Spicing up that pancake

by Eszter Hargittai on December 2, 2012

Years ago, a friend I hosted made me pancakes with over a dozen ingredients. This was an interesting concept that had never occurred to me. The plain ones had never really appealed to me, but I’d only experienced the simple addition of chocolate chips, which, while making a bit of a difference, had still not converted me to this American tradition. While my palette does not seem sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate over a dozen ingredients at once, I have since adopted my friend’s approach of adding 4-5 items to the mix and now look forward to this treat on weekends. (I’m no purist, by the way, I just work with pancake mix from a bag.)

In addition to chocolate chips, a hint of mint turns out to be an excellent ingredient. (You really do want to be careful with it though as more than a drop or two can overwhelm all other flavors.) I’ve found dried fruits such as dried cranberries and pineapple work well, too, chopped up into little pieces. Various nuts are other fun options, also chopped. In particular, I recently started using some gingersnap almonds (courtesy of Chicago’s very own Mama’s Nuts) that has been delicious (they’re great on their own as well, but that’s another matter..). Right after Thanksgiving, adding some pumpkin pie filling to the batter was a good way to make something of leftover ingredients while varying things up a bit.

Another tweak that I have not tried yet, but came recommended by my friend David Figlio and sounds very intriguing is the idea of sprinkling one side with some Old Town spiced sugar right before turning it over. Apparently this gives it a little bit of brulee crunch and just the right amount of sweetness (especially helpful if you don’t like to use syrup, which I don’t). This approach is definitely on my list to try in the future. What are your favorite twists on traditional pancakes?



Tony Sidaway 12.02.12 at 4:24 pm

American pancakes are wrong. If you can’t wrap it around something it isn’t a pancake. That is all.


Main Street Muse 12.02.12 at 4:30 pm

Oatmeal and corn meal in addition to flour and sugar


Matt 12.02.12 at 4:37 pm

I suppose the blueberries and bananas are too common to count as unusual additions in any way, but walnuts are good, too. I’m curious about the “hint of mint”, though. Do yo mean mint extract? (It sounds like it, from the “drop” part.) I might want to try finely cut up bits of mint, but I’m not sure how it would work. (Some grows in my yard, so perhaps I’ll try next spring, if it comes back.)


Lord 12.02.12 at 4:40 pm

Berries are the classic, blueberries in particular. Apples or bananas are also great, especially with cinnamon and some nuts, usually walnuts or pecans on top. A little melted butter and a dusting of powdered sugar adds richness without being overly sweet. Whipped cream makes a great light syrup substitute. Add more liquid to thin them and you can make crepes. Lemon and powdered sugar on a thin crisp one can be good as well.


Barry Freed 12.02.12 at 4:52 pm

Crooked Timber Sunday pancake blogging FTW!


ProfWombat 12.02.12 at 5:20 pm

1. Pancakes: half cup each of corn meal and white flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, enough milk (usually 3/4 cup or so), 1 tbsp butter melted in the pan you’ll fry ’em in. Butter the pan between batches. Real grade A dark amber maple syrup. Make ’em that way, then complain to me.
2. Wild Maine blueberries–the intensely flavorful little guys, not the big fat ones.

Crepes work, if you must…


Heide 12.02.12 at 6:07 pm

Add a mashed banana, some cinnamon, and a dash of cayenne.

Also, I second everything ProfWombat said. Pancake mix is a scam — it’s so easy just to make the batter from scratch.


ben w 12.02.12 at 6:12 pm

Grated apple, chopped up nuts, chopped up raw cranberries.


Substance McGravitas 12.02.12 at 6:44 pm

I support all pancake posting.


MattF 12.02.12 at 6:46 pm

Also, bacon goes with everything.


chris y 12.02.12 at 7:09 pm

Tony Sidaway gets it exactly right.


Eszter Hargittai 12.02.12 at 7:33 pm

Regarding the pancakes vs crepes debate, I think it’s best to think of them as two completely separate types of foods. One is for breakfast, has things in it, voila. The other is for dessert and is wrapped around things plus can be topped off with things. I’m happy to post about and discuss crepes another time, but I think that’s another matter.

Blueberries! How could I forget fresh blueberries?! They are indeed a fantastic ingredient. In fact, just the addition of chocolate chips and blueberries together makes for a very nice pancake.

Regarding mint, I use peppermint extract, just a drop or two. I’d be curious to hear how it works otherwise.

I have tried whipped cream as a topping before and it is indeed delicious (is whipped cream ever not delicious?), but I’m trying to stay away from whipped cream and extra butter these days. (Butter in general I don’t like as a topping.)

MattF, do you mean bacon as an ingredient in the batter or as a side? I haven’t tried it as an ingredient, that’s an intriguing idea. Bits of bacon and chocolate chips, that could work nicely.

Also, I could have added a note on what *not* to add. I’ve tried M&Ms in the past, likely when I didn’t have chocolate chips available. It’s not a good idea. For one thing, the resulting color combo can’t possibly be meant for consumption.


Alan 12.02.12 at 7:34 pm

I enjoyed “palette” in place of “palate”.


