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
- 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)
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
- 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
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.
- vanilla bean
- lemon balm
- lemon verbena
- rose water
- orange flower water
- almond extract
- crystallized ginger
- Meyer lemons
- dried fruits
- 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!