When I was a kid my brother and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents – they watched us after school, we ran errands with them, they brought me to gymnastics classes, and so much more. We also ate dinner there fairly often during the week. One of my favorite meals we’d have was prepared by my grandfather. On Fridays we’d occasionally have breakfast for dinner and I distinctly remember my grandfather – he was tall, well over 6 feet – standing in my grandparents’ tiny galley kitchen making pancakes on his griddle. He didn’t cook much (best I can recall) but he made a mean pancake. They were always perfectly circular, browned to just the right degree and oh so fluffy and delicious.
Now that I’m an adult, with my own kitchen, I don’t make pancakes all that often. Shane’s never interested in breakfast for dinner, and I’m generally too hungry in the morning to stand over the stove flipping pancakes. I made an exception this weekend, though, for these gingerbread pancakes. The book the recipe comes from consists entirely of gingerbread recipes, and since I rarely eat gingerbread outside of the month of December, I really wanted to try a few recipes this month.
It turns out I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s pancake-making skills… My first 5 pancakes were misshapen and cooked unevenly. The problem was the temperature of my skillet, which was at first not hot enough, and then too hot. Finding a happy medium (literally) made the process run a lot smoother. I probably could have pulled our griddle out, but a pan just seemed less messy. The pancake batter is simple to put together, and includes an infusion of warm spices as well as some orange zest for brightness. The batter needs to rest for at least 3 hours but is fine overnight, so just make it before you go to bed and all you have to do is cook in the morning. Your pancakes will be thin, but I still found them fluffy, and with just the right level of spice. I went with the standard butter and syrup topping for my pancakes, but the book suggests apple butter, which I also think would be nice. My friend Kayte mentioned whipped cream – another good idea for sure. No matter how you top them, I think they’d be a really nice change of pace for breakfast this month.
adapted from Gingerbread, by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn
1 1/4 cups white whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 large egg
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
maple syrup, for serving (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, AP flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and orange zest.
In a medium microwave-safe bowl melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Let cool a bit then whisk in the milk, egg and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined (some lumps are fine). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
(Note: If you want to make all of the pancakes before serving, preheat oven to 200 F. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the middle rack.)
Using the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, heat about 1 teaspoon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of batter to the pan for each pancake (you can probably make 2 at a time if your pan is large enough). Cook until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes and they begin to brown just a bit around the edges, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes more. Move the pancakes to the warm oven (if you need to stack the pancakes on the baking sheet, do so between layers of parchment paper). Wipe the pan with a paper towel, melt another teaspoon of butter and repeat the cooking process.
Makes about fourteen 4-inch pancakes