MattF 12.02.12 at 7:41 pm

Eszter: Generally, I’d just sneak a slice between the pancakes in a stack… I suppose that’s closer to an ingredient than a side.


CDW 12.02.12 at 8:12 pm

Substitute the liquid in your recipe with orange juice. Chocolate chips does not sound good to me, but cranberries/cranraisins might work.

Better yet, Belgian waffles with fresh berries and whipped cream


Bloix 12.02.12 at 9:09 pm

Flax is good.


Laleh 12.02.12 at 10:29 pm

I second making the batter from scratch and my recipe is almost like ProfessorWombat’s – but I only use plain flour, and my recipe has 3 tsp of baking powder and one spoon of sugar as well and the pancake turn out delicious. It really really is easy. My kids love Nutella on the pancakes but I find the stuff repulsive.


Meredith 12.02.12 at 10:49 pm

By chance, I checked in here before gearing up to make “breakfast for dinner,” aka one type of traditional American “Sunday night supper.” (Such suppers, I think, stem from the days when families, church-going or not, had filled themselves with a big, well-balanced dinner in the afternoon. Sunday football and Sunday shopping ruined that.) I was thinking blintzes (crepes are indeed a different creature from pancakes, but still, related) until I realized I’d used up the needed cottage cheese for something else. So now it will be pancakes, the plainest kind (mixes really are a waste of time and may explain why some people don’t think pancakes are all that special — though some good buttermilk mixes are nice, for when you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, which I seldom do), though I also like to use cornmeal sometimes, or to make cottage cheese pancakes (I think I must like cottage cheese a lot — 4%, thank you) — all kinds of variations. Sour cream pancakes are also good. (Fanny Farmer or other basic American cookbooks give plenty of examples — or just use the google. German pancakes — baked and all puffy — are also delicious, especially with sauteed apples.) I have some frozen blueberries I’ll warm up (will serve them to be put on top rather than put them in), and there’s maple syrup in the fridge (a staple in these New England parts, and really is best pancake syrup ever) — I’ll warm up the syrup, too (one of the reasons god invented the microwave). Butter for the pancakes, too, of course. I need to use up some bacon, which (like sausages, scrapple, ham slices or Canadian bacon) for some reason goes beautifully alongside pancakes (not in — well, that might work, but). And fry up a couple of eggs, too, I think. I’m getting very hungry writing this.
One last cooking note: you can separate the eggs for pancakes, mix the yolks in with the milk, and beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter, making a lighter, more delicate pancake. Some recipes call for cake flour rather than regular flour, and that makes for a wonderful treat (I have a terrific blueberry pancake recipe that uses cake flour and lots of eggs, with beaten egg whites, and also blueberries, a recipe I make in summer only, when I have fresh local blueberries). Nuts in pancakes are also always good (especially if you roast them briefly first). The best blueberry pancakes are indeed made with wild (aka Maine, though they grow elsewhere, too) blueberries. Fresh.
Really, American pancakes are just another version of the panbreads every cuisine seems to have (just as every cuisine seems to have versions of fried dough). What’s amazing is how similar they all are, and yet how different.


John Quiggin 12.02.12 at 10:50 pm

Going off-topic a bit how about what Australians and English call scones, roughly corresponding to US biscuits? I’m not quite clear on the relationship – I think US biscuits are what we call “drop scones”.

To complicate things further, we use “biscuit” for a large class of things, including cookies and a large set in a space that in the US seems to comprise only Fig Newtons and Oreos.

Anyway, scones can either be made with different items (pumpkin, cheese and dates are the most common) or served with different things, notably “Devonshire tea” (scones with jam and cream, +tea). There are lots of cultural associations, mostly conservative.


bob 12.02.12 at 10:51 pm

A tad off-topic from homemade pancakes, but since you are in the area – have you been to Walker Bros. on Green Bay Road in Wilmette? http://www.walkerbros.net/
Blueberry, banana, pecan, bacon, apple, chocolate chip, …
I know people who go there whenever they visit the Chicago area.


bianca steele 12.02.12 at 11:07 pm

“more than a dozen ingredients”: does this mean something Martha Stewart-y, or more like “Ruby Bakes a Cake” (raccoon crowdsources ingredients list, ends up with lettuce and worms)?

Last time we went on vacation, almost everything on the breakfast menu had something like Nutella on it. It wasn’t bad.


Main Street Muse 12.02.12 at 11:17 pm

Walker Brothers has been around for a LONG TIME. And to relate this pancake post to feature films – just because we can – Walker Brothers also has a small role in Redford’s “Ordinary People.”


Meredith 12.02.12 at 11:22 pm

John @19: scones and biscuits are different, though related. Both are shortbreads, not elastic, like yeast-breads, or flakey, like pie crusts, but scones are more crumbly than biscuits. Biscuits are (to compare the humble to the elite) more like croissants in texture. Shortbreads, cakes, and pie crusts all share in relying on lard, butter, or vegetable shortening (firm at room temperature) for their texture and flavor (usually a lot of fat). (I don’t know what to say about cakes that use liquid oil.) Scones I ate in Yorkshire (I trust those to be “true” scones) are not at all like American biscuits, which can vary quite a lot but share in a certain warm (they really must be served warm) delicacy — there are natural layers there, and no crumbliness except around the outside (the contrast between inner and outer being a crucial part of the experience). Maybe scones and biscuits share most in being made as an excuse for the butter, jams, and honey served with them (or, in the case of scones, the clotted cream — though that makes me think of cream biscuits!).

