A Pancake’s Pancake

I am not impressed with recipe titles that include words such as “ultimate” or “absolute best”, they never seem to live up to their names.  Having said that, these pancakes almost moved me to name them “The Ultimate Super Absolute Best Pancakes in the Entire Universe of All Time”.  They are that good.

I was first attracted to this recipe because it called for the egg whites to be whipped, which was novel and seemed like a promising way to ensure very fluffy pancakes.  I finally made these pancakes for my father last weekend, who declared them to be the best pancakes he’d ever had; when I tasted one, myself, I had to agree.  These are pancakes the way pancakes were meant to be.

PERFECT PANCAKES:

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Neil’s Pancakes” recipe

Yields about 8 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or rum)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, sift your flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together your milk, melted butter, vanilla/rum, and yolks until well combined.
  3. Then, whisk your yolk mixture into your dry ingredients until just combined (it’ll be a little lumpy)
  4. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to beat your egg whites into stiff peaks. Carefully fold your egg whites into the batter until fully incorporated (some small clumps of egg whites are fine)
  5. Butter your frying pan and heat it over a medium flame.  Use a ladle to drop batter onto it, and check it occasionally by using a spatula to carefully lift part of the pancake to check if the bottom is golden-brown.  Once done, flip the pancake and fry the other side to match.
  6. Top with fresh berries, syrup, bananas, sugar, or anything else.  These will go great with anything (they’re unbelievably good plain, too)

Review:

These pancakes are scrumptious, fluffy, heavenly, delicious, delectable, and absolutely perfect.  They’re gorgeous, puffy little golden cakes.  They’re amazingly airy and tender with a rich, full taste.  They come off the skillet looking like professional, magazine-cover pancakes and they taste even better.  So many recipes guarantee delicious, fluffy pancakes, but these are in a different league altogether.  If you like truly fluffy, full-flavored, classic pancakes, then these cannot, will not disappoint.  As my father said, “these are the pancakes other pancakes dream of becoming”.

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Mother’s Day Croissants (Julia Childs’ Recipe)

My mother loves croissants, so for every special occasion I get my mother croissants for breakfast.  I always pop them in the toaster oven to warm them, always wrap them in a white linen napkin, and always put them in the same straw-woven basket.  This year, for Mother’s Day, I wanted to do something a little more special, though.  So, I decided to make her croissants.

Making croissants is a difficult process, but it’s even harder when you’re making them as a surprise for someone living under the same roof.  For the three days it took to make them, I had to operate in complete secrecy.  Luckily, we have two refrigerators, so I managed to hide the dough in the garage fridge.  Unluckily, my mother is almost always in the kitchen, so I had to ask my trusty sidekick (my father) to get her out of the house.   I started the croissants on Friday and kept rolling and folding all the way till 5:00am on Sunday morning.  I highly recommend planning out any croissant-making well in advance, as it’s impossible to eat them the same day you start making them.  Especially if it’s your first time making croissants (as this was for me); you’ll want to watch videos.  A lot of videos.

JULIA CHILDS CROISSANTS:

Yields 4 large croissants, or 8 smaller (this recipe is halved from the original)

Recipe:

  • 1/2 lb and 1 oz unsalted butter (cold)
  • 1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/6 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp water
Directions:
Day 1:
  1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid), add your flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Then add your milk and mix on low speed using the hook attachment until ingredients are mixed (if the dough looks too dry, add a little more milk.  You’ll know when it’s enough when there’s no more dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.  But, you don’t want your dough becoming too sticky and wet, so make sure to give the mixer some time to do its magic before you start pouring in more milk)
  2. When your dough is mixed, take it out of the bowl and either hold it or place it on a clean bit of counter.  Turn your mixer back on and add your dough back into the bowl bit by bit.  Increase the mixer’s speed (medium-high) every time you add in a piece of dough, and reduce a bit before adding in the next piece.
  3. When the dough is all in the mixer again and unified, take it out and show it who’s boss.  Roll it into a ball and pound it a couple times on your counter (not too hard, you’re not trying to beat it to death), punch it, roll it with your hands, and knead it some.  Do this a couple times (it helps gluten form to give your croissants structure and airiness).
  4. Shape your dough into a nice ball and wrap it in plastic.  Put the wrapped dough into a large, sealed plastic bag.  Let it rest at room temperature for half an hour or so.
  5. While your dough is resting, change your mixer’s attachment to the paddle and take out your butter.
  6. Toss your butter in the bowl with add 2 tablespoons of flour and beat on a high speed.  Keep an eye on it, you don’t want to overwork your butter and turn it into oil. Beat it until just fluffy and malleable (it should still be chilled).
  7. Take the butter and squeeze it between your palms to push all the air out.  Pack and shape it into a ball (it’s better if it’s more bar-of-soap shaped than perfectly spherical), being careful not to handle it too long.  Wrap your butter in plastic and place it in the refrigerator until your dough is done resting.
  8. Then, put your butter and dough into the same large plastic bag and place them both in the refrigerator overnight.
Day 2:
  1. Flour your counter (or a marble slab) with flour for rolling (keep the flour nearby, you might need more as you get going)
  2. Take your dough out of the fridge (keep your butter in there though) and put it on your floured surface.  Roll your dough out evenly and patiently.  The key to rolling dough is never to force it, slow and steady keeps your dough from tearing and from rolling out crooked.  But make sure you’re firm, otherwise your dough is not going to move. Try to keep your dough in a roughly rectangular shape.  To make sure your dough is even, bend down to eye level with it and look across the surface to see if one side is higher or lower than another.
  3. When your dough has been rolled out, take your butter out of the fridge (if you have a very cold fridge, you may want to take the butter out a minute or two in advance so that it’s not rock solid).
  4. Unwrap your butter and place it in the middle of your dough.  Fold one side of your dough over the butter, making sure the sides of the dough line up (pinch them to make the dough stay, instead of shrinking back towards the butter).  Then, fold the other side over the butter to completely cover it (again, line up the sides and pinch to make the dough stay)
  5. With your rolling pin, beat the butter down, starting from the middle and working first to one side and then, when finished, the other. Continue beating firmly, but not aggressively, until your butter is evenly spread throughout the dough.  If your dough tears and the butter peeks through, just patch it up with any spare bits of dough (I just tore off little bits that didn’t get the butter beaten into them) or pat a little flour on it.
  6. Now, roll evenly, making sure you’re not forcing the dough.
  7. After it’s been rolled out to a rectangular shape, place your dough on a lightly-floured shallow baking pan (or a high-sided cookie sheet) and cover it with plastic wrap.   Stick the whole thing in the fridge for a couple hours (anywhere from 2-6 ought to do it)
  8. After it’s rested, take it out, and roll it out on a floured surface.  Sprinkle some flour over the top of your dough so that your rolling pin doesn’t stick (press an extra bit to any spots where butter peeks out).
  9. Roll your dough out again, evenly, patiently, and firmly.  Keep it in a rectangular shape.
  10. Fold into three (first bring one side to the middle, then the other, like folding a letter).  Before folding, brush the flour off each surface of the dough with a pastry brush (even a clean paintbrush will do).
  11. Then, put back onto your pan/cookie sheet, cover it all up with plastic wrap, and stick it back in the fridge for 1-4 hours.
  12. When you take it out this time, repeat the rolling, flouring, etc. you just did.  After you’ve folded it, roll it out a bit and fold it again, just the same way.  Roll it to make it even and place it back on the pan/cookie sheet.  Cover it and refrigerate for 1 hour (feel free to leave it in overnight, that’s what I did)
Day 3:
  1. Take your dough out of the refrigerator and cut it in half widthwise to give you 2 square pieces of dough.  Stick one back in the fridge and roll out the other on a floured surface (try not to let the dough warm too much while working with it).
  2. When your dough is about the length (and a little wider) than an average sheet of paper, cut diagonally across to make 2 triangles with approximately 4″ bases.
  3. Hold a triangle at the base and lengthen it by pulling (gently) on it (this step will help your croissant puff up as it bakes).
  4. Starting at the base, roll your triangle up by using your palms.  Pinch the two ends of the croissant together (they’ll come apart as it bakes, but it’ll help give your croissants a classic crescent shape).  Place your croissants on the pan/cookie sheet with the point side down (otherwise it likes to unstick).  Make sure to lay down a sheet of baking paper if your pans/cookie sheet aren’t non-stick.
  5. When you’ve finished rolling all your croissants and placing them on the pan/cookie sheet, make your egg wash (1 egg white + 1 tsp of water, whisk together until combines) and brush it over the croissants lightly.
  6.  *** Proofing: *** All the croissant recipes I’ve seen call for a proofing step (basically creating a humid environment between 75-80°F to help your pastry rise a final time before baking).  The recipe I followed says to turn the oven light on, stick a pot of boiling water in the oven and let your croissants sit in the oven (door closed) for 3 hours.  This method didn’t work out very well for me, so I suggest trying the method from Martha Stewart’s croissant recipe.
  7. When you have proofed your dough, take them out of the oven (if this is where you proofed them) and turn set it to 350°F.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they turn a nice golden brown (keep a careful eye on them, they cook fast towards the end)
Tips:

Watch a video and look at step-by-step pictures to help visualize the rolling, folding, and cutting.  It’s simple once you see it done, but difficult to understand from just a written recipe

If your dough tears as you roll it out and butter comes through, pat a dab of flour on it or patch it with some butter-free dough (if you have any bits).  Don’t keep rolling over it without patching or flouring because it will stick to your rolling pin and make the tear worse.

