small measures with ashley: seasonal pancakes


When you’re a full-time stay-at-home writer and your spouse works at home as well, the specific feeling of certain days of the week can get a bit wonky. What might feel distinctly “Monday” to someone else can feel like any day to us. In fact, we often lose track of what day it is, working just as studiously on, say, Sunday, as one might on a Tuesday. That said, we still like the idea of holding true to “weekend” activities, like pizza and a movie on Friday night and pancakes on Saturday morning.

Pancakes, in addition to being incomparably delicious, are also an ideal “vehicle” on which to introduce seasonal ingredients. Now that spring is going full-throttle (we had some MONSTER thunderstorms blast through here last night as a testament to the season), fresh produce is again available for the picking. And so, for today’s Small Measures with Ashley, I’m offering suggestions for enjoying pancakes packed with seasonal goodness year-round, beginning with a tasty spring-themed Strawberry, Rhubarb & Orange Maple Compote. — Ashley

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Rhubarb and strawberries are beginning to show up at many farmers’ markets across the US (or will within the next few weeks for those in more northern climates). The perfect duo of sweet and tart, these fruits are a balm to the fresh-fruit-deprived winter soul. Paired with the bright acidity of orange juice and the welcome sweetness of maple syrup (itself a spring-produced food), this compote is the quintessential “welcome to spring” topping for pancakes.

The pancake recipe calls for separating the yolks from the whites and then beating the whites into a foam. This added step creates a finished product that is light, fluffy and delicious, not stiff, thick or heavy like many pancakes often are. I’ve also included a few tablespoons of orange liqueur to the compote, which adds a bit more depth and flavor complexity to the finished dish. Feel free to omit it, however, if you’d prefer your pancakes hooch-free.

We like to cook ours on a Lodge cast-iron round griddle, which offers a perfect circumference for forming 7″ to 8″ cakes. It also creates incredible “edge crispiness,” always a plus in my pancake book. Whether you use a cast-iron pan or not, though, you’re in for a treat. Unlike pancakes that have no noticeable differentiation between their inner and outer textures, these humbly dubbed “Pancakes of Perfection” segue from a crispy border to a pillowy, fluffy interior. The stuff of dreams, folks. Truly. Also, flipping these beauties is incredibly easy with the help of an oversized spatula, like the one we use from Fox Run.

Strawberry, Rhubarb & Orange Maple Compote

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 cups strawberries, capped and quartered
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

Instructions

1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat.

2. Add the chopped rhubarb and strawberries. Stir and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients.

4. Cook the mixture for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb breaks down and the sauce thickens up and is no longer watery. Keep in mind that it will firm up a bit as it cools.

Pancakes of Perfection

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt, if desired

Instructions

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the egg whites, and mix well.

2. Beat the egg whites separately until very foamy.

3. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture until fairly well incorporated (we’re not making a soufflé here, so go ahead and work the foaminess in).

4. Ladle into a well-buttered pan on medium-low heat.

5. When air bubbles stay in the middle and it’s golden brown on the edges of the underside, flip.

6. Cook for a minute or two more until it starts to lightly brown on the bottom.

7. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven while preparing the remaining cakes.

8. Top with compote and serve immediately.

Strawberries and rhubarb are great for spring, but what about the rest of the year? Following is my list of suggestions for pancake pairings that’ll get you through summer, autumn and winter. In addition to fresh fruits, I’ve also offered some herb and spice suggestions that most complement their respective seasons.

Summer

  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • peaches
  • nectarines
  • apricots
  • cherries
  • vanilla bean
  • lemon balm
  • lemon verbena
  • rose water
  • orange flower water
  • lavender

Autumn

  • pears
  • apples
  • figs
  • pomegranates
  • cranberries
  • quinces
  • persimmons
  • almond extract
  • nutmeg
  • crystallized ginger
  • cinnamon
  • cloves

Winter

  • lemons
  • Meyer lemons
  • clementines
  • tangerines
  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • kumquats
  • dried fruits
  • allspice
  • cardamom
  • chocolate (all those mood-elevating properties in chocolate sure come in handy during the dark, dreary days of winter!)

I like to caramelize citrus fruits in a bit of sugar until they’re nice and brown, then dollop them atop the pancakes.

What about you? What’s your most-beloved seasonal-pancake topper? With their countless opportunities for customization, pancakes really are the perfect food year-round. I know what I’ll be having this Saturday morning, and it’ll definitely feel like a Saturday, stay-at-home writer or not!

Alex

I know this might sound weird, but my favorite is pancakes with ham & cheese – lots of melty cheese that gets nice and crispy when the pancake is flipped! Yumm! Not sure what season that would fall under, though ;)

Biscuit

Pancakes with grand marnier, what’s not to love?!
I do love the sound of pancakes with cardamom in the winter, I love adding cardamom to my snickerdoodles, so I imagine it would also be superb in pancakes! YUM!!

Jacqui

My husband and I work at home as well, so I know exactly what you mean about loosing track of the days! Once in awhile we enjoy pancakes on a less busy “week day” for a treat. I love the crispy edges too, these sound delicious!

Alysa

These look so good I think they’re worthy of a spring dinner sometime soon :) I have a fig tree out back so fig jam is a favorite come late summer.

Catherine

You’re describing my life! I’ve been on the french toast bandwagon lately – pear and walnut & banana cream cheese varieties were rolled out this week! It’s hard to do seasonal here at the beach in Queensland, Australia cause when the locals claim it’s winter, I still can’t tell the difference from summer! Not that that’s a bad thing…
– Catherine at The Spring

Patti

I made this last night and it is delicious!! Thanks so much!!

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