Scones are also shaped differently from American biscuits (though maybe they begin to overlap in the “dropped” category — there are “dropped” biscuits, too, which create a slightly different effect than do regular biscuits, where the dough has been rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter). American biscuits’ shape and size are more like what Americans call cookies and others call biscuits. That’s the only serious overlap I see between the two uses of “biscuit.”

I could go off on the muffin, a wonderful thing that has been completely bastardized in the US over the last 30 years or so. The American biscuit has similarly suffered. Biscuits and muffins simply must be prepared and served fresh and hot if they’re going to work, which is why (I assume) they have both been bastardized.

The 19th-century (I think) discovery of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder for cooking: a crucial development. Made possible bridging the world between panbreads and yeast breads. I really do have to go cook.


Adam 12.02.12 at 11:27 pm

@ Main Street Muse

I prefer Scott’s solo work, but I fail to see what any of this has to do with pancakes.


JanieM 12.03.12 at 12:27 am

To complicate things further, we use “biscuit” for a large class of things, including cookies and a large set in a space that in the US seems to comprise only Fig Newtons and Oreos.

JQ, your wording is a little ambiguous, but if I’m interpreting you correctly, I have to ask: wtf?

The very definition of the word “cookie” (for me, a lifelong American) is homemade chocolate chip cookies (aka Toll House cookies). I’m sure I’m not the only one. The first time I went to Ireland, in the 70s, my high school friend who had married an Irishman and lived there with him and their four kids asked for just one thing to be brought over in my luggage: as many bags of chocolate chips as I could carry, so she could make cookies for her kids.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are even better, and then there’s always the portion of dough you freeze instead of cooking it, and eat that way for the next few days, or at least you did back in the days before you worried so much about eating raw eggs….

And there are peanut butter cookies, and peanut blossoms, and molasses cookies, and sugar cookies, and pecan sandies, and ………

Sorry, I don’t want to threadjack. But the notion that Oreos and Fig Newtons are the only thing you can find in “cookie space” in America required a response. :)


Meredith 12.03.12 at 1:17 am

To JanieM’s point, my Fannie Farmer cookbook has over 150 entries under “Cookies” (and that doesn’t include, e.g., cookie bars, or all the variations of each kind of cookie).


Don A in Pennsyltucky 12.03.12 at 1:41 am

If you make them fresh, from fresh ingredients, and use real maple syrup, there is absolutely no need for sugary inclusions. It’s breakfast for crying out loud, not cookie time. If you feel you MUST add something, try mixing some leftover oatmeal (made from steel cut oats none of that quick-cooking or instant from a pouch mucilage) into the batter to add a slightly nutty taste and a healthy portion of fiber.

And get off my lawn!


Hugh Loebner 12.03.12 at 2:27 am

These recipes are laden with carbohydrates.

There is a great deal of scientific evidence that carbohydrates are unhealthy.
I strongly recommend that one read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. Taubes is a correspondent for Science, the journal of the AAAS, and three time winner of a science writing award.

The book is not a diet book, nor is it a nutritional science book. Rather, it is a history of nutritional science, and it is probably the most important book regarding nutrition and the politics of nutritional science published in the last 100 years.

On a personal note, I went on a low carb diet and, among other benefits, 40 years of gastric reflux ended and my blood pressure dropped to normal.


Antti Nannimus 12.03.12 at 3:34 am


For pancakes, recently I’ve come to enjoy fresh ripe persimmon, diced into very small pieces. And of course in season or not, always and forever, blueberries, fresh or frozen, those precious little wonder-pills. I keep a sour-dough starter daily-fed and continuously ready for those. I only discovered persimmons in recent years. The older I get, the more I wonder how many other wonderful things I’ve missed.

Have a nice day,


John Quiggin 12.03.12 at 7:19 am

@JanieM Bad wording. What I meant to say is that “biscuit” in Australia encompasses cookies (though the variety of these is much more limited) and shortbreads (though not scones) but that the term is most closely associated with commercial products including equivalents of the Fig Newton (closest Oz equivalent is Spicy Fruit Roll) and Oreo (Delta Cream) but with dozens more. Archetypal examples are TimTams, Iced VoVos and Ginger Nuts.


Khan 12.03.12 at 7:31 am

Purely for the sake of trolling Don A @27: When I was a kid, we would have pancakes with baking M&Ms (i.e., the mini kind; yes, they leech a tiny it of color into their surroundings, but the taste wasn’t affected) and Reese’s peanut butter chips (instead of chocolate chips). It was our favorite breakfast, no exceptions.

Your mileage may vary, for values of “WTF childhood diabetes!?”