Be careful when you take the pan out of the oven as there will probably be liquid butter in it (butter drains from the croissants as they cook).  Remove the croissants from the pan as quickly as possible or they will get greasy from sitting in the butter.

Review:

These croissants were amazing.  The fact that they turned out at all is incredible, after my “proofing” almost melted them (I think there was too much steam so they essentially got rained on).  I cannot put into words the heartbreak seeing my beautiful croissants, all my hard work from the past three days, mushy and flattened when they had gone in so perfect and proud.  I sat in front of the oven and tried not to cry.  I’m not sure what made me try to bake them anyways, but I’m glad that I did, because my wonderful little croissants recovered somehow.  The proofing step was my only complaint with the recipe, otherwise everything else turned out perfectly.  Each time that I took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it, and folded it, I was in awe that I had managed to make it thus far.  Croissants are supposed to be hard, but these weren’t.  Even after melting, they still puffed admirably, forming a perfect, professional-croissant crust and beautiful flaky layers inside.  The tops were crispy, and the golden inside was buttery and divine.  Somehow, magic happened, and I made croissants, real, French, honest-to-goodness croissants.  The best part?  My mother adored them.

Sweet Lemon Pancakes

I was home this past weekend and had a request for more pancakes, so I decided to try something new.  This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe, but I added a little twist to it.  Instead of plain pancakes, I decided to go with lemon and I added in some cognac for a little extra something.

These pancakes are light and springlike, perfect for a summer breakfast outside on a sunny day.  They’re even better garnished with a little lemon zest and a light touch of maple syrup.

SWEET LEMON PANCAKES:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or vegetable oil, but that makes for a drier pancake)
  • zest of one large lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:  

  1. In a medium bowl, beat your eggs and milk until they become light and foamy (about 3 minutes at high speed of an electric mixer, though I did this step by hand with a whisk)
  2. Stir in the melted butter (or vegetable oil), then the brandy and lemon zest
  3. In a separate, small bowl, whisk the salt, baking powder, flour, and sugar together
  4. Mix your dry mixture into your wet batter, stirring until just incorporated (some small lumps are ok). Now let your batter stand and thicken for about 15 minutes (it’s ok to skip this step, I did and they turned out fine)
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat and brush a light coating of vegetable oil or butter over it. You’ll know it’s hot enough when a drop of water sizzles and evaporates immediately.
  6. Using a small ladle (or measure 1/4 cupfuls of batter) drop batter into the center of your pan.  I usually spread mine out a bit so that they’re a little thinner.  Bubbles will form and break, but the best way to check is to simply lift the pancake a bit with a spatula and when the bottom is golden-brown, flip it.
  7. For an extra lemony taste, grate some more zest on top of each pancake.  Serve with your favorite topping (I recommend just a touch of maple syrup)
Tips:

Only flip the pancake once

Using a feather pastry brush or paper, brush your skillet with a light coat of vegetable oil/butter to ensure crispy (rather than soggy) pancakes

To keep your pancakes warm, preheat the oven to 200°F and place each pancake on a baking sheet inside when you take it off the skillet.  Open the oven door every now and then to keep the oven cooler and prevent your pancakes from drying out.

Review:

These pancakes were to die for.  The recipe yields light, sweet, summery pancakes.  The lemon zest gives them a fresh and irresistible taste, while the brandy plays in rich undertones.  The batter is simple, non-fussy, and delicious all by itself.  The pancakes fry up a nice gentle crisp on the edges, with a sweet, fluffy, and tender middle.  They’re fantastic with a little maple syrup, but absolutely divine just by themselves as well.  These pancakes are the perfect spring breakfast, served outside on a weathered wood table with white linen napkins, all lit up by morning sunshine.  I know what I’ll be eating all summer long.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

I found this recipe a while ago in the massive clutter-pile of food articles on my mother’s desk and I had been waiting to make it until raspberries were in season. But, staring at the gorgeous picture on the recipe, I just couldn’t wait any longer and so I made it a little ahead of schedule.

I was very excited to try this dessert (fun fact: it’s named after a ballet dancer and originated in New Zealand) as my mother had never made one (very surprising) and my father had never eaten one (more surprising). I was a little hesitant since the dessert is meringue-based (and I really, really hate meringues), but it was a simply fantastic little treat.

