Monthly Archives: September 2011

Caught in the middle with pancakes

September has always been a month caught in the middle, a time of change, and possibly for that very reason, it’s my favorite. Although it can be comforting at times, I get tired of routine; it’s the ebb and flow of things that keeps us going, I think, luring us away from complacency, pushing us just beyond our comfort zone into the territory of new challenges and expectations.

As a child, September meant shopping for protractors and pretty pencils, Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers (I had this exact one) and shiny new shoes (or specifically, chunky Mary Janes as my early ’90s childhood often dictated). By August I was surprisingly bored by the freedom and play of endless summer days, and I longed for new lessons and friends, and especially for chilly nights destined for sweaters and hot apple cider.

Not quite summer, not quite fall, September weather is often unpredictable. One 90-degree day may still linger like the party guest that just doesn’t know when to leave, launching you off in a frenzy to find the flip flops and tanks you had already tucked away. Just one day later could send chills right to the bone, proving that Mother Nature is indeed in motion, whether or not you unpacked your sweaters or stowed away your air conditioners and bikinis.

I think it’s fitting, then, that this September has gifted me one very big change, beyond the shorter days and cooler nights, beyond the exchange of tomatoes for apples at the greenmarkets. I start a brand new job next week, one for which I have high hopes, and suddenly I’m a little girl again heading back to school, giddy and a bit nervous, but mostly just happy.

It felt like a whirlwind, these last four weeks, and as I am wrapping up my previous two jobs in these last days of this month that I love, leaving the people I’ve come to know and count on for guidance, for a laugh (pause for a little emotion, here), I finally had a little spurt of energy for this post. There hasn’t been much cooking this month, no, there were hurried meals out and leftover takeout (or let me be honest, more than one sad little toasted English muffin) in between sleepless nights of excitement or stress or both. And then suddenly, this week, there was one decadent celebratory dinner with the one that I love, and a slew of good-bye lunches with the ones that I hate to leave.

Thankfully, I’ll be distracted by this week’s emotional rollercoaster of wrapping up and starting anew while entertaining some houseguests on Saturday.  I love visitors, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to break out the fancy plates and make brunch. Plus, I know just the thing to make.

After all that talk about change and looking forward, you might find this recipe for lemony ricotta pancakes topped with a bounty of summer fruit to seem a little off balance. But this little dandy has been hanging out in my back pocket for the better part of two months now, and I thought it better to unload it while there is still a hope and a prayer to find good fruit at the market (of course you can always find berries at your grocery store, but they’re never quite the same).

To be honest, if I’m going to make these golden beauties this weekend, I’ll probably head out early on Saturday to snatch up the teeny apricots and rosy plums I saw piled not-quite-so-high-as-summer on Wednesday. A sweet and sour punch would make a nice addition. I’ve also seen a version topped with hot sauteed apples and cinnamon. And past hungry guests of mine enjoyed them with a side of maple syrup. Really, what is a pancake but a vehicle for something else, anyway: fresh fruit, whipped cream, butter and maple syrup? Or at least that’s what I thought until I tried these pancakes. Tart from the juice and zest of lemon (Think Summer!) yet fluffly and rich with pockets of ricotta (Think Fall!), they would be just as lovely unadorned, with nothing but a generous flurry of powdered sugar on top. Oh, and a side of champagne for me. Cheers!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fruit

Adapted from Bon Appetit

A few notes: Like I often do, I cut down on the amount of sugar used.  In this case 1/3 cup of sugar seemed like overkill to use with my already sweet fruit.  The riper the fruit you use, the less sugar you will need.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup chestnut flour, which I swapped for oat flour since that’s all I had.  I think it gives the pancake and heartier nutty flavor and makes the edges crisp.  I also used strictly all-purpose flour on one attempt, and they worked out fine as well.

Don’t skip the step of whipping the egg whites before incorporating them into the rest of the batter; it may seem fussy, but it’s a trick I’ve learned is used in some of the best pancakes ever.  It’s what makes them so unbelievably light and fluffy, and with a stand or hand mixer, it really takes no time at all.

When blending your ricotta, do not mix until it is homogoneous; leave it in chunks. One of the best part of these pancakes is finding the suprise hidden pockets of sweet cheese, very reminiscent of a cheese blintz. Yum!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups chopped fruit of your choosing
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsps grated lemon zest
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • Melted unsalted butter for brushing

Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth (or paper towels) and set over a small bowl. Add ricotta to strainer and let drain for 15 minutes; set aside.

Gently combine berries, 2 tbsp sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Let macerate, tossing occasionally, until sugar dissolves and juices are released, about 15 minutes.

Whisk both flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until peaks form.

Whisk the egg yolks, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and zest in another medium bowl to blend. Whisk in milk. Add the yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Add half of the egg white mixture; fold just to blend. Fold in ricotta, then remaining egg white mixture.

Heat a griddle or large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-low heat; brush with melted butter. Using scant 1/2 cup batter for each pancake and working in batches, ladle batter onto griddle and cook until bottom is golden brown, edges are dry, and bubbles form on top of pancake,about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer pancakes to plates. Top with fruit.

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