Peter Dorman 12.03.12 at 7:32 am

I am a bit late to this party, but I’d like to put in for a different approach. I find white-flour based batters too insubstantial and prefer whole grain. My base recipe is the venerable Tassajara version, but I have tweaked it over the decades. I use about 75% whole wheat and smaller amounts of rye and buckwheat. I beat eggwhites separately, as Meredith also suggests, and fold them in gingerly. A tiny bit of cinnamon rounds out the basic batter. As for mix-ins, what I most love is ripe, in-season peaches, cut in dice. Tart berries are nice, as are sweeter sliced strawberries. Or on a really cold winter morning the combination of sliced bananas and chopped walnuts. (This can be very filling though.) Fruit compotes for topping are possible as a variation on maple syrup. Others sometimes dab some ricotta on their cakes, but that has never worked for me.

As others have said, there’s no point to using mixes; it takes just an extra minute or two to prepare your own, and you can do it just the way you like.


harry b 12.03.12 at 10:29 am

Add some ginger powder to the mix, and chop some crystallised ginger into the batter (good, moist, crystallised ginger). Eat with golden syrup, not maple syrup, and squeeze an 1/8 or 1/4 of a lemon.


GW 12.03.12 at 10:58 am

Buttermilk. Pecans. Basta.


Luke 12.03.12 at 11:25 am

I have no idea what biscuits are in the US (and am doubtful about Australia ), but in England biscuits include cookies, savoury crackers to eat with cheese, shortbread, and various hard to describe brands such as ginger nuts, digestives, hob nobs, rich tea etc (I believe there has been extensive tax related litigation as to whether hob nobs are cakes or biscuits). They (English biscuits) are often hard, so that people with false teeth (a significant part of the population) generally dunk things like ginger nuts in their tea before eating.

Scones and drop scones are confusingly named, being dissimilar. Drop scones are a bit like pancakes. Scones are the things you get in Devon and the south west. Girdle or griddle scones are the Scott’s version of scones, so thy fry rather than bake them.

Hope this helps.


Jeffrey Davis 12.03.12 at 1:45 pm

Who tastes anything until noon?

Dessert crepes, otoh, are for the wonderful simple combination of chambord combined with either whipped cream or flamed w/ a little sugar. I don’t make crepes often enough for that combination to get boring, and like Feynman and vanilla ice cream, I know I like it a lot so why worry.


plarry 12.03.12 at 2:01 pm

Lemon juice + zest + blueberries.


krippendorf 12.03.12 at 2:29 pm

Hugh @ 28.
Gary Taubes : nutrition :: Dean Chambers : polling.

But, in the spirit of sharing recipies, here you go: low-carb pancakes.

Pancakes: 1/2 c. non-fat cottage cheese, 1/2 c. egg whites, 1 scoop (30g or so) unflavored whey protein power, pinch salt, dash cinnamon. Mix in food processor. Cook in teflon skillet with a millisecond spritz of “fat free” cooking spray.

These have a texture somewhere between wallpaper paste and a kitchen sponge. But, if they are served with a dollop of delusion and a dash of dietary self-righteousness, are good enough for the true believers.


Katherine 12.03.12 at 2:52 pm

Savoury pancakes. Yum.

Ie scotch pancakes (nearest UK equivalent to US pancakes) with some of the milk/liquid replaced with cottage cheese, or sour cream, or some other savoury, runny creamy/milky liquid. I often add grated cheddar. And also sweetcorn. No sugar, obviously.


Captain Bringdown 12.03.12 at 7:56 pm

Cook your pancakes in bacon grease and you’ll be glad you did.


Bloix 12.03.12 at 8:34 pm

My favorite twist on traditional pancakes is waffles. If you have a spouse or friend or child who doesn’t know what to get you for Christmas or Hanukah, you might drop a hint about a waffle iron.


ProfWombat 12.03.12 at 10:31 pm

You want to restrict carbohydrates in your diet? Read the labels of all that prepared, processed stuff (a euphemism) you eat. Stop snacking all day on junk. Use high fructose corn syrup for greasing speedometer cables. Eat fewer calories in general. Exercise once in a while. Think about how bread, the staff of life, and pancakes, a cousin, have been around for a few millennia before the ban-carbs folks, that potatoes and bananas and beans and wheat and rice have sustained most human beings since agriculture was invented, and recall that type II diabetes and obesity were not synonymous with developed (sic) economies until rather recently.

And pass the pancakes…


Kevin 12.03.12 at 11:12 pm

harry b is right about a lot of things, but please don’t eat your pancakes without maple syrup as he suggests. And if you do, make it blueberry syrup. The ginger mistake we can chalk up to cultural differences; but pure fructose, i.e. golden syrup, is just wrong.


hylen 12.03.12 at 11:23 pm

Completely off-topic, so feel free to moderate this comment into oblivion, but I must mention: this is a gold mine.


Harold 12.04.12 at 12:24 am

Buckwheat crepes with swiss cheese.


Harold 12.04.12 at 12:25 am

And sparkling cider (slightly hard).


Bloix 12.04.12 at 6:23 am

#43 – Kevin, I don’t think harry b is saying not ever to use maple syrup. He’s just saying that golden syrup is better with ginger and lemon. Maybe so – ginger and citrus are bright, spicy flavors that maple syrup might mute or overpower.

