Breakfast factors in all our weekend plans. We happily travel for a great skillet of spicy eggs, tower of golden pancakes, platter of inventive French toast. I have my favorite spots all over the country from Jack’s Wife Freda in New York to Biscuit Love in Nashville to Sqirl in Los Angeles and Milktooth in Indianapolis.
The family also enjoys more than a dozen favorites in the Chicago area. But, really, our favorite spot for a great breakfast with friends is the kitchen table. The whole family enjoys cooking together to start the day right. It’s even better when weekend guests join in the fun.
More often than not, we start with a recipe that ran in the Chicago Tribune in the early 1980s during my time as test kitchen director. It’s more of a custardy, caramely fruit pancake than a traditional cakey pancake. We’ve personalized it over the years, sometimes using pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon, and upgrading the apples to our new favorites: Honeycrisp and SweeTango. Most times, we double the recipe to make four pancakes to serve company. Leftovers reheat beautifully.
Our berry pancakes prove more traditional. Using frozen berries makes them a year-round favorite. Enjoying a plate of warm berry pancakes topped with a berry syrup in January just feels like a taste of warmer days ahead. I buy two bags of individually frozen mixed berries. One bag gets added to a pancake batter made with some nutty whole wheat flour, and the other bag makes a lovely berry syrup.
To save time in the morning, I like to measure out all the dry ingredients for the berry pancakes ahead of time and then keep them in a container. Just as handy as a store-bought pancake mix and much better tasting. Be sure to use precise measurements on the baking powder so the pancakes don’t sport a metallic taste from too much baking powder — a common problem in many fast food restaurant pancakes and packaged mixes. To cook, just add the fresh ingredients.
I use a large wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet in a low oven to allow me to make enough pancakes in advance so all the guests can eat together. Of course, you can skip this step and just serve the pancakes as they are ready. The recipe makes quite a few pancakes — we have a plan. Leftovers reheat beautifully and take the sting out of any workday morning.
Brown sugar and curry glazed sliced ham or Canadian bacon makes an intriguing savory breakfast meat to accompany either of these pancakes. Just know that my husband regularly licks his plate clean of all the curry glaze, it’s that yummy.
Both of these pancake recipes might seem like a lot of work because of all the directions, but I am trying to guide you through to foolproof pancakes, so you and your company have a great time. And you taste the pleasure of homemade breakfast.
FAVORITE BAKED APPLE PANCAKE
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
Pumpkin pie spice makes a snappy alternative to cinnamon. Always measure your skillets across the top for the accurate diameter. For the apples, try Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Golden Delicious, Gala or Granny Smith.
6 large firm apples
3/4 cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups skim milk
8 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Powdered sugar or maple syrup
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, slice in half and core the apples. Slice about 1/4 inch thick. Mix apples, sugars and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Put the milk and eggs into a blender; blend to mix. Add the flour and salt; blend briefly to moisten the flour. Do not overmix.
3. Heat 2 large (10-inch), heavy, ovenproof skillets over medium heat until hot. Add half of the butter to each pan; allow butter to melt (watching so it doesn’t burn). When melted, divide the apple mixture between the pans. Cook and stir until apples are slightly softened and the sugar mixture creates a thickish syrup, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Remove skillets from the heat; arrange the apples so they evenly cover the skillet bottoms. Slowly pour the batter over the apples, dividing it evenly between the pans. Do not stir.
5. Immediately transfer skillets to hot oven. Bake until pancakes are puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. The pancakes will deflate as they cool, so serve immediately. (You can leave them in the turned-off oven for a few minutes.)
6. To serve, cut into large wedges and flip each wedge over onto the plate so the caramelized apples are on the top. Pass powdered sugar or syrup.
Nutrition information per serving: 688 calories, 19 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 280 mg cholesterol, 118 g carbohydrates, 78 g sugar, 16 g protein, 245 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
MIXED BERRY PANCAKES WITH HONEY BERRY TOPPING
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: about 3 dozen 3-inch pancakes, serving 6 to 8
Recipe can be halved to serve 3 or 4 guests, but know that leftovers reheat nicely in a toaster oven or microwave.
3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 bags (16 ounces each) frozen mixed berries, about 8 cups total
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, plus more for cooking
1/2 cup vegetable oil such as expeller-pressed canola or sunflower oil, plus more for cooking
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
1. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container. Store covered, up to a couple of weeks.
2. For the honey berry topping, put 1 bag of the mixed berries in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high, stirring a couple of times, until berries are softened but still cold, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the honey. Add more honey to taste. Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.
3. When you are ready to cook, heat oven to 200 degrees; place a baking sheet with a wire rack set on it in the oven. Let the remaining bag of mixed berries sit on the counter to soften slightly.
4. Put the 1 stick butter into a microwave-safe bowl; cover loosely with wax paper. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until melted, about 45 seconds. Stir in the 1/2 cup oil.
5. Whisk eggs smooth in a large bowl. Whisk in skim milk and the 1 cup yogurt until smooth. Whisk in butter-oil mixture. Add dry ingredients; whisk gently just until all dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix, or your pancakes will be tough. Gently fold in the contents of the remaining bag of mixed berries.
6. Heat 1 or 2 large nonstick skillet(s) or a nonstick griddle over medium heat until a drop of the pancake batter bubbles furiously when dropped on the surface. Lightly oil and butter the cooking surface. Spoon out about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Spread the batter with the back of the spoon, so it is thinned out a little. Cook until a few bubbles break on top and the bottom is golden, about 2 minutes. Gently flip pancake over; cook until second side is golden, 1 to 2 minutes more. Keep oiling the cooking surface and adjusting the heat as you go along, so pancakes are golden and not overly browned.
7. Transfer cooked pancakes to the wire rack on the baking sheet in the oven. Keep warm until enough are cooked to serve. Serve pancakes with the honey berry topping and more yogurt.
Nutrition information per serving (for 8 servings): 635 calories, 31 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 173 mg cholesterol, 75 g carbohydrates, 25 g sugar, 19 g protein, 1,040 mg sodium, 11 g fiber
CURRIED GLAZED CANADIAN BACON OR HAM
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
3 to 4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces thinly sliced Canadian bacon or smoked ham
1. Mix sugar and curry powder in a small bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Reduce heat to low and add butter. When butter is melted and starting to brown a little, stir in sugar mixture and 2 tablespoons water. (Be careful of splatters.) Stir to dissolve sugar; boil until thickened to a light glaze, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the Canadian bacon in a single layer; turn to coat with the sugar mixture. When heated through, about 2 minutes, remove to a warm plate. Garnish with parsley; serve right away.
Nutrition information per serving: 106 calories, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 24 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 6 g protein, 371 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
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