This recipe is simple and turned out perfectly, but from my pavlova research (courtesy of Google) I have found that there are several things that can go wrong with this dessert (and often do). The two biggest problems seemed to be with having your egg whites refuse to whip up (or having them collapse after the other ingredients were added in) and having the entire pavlova collapse once it was taken out of the oven. The solutions I found to these are at the bottom of this post (under tips); they were simple to do and I’m sure they worked since I didn’t experience any of these minor disasters.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries:
Recipe:

(base)

  • 6 egg whites (room temp.)
  • 300g powdered sugar (careful if you want to reduce the sugar, it may affect how well it whips up)
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped to smallish bits (I chopped mine to roughly the size of average chocolate chips, but don’t use actual chocolate chips, because they don’t incorporate or flavor the cake as well as chopped chocolate)

(topping)

  • 500ml heavy cream (this really depends on how much whip cream you want on top)
  • 500g raspberries (again, this one’s more to taste/looks)
  • 2–3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate (same as above)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large, shallow baking pan with a silpat pad (you can also use a similar non-stick mat or a baking sheet, this is just what I used)
  2. Beat your egg whites into peaks (the recipe was vague on what kind of peaks, so I did them somewhere between soft and stiff and it worked just fine). Little by little add in the sugar
  3. žAdd in the cocoa a tablespoon at a time, then add the balsamic vinegar (some recipes have you fold in the cocoa, but I beat it in)
  4. Fold in the chopped chocolate, take care not to crush your egg whites
  5. žPile the batter onto the baking sheet into a pile and carefully round and smooth out to a 9inch circle. You want a slight indent in the center, but don’t go gouging out a hole; it’s a slight indent
  6. Now, turn your oven down to 300°F, and set your pan (with the pavlova in it, of course) into the center of your oven. Bake for about 1 hour (mine took about 45 minutes, but my oven bakes a little faster than most). It’s done when the top is springy and it looks like every online picture of a chocolate pavlova. Careful checking this dessert; it’s very delicate, so only open your oven if you absolutely have to and try to open it as little as possible.
  7. žWhen your pavlova is done, turn the oven off and open the door slightly to let the pavlova cool off (we just stuck a sturdy wooden spoon in the door to prop it open about an inch or two). Slight cracking may occur.
  8. žWhen it’s cooled, take it out and either invert it onto a serving platter or carefully transfer it on (I had my gracious mother help me with this one, and we opted to transfer it by lifting it on the silpat liner and carefully folding the liner away until I was left holding the pavlova. This definitely requires two pairs of hands)
  9. žRight before you’re ready to serve, whip up the heavy cream (you can add in some powdered sugar, but you’d essentially be sugaring a meringue and that’s most definitely not necessary). If you’re not planning on eating the entire pavlova in one sitting, I’d cut slices first (which, as you will see, is easier said than done) and then put the topping on those pieces. Otherwise, your cream will sit on the pavlova and make it soggy, etc.
  10. Finish it off with the raspberries (side note: I’m not a huge raspberry fan, but they really are the perfect thing for this dessert. While other berries would be pleasant, the raspberries are essential) and the grated chocolate

Review:

After reading all about pavlovas, I was a little nervous about this dessert, but this recipe made it easy. While the original was a little vague in the directions and obviously was meant for more savvy bakers (hopefully, I’ve managed to simplify it a bit), the final project was fantastic. The outside is sugary and crunchy, while the inside is sticky and, dare I say it, almost a little gooey. While the base of the cake is sweet (unsurprising since it’s essentially just egg whites and sugar), the plain whipped cream topping and raspberries make it refreshing and very summer-y. One of the best things about it is how fun it is to eat; it’s definitely a different gastronomic experience than other desserts. The crisp top and the gooey bottom mixed with the creamy topping make for a very enjoyable texture experience, while you get the play of flavors from the sweet cocoa of the base and the freshly-tart burst from the raspberries (I imagine this is even more incredible when the raspberries are actually in season). My favorite part is how light this dessert is; I had a sizable slice and I didn’t feel the slightest bit full from it. There is serious danger of eating the entire cake.

Tips:

Keep your egg whites pure. Make sure absolutely no oil touches them and no egg yolk gets in. Make sure your bowl, beaters, wooden spoon, and whatever other implements touch them are clean, clean, clean. And keep your fingers out of the bowl!

Egg whites whip up better when they’re at room temperature, so leave your eggs out for 30 minutes or so.

After your pavlova is baked, turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova in the oven. Just crack the door a bit and let it cool off in there. This should prevent it from collapsing.

When transferring your pavlova to a serving platter, be very gentle, they are extremely fragile (especially the bigger they are).

Not mine, found this one off google!