But for me, real maple syrup is one of the greatest flavors known to humankind. It’s up there with chocolate. I would say it’s better than chocolate if I thought you would believe me.

For those of you who can’t bring yourself to spend $16 for a quart of anything, I urge you, seriously, try it. You can cut it 50% with simple syrup if you’re a poor student. And if your pancakes are any good, you don’t need to drench them – just enough to dampen them a bit, and you’re in breakfast heaven.


JanieM 12.04.12 at 8:50 am

For once I’m with Bloix, though I’d stop short of agreeing that maple syrup is better than chocolate.

Being lucky enough to live in Maine, and having sugaring happen right where I live every year, I can say that within the connoisseurship of maple syrup, the top tier of heaven is to have a spoon in your hand when syrup from the first sap of the season comes hot out of the boiling pan. Forget the pancakes. :)

(I’ve never been a big fan of pancakes anyhow, but when I eat them I’m with Katherine – I like them savory. Cottage cheese pancakes with nothing but a little garlic salt on top – much better than all that sugary glop. )


ajay 12.04.12 at 12:32 pm

Going off-topic a bit how about what Australians and English call scones, roughly corresponding to US biscuits? I’m not quite clear on the relationship – I think US biscuits are what we call “drop scones”.

What this post describes is a pancake sensu US, which is called a Scotch pancake in England and a drop scone in Scotland. I have no idea if this is the same as what the Australians call a drop scone. A pancake sensu UK (England and Scotland) is a crepe. A scone tout court is a scone in the US and in the UK.

A US biscuit is a sort of hideously deformed scone, as far as I can tell.


Phil 12.04.12 at 12:50 pm

Which brings us round to the OP in a way. If you were making pancakes (sensu UK) and accidentally put chocolate chips in the mixture, you’d sling the whole mess out and start again, once you’d got the pan clean. On the other hand, if you were making scones and forgot to put in the cheese or the dried fruit and cake spices, you’d end up with something you could only salvage by making a white sauce and claiming that you’d always wanted to try “biscuits and gravy” – and even then nobody would believe you.


Phil 12.04.12 at 12:53 pm

Or indeed understand you.




Greg 12.04.12 at 1:19 pm

No conversation, however off-topic, about the international biscuit/cake divide is complete without discussion of the whole 1991 Jaffa Cake imbroglio, wherein the VAT eligibility of small chocolate-covered sponge discs that looked like biscuits, and were sold in biscuit-like packets on shelves of other biscuits, but had the word “cake” in the name, rested on their definition as one or the other.

After tense proceedings and impassioned debate, including the entering into evidence of giant cake-sized biscuits, the court eventually ruled “cake”, on the basis that biscuits are things that go soft, and cakes are things that go hard. A clear decision, but one that hit the public purse.


Greg 12.04.12 at 1:22 pm

Although technically speaking, as the ruling was that Jaffa cakes were indeed cakes and not biscuits, the items displayed in court were actually giant cake-sized cakes.


ajay 12.04.12 at 3:17 pm

the court eventually ruled “cake”, on the basis that biscuits are things that go soft, and cakes are things that go hard.

One of my favourite legal decisions ever. A Solomon come to judgement.

The pro-biscuit argument was that, whether they were by nature a cake, they were by use a biscuit – commonly eaten from a packet with a cup of tea. Which also has its points. If I were to employ Bertrand Russell to clean my kitchen, does he become a cleaner?

My attempts to find the text of the decision have failed, but led me to the sentence “That Teacake is a dagger in the heart of Judicial Review.” http://www.mcgarrsolicitors.ie/2008/01/03/is-this-a-teacake-i-see-before-me/


Bloix 12.04.12 at 4:26 pm

Unlike biscuits, cookies come in hard and soft varieties. The classic cookie is soft and warm and comes straight from the oven to be eaten with a glass of milk – preferably as served by mommy to your eight-year old self.


Shelley 12.04.12 at 4:32 pm

I have been depressed ever since I read recently that pancakes have “zero nutritional value.”

You cheered me up.


Dogen 12.04.12 at 7:59 pm

No syrup? This whole thing about extra ingrediants proves you’re doing it wrong and reminds me of a guidebook I bought in 1995 before going to Kiev (Ukraine). It was soviet-style and separated restaurants based on how many ingredients went into their Borschts. As though quantity implied quality.

Hah. Pancakes & waffles can be made with all kinds of flours but keep it simple. Put on plate while hot. Then slather them with butter (real butter, with real salt). Put hot, crispy bacon on plate next to them so the bacon gets drizzles of butter. Be generous with the maple (PURE) on the pancakes and bacon.

