Saturday, 13 April 2013

For O. Henry (1862 - 1910),

"Betimes I was stirred by invalid longings for something to eat that did not come under the caption of 'grub.' I had visions of the maternal pantry 'deep as first love, and wild with all regret,' and then I asked: 'Jud, can you make pancakes?'"
   -- The Pimienta Pancakes

Ah, pancakes.

In O. Henry's story, a hungry man waiting for his pancakes listens to the cook tell a tale. It goes like this:

Two men are interested in one woman. Man #2 swears that he is only pursuing her for her secret family pancake recipe, and will back off if Man #1 gets the recipe from her. So Man #1 tries to coax the woman to give up her pancake recipe, but every time he says 'pancakes,' she shrinks away. Eventually, Man #1 hears that Man #2 has eloped with the woman. How? He told her that Man #1 had an old frying-pan-to-the-head injury, and would rave about pancakes when he got "overhot or excited."

Let's think about this: he would rave about pancakes when he experienced frenzy or agitation.

It might not have been true of Man #1, but it's a pretty convincing lie. Because really, pretty much any agitation can be cured with pancakes.

I had a long day at work! Pancakes are reviving.
I have no money! Pancakes cost cents to whip up.
Life is generally too hard! Pancakes make it better.
Life is better now! More pancakes take it one notch higher. 

Plus, as a general bonus, they provide an excellent base for flavoured butters, like this mound of whipped cinnamon silkiness.

Think of it as moisturiser for your stomach lining.
The one thing I'm torn on, though, is height. Do I go for thin, crepe-like British pancakes, sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar just as Mama used to make, or do I go for a fat, fluffy Americanised short stack?

This decision is too hard! Pancakes will make it better.

Dammit. That didn't help. But in honour of O. Henry's citizenship, I went for the Yankee stack, stuffed with berries, topped with a lashing of cinnamon butter, and drizzled with maple syrup.

So if pancakes are the cure for being "overhot and excited," what should I do when the pancakes are themselves exciting? Eat more, I guess. What a marvelously vicious circle.

Mixed Berry Pancakes with Cinnamon Butter

Serves 2

1 1/3 C flour
1 tbsp white sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 C buttermilk (or a scant 1/2 cup milk & 1/2 tbsp vinegar)
1/2 C milk
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp melted butter
1 C frozen berries (I used raspberries & blueberries)
Oil spray or butter, for the pan
Cinnamon butter:
2 tbsp butter, softened slightly
1 tsp cinnamon
Fruit garnishes:
Fresh berries
1 banana
Maple syrup


If you don't have buttermilk, combine half a cup of milk and half a tablespoon of vinegar, and set aside to curdle for 5-10 minutes while you make the pancake batter. 

Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Toss the frozen berries through the flour mixture (this stops them from bleeding too much colour). In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk (or vinegar-curdled milk), regular milk, and egg yolk. Add the melted butter and whisk well. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry. Beat the egg white until stiff, and gently fold it into the pancake batter.

Cook quarter-cupfuls of pancake batter over medium-high heat in a little melted butter or oil spray. Wait until bubbles appear on top, then flip and cook until brown on both sides. Keep warm in a low oven or warmer while you make the rest of the pancakes.

To make the cinnamon butter, stir cinnamon into the butter. You might be tempted to add brown sugar, but don't. The whole delight of the cinnamon butter is the play of its saltiness on the sweet pancakes.

To serve: fry segments of banana until browned. Top a stack of pancakes with a spoonful of cinnamon butter, fresh raspberries, and fried banana. Drizzle maple syrup on top. Swoon.

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