouring it into the flour.  Her favorite part was using the egg beater to mix the batter.  Often when DH was away on business, Bella and I would make Blueberry Pancakes for supper. 

Special Breakfast has survived the test of time.  When Bella is home it is a rare instance when we do not have Special Breakfast one morning, which more often than not is Blueberry Pancakes.  It also includes orange juice and/or a half a grapefruit (or some other fruit), bacon and/or sausage, warmed Vermont maple syrup, unsalted butter, coffee and tea.  Often the smell of bacon cooking brings Bella sleepy-eyed into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea and help flip. 

Notes for this recipe:  Cast iron skillets and griddles produce the best pancakes, period.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, I encourage you to acquire one. (Click here for my article on cast iron cookware.)  We use two skillets instead of a griddle, which works very nicely.  I choose not to fold the blueberries into the batter, but to drop them onto the batter once it is in the pan.  The primary reasons for this:  I prefer the blueberries whole, every pancake has the same number of blueberries, and if the blueberries are frozen, the batter doesn't turn blue.  Do not rush or be impatient with cooking pancakes.  Knowing when they are done takes patience and practice.  Watch the maple syrup carefully during warming, if it boils—what a mess!  Bacon is almost always cooked in the oven, freeing the stovetop for pancakes.  (Click here for the link to the recipe for Oven Bacon.)  

Blueberry Pancakes

1-1/4 c. low fat buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw frozen blueberries)
Additional canola oil
Pure Vermont Maple Syrup
Unsalted butter

Measure buttermilk in a two cup measuring cup.  Add the egg, canola oil, and vanilla.  With a hand beater or fork mix just until blended.  In a medium sized bowl measure dry ingredients.  Stir to blend.  Pour the buttermilk mixture in and mix with an egg beater or fork just until combined.  Do not over mix.  The batter will be thick and slightly lumpy.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees (warming temperature).  Select a large oven-proof plate or platter and place in the oven. 

Lightly moisten a paper towel with canola oil and wipe the cast iron skillet or griddle.  Place on a medium burner over medium heat.  Skillet is ready when a few drops of water “skip” when dropped onto its surface.  Reduce heat slightly.  With a 1/3 c. solid measure, pour batter onto the skillet.  Drop about 12 blueberries over the surface of the pancake.  When the surface is covered with bubbles, flip the pancake.  

The pancake is done when the reverse side is browned and the pancake is firm in the middle when lightly touched.  Using a spatula place the pancake on the platter in the warm oven.  If necessary wipe the skillet with a little more canola oil and repeat with the remaining batter. 

While the pancakes are cooking pour some pure Vermont maple syrup into a microwave safe pitcher, and set aside.  Place the unsalted butter on a dish with a butter knife, and set aside to soften.  Just before serving the pancakes, warm the maple syrup for approximately one minute in the microwave.  Do not boil the syrup.

Makes approximately 8 4 inch pancakes.  Serving size:  3 pancakes.

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