That is all.


common reader 12.04.12 at 9:41 pm

go away from sweet altogether. Chopped scallions, peppers, corn, grated cheese of any sort. Very good with European style butter.


silverlakebodhisattva 12.04.12 at 9:54 pm

While I usually do not like lemony stuff at breakfast, the following are truly phenomenal:

Lemon-Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Chef Robert Champagne of Big 3 Diner at Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa – Sonoma, CA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 8 to 10 Servings

Juice and zest of 5 lemons
12 egg yolks
1 cup powered sugar
1 quart low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 egg whites, whipped into soft peaks
4 ounces clarified butter
Kosher salt to taste
Crème fraiche (optional)

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks, powdered sugar, cottage cheese, and flour. Fold in the whipped egg whites; add clarified butter and season to taste with kosher salt.

Serve garnished with crème fraiche, a thinly sliced lemon twist, and powdered sugar.


Meredith 12.04.12 at 10:28 pm

I feel very strongly about pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, cookies. Bread, too (another story). I will be short here, I promise.
Simple is good. Depends on fresh, good ingredients. And serving fresh and hot.
Pancakes (cf. Bloix @55 on cookies, milk, and mom): am I alone in feeling a special affection for them because my father used to make the pancakes, on Saturday mornings (when my mother did all the other cooking, including, of course, cookies)? And my husband often made pancakes for our children and me (he should have done more of the other cooking, too, but that’s another story). Pancakes’ appeal for me may lie, in part, in their particular gender/parental associations re home-cooking.
An American biscuit, btw, is to die for. Really. I am torn between biscuits and scalloped potatoes for dinner tonight (I have time for the potatoes, but the biscuits do appeal), to accompany a ham slice and brussel sprouts.


SamChevre 12.05.12 at 1:17 am

I like spices in my pancakes. A particular favorite is 1/3 tsp each ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg per cup of flour to make “gingerbread pancakes”; with caramel syrup (heat sugar until it starts to color, add equal amount water, boil until it dissolves) they make an unbeatable sweet breakfast.


Substance McGravitas 12.05.12 at 1:31 am

Jesus Christ. I’m gonna regret making that.


plarry 12.05.12 at 3:16 am

Agree with all those who say that maple syrup is a must. Anything else is a crime.


Salient 12.05.12 at 3:54 am

For one thing, the resulting color combo can’t possibly be meant for consumption.

…never, ever, ever Google image search for “Superman ice cream”


js. 12.05.12 at 5:23 am

A US biscuit

I’ve lived here (in the US) for 2/3 of my life, and I’m still unsure what this is supposed to be.

Meanwhile: href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Galleta_Mar%C3%ADa.jpg”>the archetypal biscuit


js. 12.05.12 at 5:26 am

Yikes. Let’s try that again: the archetypal biscuit


Meredith 12.05.12 at 5:45 am

js, really, still unsure? I’m sure you must have come across them. For a good picture (and one recipe, among many many):

American biscuits sort of almost split in half, naturally. Do scones do that?


Dairy Queen 12.05.12 at 6:07 am

If you want spice in your pancake, why in heavens name aren’t you eating dosas?

Mmmmm, with the carmelized milk solids from making ghee smeared on and some curry leaf podi sprinkled on . . . mmmmm . . .


Emma in Sydney 12.05.12 at 6:39 am

Meredith @ 66

Mine do. The things you Americans call scones, Australians call Rock Cakes. For obvious reasons.


Warbo 12.05.12 at 11:09 am

… and let’s not even get into the pronunciation of “scone”.


ajay 12.05.12 at 11:32 am

Because they ROCK.


Bloix 12.05.12 at 2:44 pm

#64 – js, go to a Popeye’s and order chicken and a biscuit. It won’t measure up to Meredith’s home cooking, but you’ll get the idea.


uncle rameau 12.05.12 at 4:08 pm

Popeye’s are good biscuits, and the sausage gravy at the Eagleville truck stop in NW Missouri is the standard by which sausage gravies are judged. Eggs over easy and strong black coffee, and maybe a sticky bun with more coffee after. mmmmmmm…


js. 12.05.12 at 5:49 pm

Meredith, thanks. I guess I sort of knew that — just wasn’t sure if “biscuit” (Am.) always and only picked out what you linked to.


Katherine 12.07.12 at 9:38 am

Re. Phil @ 51

Okay, I knew that American biscuits were something similar to scones – and the picture from Joy of Baking confirms that – but I had no idea that we were talking about different things when it came to gravy. I did think it odd that you’d take a scone, and pour a meat-based thinnish sauce that we Brits would use for a roast dinner over it, but hey – different strokes, and all that. I still haven’t worked out what a “chicken fried steak” is, for example.

But seriously, what the hell is US gravy then?


Phil 12.07.12 at 10:45 am

I’ve seen biscuits and gravy served – and I’m pretty sure they were the real thing, from the reaction of the Southern USAn behind me in the queue – and as far as I could tell the gravy was what I’d call a white sauce, with bits of some unidentified meat in (I think this was ‘chipped beef’). Don’t think it was a cheese sauce. I wasn’t tempted. (I have had a biscuit, though – I’ve had a burger in a biscuit, to be precise. Prefer bun.)

Anyway, I’m sure somebody here actually knows.


SamChevre 12.07.12 at 2:33 pm

The normal gravy for biscuits is more of a white sauce than a true brown gravy.

