I can't remember the last time I ate pancakes. Once a regular Sunday morning feature, as both life's circumstances and my tastes changed, over time they sort of just fell by the wayside. I rarely opt for sweet breakfasts these days, and a lazy breakfast on my day off usually involves heading out so that someone else can do all the hard work (and dishes) for a change.
That said, a classic pancake is pretty hard to find on cafe menus these days, having made way for much fancier, jazzed-up versions of 'hotcake stack this' and 'super-sweet French toast that'... While beautiful in construction, these modern variations appear to me much more like a dessert than a meal with which I'm happy to break my fast, and so I've found that if ever I am craving something simple, sometimes I'm just better off doing it myself. And besides, what could be more enjoyable than a breakfast you don't have to get out of your pyjamas for?
Before we begin I have three comments about making pancakes. Firstly, be patient. No matter how tempted you are to turn up the heat when you first start cooking, don't. Low and slow (along with a good knob of butter - no skimping!) is the only way you're guaranteed to get that lightly golden crust, so be sure to resist that urge and just leave the pan be. With that in mind, it is also virtually impossible to get it right first go and so - comment number two - the first one's yours. Despite every effort it always comes out too brown so just accept this inevitability, and plan for one or two more than you need. Lastly, encourage everyone - including yourself - to be selfish. A good pancake waits for no one, and holding off until the whole table has been served will be nothing more than a soggy disappointment for everyone. Whether it's a lazy weekend breakfast for two or a casual rolling brunch with friends, I submit that these are one of the few things where eating while standing around in the kitchen is entirely acceptable.
So, feeling the need for a little breakfast treat I recently made myself these ricotta pancakes, and what I particularly like about this recipe is that it doesn't use any sugar, meaning you can go as soft or as hard as you like when it comes to the toppings. I always aim for balance, contrasting some tart, roasted rhubarb with a dollop of creamy, vanilla-flecked mascarpone; or alternatively some fresh sweet strawberries with a sweep of crème fraîche, but if cream and maple syrup is your preferred go to then you can of course smother them in whatever you please. A lovely, light breakfast when simplicity is what you need.
RICOTTA PANCAKES (Adapted from Rose Bakery's Breakfast, Lunch, Tea)
- 100 g ricotta
- 95 ml milk
- A splash of vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon zest, finely grated
- 2 eggs, separated
- 75 g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- A little unsalted butter, for cooking
- Your choice of toppings, to serve
In a medium bowl beat together the ricotta, egg yolks, milk, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth. Sift over the flour, baking powder and salt and stir very lightly to mix. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold them in to the batter.
Melt a piece of butter in a small frying pan and pour in some batter, tilting the pan so that it spreads out evenly. Cook over a medium-low heat until lightly golden underneath, then turn over and cook for another minute or so until cooked through. Continue making more pancakes until all the batter is used up, adding more butter as necessary.
I suggest serving them hot with some lengths of roasted rhubarb, a splash or two of the rhubarb syrup, and a dollop of mascarpone. Serves 2.