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”.

Raspberry-Swirl Cheesecake vs. Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake

It has been way too long since I’ve made cheesecake.  It’s probably my third favorite dessert (second being brownies, and first being whatever I haven’t tried on the menu yet).  After doing a brief search through my saved recipes and through some of my favorite sites for new recipes, I quickly narrowed it down to some ten candidates.  My head was whirling in cheesecake-baking excitement.  I gave word of my upcoming cheesecake expedition to my mother, who promptly replied “keep it to one pan”.  I was crushed; ten cheesecakes would not fit into one pan.  But, two could.  So, I chose raspberry and caramel-macchiato to be pan-mates (later, I discovered that they went rather well together, but that was a happy accident).

The raspberry cheesecake comes from the fabulous Ms. Stewart.  It is a tartly sweet, wonderfully summery dessert with a smooth and creamy texture.  The caramel macchiato cheesecake comes from AllRecipes and actually has a taste to match its title (I was surprised).  This cheesecake is a bit denser, with a rich texture and a smoky-sweet coffee flavor.  I topped it with a luxurious caramel sauce recipe from SavorySweetLife (I have included the recipe in this post)

RASPBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE:

(original yields one 9″ cake, but I halved this version)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups + 5 tbs sugar
  • 4 oz raspberries
  • 16 oz (2 packages) cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Slovakian rum since we ran out of vanilla)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)

Directions: 

  1. Toss your raspberries into a food processor for about 30 seconds till they’re smoothly pureed. Strain the raspberry puree through fine sieve into a small bowl and throw out what remains in the sieve.  Whisk in 2 tbs of your sugar.
  2. Into a medium sized bowl, beat your cream cheese until fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add in your remaining 1/2 cup + 3 tbs sugar slowly and steadily.
  3. Mix in your salt and vanilla (or rum) and, when they’ve combined, mix in your eggs, one by one (careful no to over mix, only stir until just combined).
  4. Your batter is ready to be poured into your crust (directions for creating and baking a half-and-half cheesecake are listed after the Caramel Macchiato recipe)
  5. After pouring in the batter, drop tablespoons of the raspberry puree on top and swirl with a toothpick

CARAMEL MACCHIATO CHEESECAKE:

(original yields one 9″ cake, but I halved this version)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 1/8 cup brewed espresso (strong coffee will work, too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used rum in this one, as well)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat your cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add in your sugar and keep beating until well-blended.
  2. Mix in your eggs, one by one, and beat well after each one. Then, mix in your sour cream, espresso, and vanilla/rum.
  3. Your second batter is ready to be poured into your crust
  4. Before you serve your cheesecake, top it with caramel sauce (it is, after all, a caramel macchiato cheesecake)
Baking Your Half-and-Half Cheesecake:
  1. Bake/make your crust
  2. Preheat your oven to 325°F
  3. You’ll want to get a piece of sturdy paper material (I used a strip cut from a pastry box) that’s not too thick for your divider.  You can use something plastic, metal, etc. for it, just remember that whatever it is, it will be touching your cake so make sure it’s sanitary.
  4. Fit the divider into your pan (trim the divider if necessary) after you’ve baked your crust and secure it to make sure it stays put while you pour your batter (it’s easiest to have someone hold the divider while you pour).
  5. Carefully, steadily, pour the first batter into one half of the pan.  Then, do the same with the second batter.
  6. Pull the divider out and, voila, two cheesecakes in one pan.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50-65 minutes, until the cheesecake is set but still a little wobbly near the center.

CARAMEL SAUCE:

Yields 2 cups (and you’ll want all of it)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (heat for about 30 seconds in your microwave till lukewarm)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (heat for about 30 seconds in your microwave till lukewarm)
  • 2 tbs rum (use actual rum, not vanilla)

Directions:

  1. In a small or medium saucepan, cook your sugar and water over medium-high heat.  Monitor your syrup carefully until it changes colors around the edges to an amber-brown (350°F on a candy thermometer)
  2. When your syrup changes color, remove it from the heat and stir the mixture quickly with a wooden spoon or whisk (this keeps the syrup from burning).
  3. Continue stirring and carefully pour in 1/2 cup of warmed heavy cream and your butter (I just warmed my butter with/in the cream to make it easier).  This will make your mixture froth and spit, but stir on until everything is dissolved.
  4. Once the sugar’s completely dissolved, add in your 1/4 cup of warmed heavy cream and your rum, stirring until your caramel sauce is smooth.
  5. Once it’s cooled just a little bit, pour the sauce carefully into a heat proof jar and let it cool.
  6. Before topping the caramel macchiato cheesecake, warm the caramel in the microwave until pourable but not too hot.