It’s worth noting that traditionally, biscuits and gravy are a food of non-wealthy people, in a climate that isn’t cold enough to store meat without heavy salting or canning. So a white sauce with some flavoring works well–traditional variants are buttermilk gravy (sour instead of sweet milk), pepper gravy (white sauce with black pepper–not-uncommonly made with water rather than milk), bacon grease for the fat, sausage gravy (made with canned meat–this is the one I grew up with).

Also, biscuits for gravy are unsweet, and much less rich than scones–think of them as a cross between scones and irish soda bread.

Chicken-fried steak is what it sounds like–“steak” (generally cheap and tough, and pounded with the back of a knife to make it thin and more tender) battered with the same kind of batter used for frying chicken and fried. It’s not unlike Wiener Schnitzel, and it is normally served with “white gravy”–white sauce with black pepper in it.


JanieM 12.07.12 at 2:37 pm

Gravy: flour, meat drippings, slowly add water/broth while stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming.

To me, the image of gravy that pops into my mind when you say the word is a lot like Phil’s picture. It’s a brown glop made from pan drippings, usually from beef, or once a year from turkey that has been roasting for hours. As you might guess from the word “glop,” I’m not much of a fan. I’d rather have butter on my biscuits or mashed potatoes, and just some unthickened broth on the meat if it’s a little dry.

I thought Phil’s pair of pictures was meant as a joke, because the gravy looked more or less like gravy to me, but the biscuits looked like cookies. ;)

In my experience, the “gravy” that is more often served with chicken and biscuits is more yellowy, because of the color of the drippings it’s made from, I suppose. I really don’t like that stuff, especially when it’s made from some kind of mix instead of from scratch, so my experience is limited. (Maybe also, but I’m too lazy to look it up, the thickener tends to be cornstarch instead of wheat flour, which might account for the texture being a little different from that of beef gravy.)

But other Americans can chime in — there’s a lot of regional variation in the US as to food traditions and vocabulary, obviously. Biscuits and gravy aren’t a specialty where I grew up, though they’re not unknown.

Chicken fried steak: breaded, then fried in a pan. Why you would bread it is a mystery to me, but then I grew up in the north central US with an Italian grandma who could cook.

Then again again, one of the unpleasant surprises of my life was to be served, in the cafeteria in grad school (in New England) — fried clams (so far so good, I loved ‘em) — in a sandwich. What, more bread?


JanieM 12.07.12 at 3:13 pm

1. Cross-posted with SamChevre, who is educational on types of gravy.

2. The end of my comment should have said breading, not bread. Far be it from me to disparage bread, very good (crusty Italian or French) bread being the true next best thing on earth to chocolate. Or tied for first. Or even first.

And I can’t eat it any more. :(

But that’s another whole topic.


bianca steele 12.07.12 at 3:25 pm

Deep fried chicken won’t make much in the way of drippings, I’d think. The good barbecue place (which closed last month, unfortunately) serves it with buttermilk gravy, which is good, but probably not healthy.

I’ve heard Italian Americans refer to tomato sauce as “gravy,” but that might be regional.

The cheesy pancakes sound very tasty.


JonBooth 12.07.12 at 4:49 pm

I think this article does not deal clearly enough with the hegemonic nature of the bourgeoisie.


bianca steele 12.07.12 at 6:00 pm

Also, most scones that I’ve seen are at least twice the size of a typical biscuit, even cut into wedges. I think I’d class a biscuit as a kind of dinner roll.


Harold 12.07.12 at 6:51 pm

Pesticides are making us allergic to bread, possibly.

Very annoying.


JanieM 12.07.12 at 8:11 pm

Deep fried chicken won’t make much in the way of drippings, I’d think.

True. I was thinking of baked chicken, although I don’t suppose that’s the classic dish for biscuits. It’s not a tradition I have much experience with.

I’ve heard Italian Americans refer to tomato sauce as “gravy,” but that might be regional.

My Italian Americans called tomato sauce “sauce” as if there weren’t any other kind. “Cheese” meant grated parmesan. Those were generic terms. Any other kind of sauce or cheese required specification.

Pesticides are making us allergic to bread, possibly.

And a lot of other things, I suspect, though maybe it’s not just pesticides, either.

I miss bread the most; I don’t care all that much about other foods that contain wheat. But there’s a huge convenience factor: convenience in terms of preparation (pasta!) and convenience in that it gets harder and harder to eat out happily with so many food sensitivities, and more expensive to eat at home as far as that goes.


Katherine 12.07.12 at 8:40 pm

It’s a brown glop made from pan drippings, usually from beef, or once a year from turkey that has been roasting for hours. As you might guess from the word “glop,” I’m not much of a fan.

Far be it for me to get all snooty on the subject of gravy, but it sounds like you haven’t tasted good gravy.

Anyhoo, a white-ish, meat-ish sauce with a savoury scone-ish – like I said, each to their own.


LuigiDaMan 12.07.12 at 9:46 pm

Pumpkin spice. I was out somewhere and they served this and I said, “Hey, I can do this!” I tried it and it makes winter a little more fun.


JanieM 12.07.12 at 10:55 pm

Far be it for me to get all snooty on the subject of gravy, but it sounds like you haven’t tasted good gravy.