Review:

Starting first with Ms. Stewart’s raspberry-swirl cheesecake, this fantastic dessert was top-notch.  Ms. Stewart has yet to disappoint, and this tart little treat was absolutely wonderful.  It had the perfect, sweet creaminess of a fine cheesecake with the playful tartness of raspberries.  The base was smooth, creamy, and indulgent, without being overly dense or heavy.  The flavor from the raspberry top came through the whole cake to give it a sweet, fresh flavor.   The recipe is simple, easy, and yields a stunningly gorgeous cheesecake just right for a summer treat.

The caramel macchiato cheesecake was luxuriously delicious and held its own against the fabulous raspberry-swirl.  The deep, smoky flavor from the coffee really comes through in this dessert.  I was a bit surprised at how much it tasted like a real caramel macchiato; the blend of sweet cream and dark coffee hit the perfect note.  The body of the cake was rich, dense, and utterly luscious.  It had the classic thickness of a cheesecake, but without feeling heavy.  This recipe was also simple and painless with an incredible result.  The caramel drizzled on top was perfect and neatly brought together this fantastic coffee-flavored indulgence.

The caramel sauce was sinful, dark, richly-flavored, and delicious.  I don’t think I’ll be using any other recipe from now on.  The caramel was rich, thick, and smooth with a deep and intense flavor.  There is a complexity and depth to this caramel that is truly extraordinary.  I will be topping everything I can with this from now on.

*Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten what exact recipe I used for the crust.  It was one of these two and it was absolutely fantastic:

CRUST 1:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
CRUST 2:
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F
  2. Mix together all of your ingredients and press evenly into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan
  3. Bake your crust for 8 to 10 minutes.  Wait till cooled before pouring in batter.

Buttermilk Pancakes vs. Martha Stewart

Making a 6am morning well worth it

I had never made pancakes before and, while breakfast foods aren’t usually at the top of my recipe box, I figured if they have “cake” in the name, I might as well have a go at it.  I settled on one old-fashioned buttermilk recipe and one for classic pancakes (courtesy of Ms. Stewart).  Making the two different batches at the same time was a little challenging, especially at 6am (not my finest hour), but they both turned out wonderfully and my family thoroughly enjoyed their stint as my guinea pigs.

First, the buttermilk:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dab of butter for the pan

Directions:

  1. “Sour” the milk with the vinegar in a medium cooking bowl (big enough for all the ingredients)
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar in a separate bowl
  3. Whisk egg and oil into the “soured” milk
  4. Pour in the mixed dry ingredients and whisk the batter until the lumps are gone (some small ones may remain, but the batter should be pretty smooth)
  5. Heat your favorite skillet over a medium flame and spread your dab of butter around in there (obviously you don’t want your pancake swimming in butter, but it’s ok if you use a couple extra dabs, especially in between pancakes to make sure the skillet keeps well greased)
  6. Scoop about 1/3 cup (or more/less depending on how big you want your pancakes) of batter and pour it into the center of the skillet (I used a ladle and eye-balled).  After the first one, I used the back of my ladle to gently pat down and spread the dough a little because the pancakes fluff and thicken as they cook, and they were making me nervous with how thick they got
  7. Once the bottom is a medium-golden brown, flip the pancake and cook the other side.  If one side is not quite done, go ahead and flip it back (pancakes, unlike hamburger patties, are no worse for wear after a couple extra flips, though I would try to reduce extra handling anyways)
Review:

These really had a fantastic taste to them, very deeply layered and rich.  They were a little denser, though still fluffy, and almost imperceptibly drier (which in no way detracted from their soft, golden, goodness).  The batter was easy and kind, pleasantly thick (and rather tasty).  While my family preferred Ms. Stewart’s pancakes to these, it’s still a great recipe for buttermilk pancakes.

Second (though, actually, simultaneously), the Martha Stewart pancakes:
Review:

This is THE classic pancake; the recipe really undersells with the title “Basic Pancakes”.  These pancakes were lightly flavored and incredibly fluffy with just a hint of sweetness.  The batter was a little thinner than the buttermilk, but cooked up just fine with no problems.  The pancakes had a wonderful little crisp to the outside and a gentle airiness inside. I used oil instead of butter, and maybe next time I’ll try them out with butter, just for fun.  There will definitely be a next time for these pancakes. I didn’t do the oven-warming, but since it takes a while to get all the pancakes done, I’ll definitely use that little trick next time.

Tips:
To make pancakes fluffier, sift your flour, whip your eggs, and you can even substitute in seltzer water (though I was more than happy with the fluffiness of these recipes).

The secret to perfectly cooked pancakes is patience.  It’s better to cook them a little slower and more evenly, than try to rush them (they’ll end up burnt outside and undercooked inside)

As far as toppings, etc.  I made a few plain from each batch as well as almond, pecan brown sugar, chocolate chip (I used semi-sweet and white chocolate), and one with chopped crystallized ginger (which was very yummy and exotic).  Basically anything I could grab out of the front of my pantry. For all of those, I simply pressed the nuts, chocolate, etc. into the uncooked top of the pancake after I scooped the batter into the skillet.

They were absolutely delicious, especially with some salted butter and fresh berries.  Made 6am worth it.