You should have stuck to “each to their own.”


Meredith 12.07.12 at 11:22 pm

My sympathies to JanieM. Life without (good) bread….

SamChevre gets the basics right on the gravy for chicken and biscuits, seems to me. I like to make it with some fat and bits from the fry pan (use slotted spoon, or empty most of the fat from the fry pan — and advantage of pan over deep frying ) — and I prefer bacon fat though seldom have enough for the whole shebang, so just use up what I have and then add shortening or oil — plus flour, of course (whisk makes it easy to avoid lumps and, as JanieM notes, add liquid slowly at first; make sure the roux is cooked long enough, to avoid floury-taste), chicken stock, and then some cream or (butter)milk added at the end. Don’t know if that’s traditional southern or not (sounds kinda French, actually). My Virginia grandmother came to prefer “Maryland” or “baked” chicken, even though she’d been raised on fried — she did make a to-die-for baked. Frankly, I don’t actually want gravy with a nice crisp fried chicken, but I make it for others.

The Neapolitan Italians in my NJ neighborhood growing up (a long time ago now) called tomato sauce “sauce,” the Sicilians called it “gravy.” Don’t know if that was mere chance or reflects sub-groups of Italian Americans or what.(I have fond memories of Natalie P. leaving conversation at my mother’s kitchen table to go home and “make the gravy,” a daily routine for her.)


Substance McGravitas 12.07.12 at 11:35 pm

The Neapolitan Italians in my NJ neighborhood growing up (a long time ago now) called tomato sauce “sauce,” the Sicilians called it “gravy.” Don’t know if that was mere chance or reflects sub-groups of Italian Americans or what.

I think the Italian Market in Philadelphia currently has a store with a banner asking if what they make is sauce or gravy. You’d think they’d know.

Wait, maybe they do.


Kevin 12.08.12 at 12:47 am

My former colleague, a Piedmontese to the core, insisted strongly on ‘gravy’ as against ‘sauce’, while explaining that the cuisine in the north is not as tomato-based as that in the south. So, interestingly, the opposite of what Meredith recalls. But certainly as a biscuits and gravy bred Anglo Canadian, the Northern Italian sauce served to me at my former colleagues house reminded me of gravy rather than tomato sauce, in its brown color if not in its much milder and more subtle flavor.

And also pancakes too (just to get back on topic!).


Sylvia 12.08.12 at 3:21 pm

My mom used to make thin Swedish pancakes, spread them with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, stack them up. With hot coffee, delicious and instant blood sugar coma.

As for biscuits and gravy (US), yum. My mom’s biscuits…short, flaky and perfect split and spread with butter and wild blackberry jam or, if something more substantial was needed, with cream gravy (pan drippings, flour for a roux, milk, salt and pepper). You could, as poster above mentioned, enrich the cream gravy with chipped beef which dish was so well-known in the WWII era, served on toast, that the GIs called it SOS…shit on a shingle.


Main Street Muse 12.08.12 at 6:34 pm

Made apple pancakes today. Quite delish…


Katherine 12.08.12 at 11:01 pm

You should have stuck to “each to their own.”

Yeah, you’re right, sorry.


Eszter Hargittai 12.08.12 at 11:40 pm

Leave it to CT commenters to turn a post about sweet morning diversions into a discussion of brown glop. Just teasing. Reading up on gravy and also biscuits, scones and cookies was insightful (although ajay’s account @49 sort of made my head hurt.. why does it have to be so complicated?). Cottage cheese came up in several comments, I’d like to note that what people call “cottage cheese” itself differs quite a bit across countries.

Thanks for all the additional recommendations for what to include in pancake batter and what to put on it. I look forward to trying many of these suggestions. (Persimmons? Indeed, have never worked with that in my kitchen.)

Greg @52, thanks for bringing the legal angle into all this.;) I myself followed some of the policy discussions about what classifies as chocolate in the EU a few years ago, but wasn’t aware of the cake/biscuit matter.

As for Chicagoland venues, Bob @20, yes, Walker Bros Pancakes is indeed a Chicagoland institution worth a visit for anyone in the area (well, except for someone who is 100% devoted to the concerns expressed in @28). Since Sylvia @91 brought up Swedish pancakes, I’d also like to mention Svea in Andersonville (Chicago) as their Swedish pancakes with lingonberries are delicious.


Gene O'Grady 12.09.12 at 1:51 am

I don’t think it’s quite accurate to call chocolate chips in pancakes and American tradition. As I recall, it was a new attempt at a guilty pleasure ca. 1960 when parents’ abilities to focus kids on what was good for us were starting to break down.


Main Street Muse 12.09.12 at 2:56 am

“Since Sylvia @91 brought up Swedish pancakes, I’d also like to mention Svea in Andersonville (Chicago) as their Swedish pancakes with lingonberries are delicious.”

Is Taste of Heaven still around in Andersonville (on Clark)? They had great scones. And were the focus of a really interesting NY Times story some years ago.. http://nyti.ms/U4GZqO


Eszter Hargittai 12.09.12 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for the pointer to Taste of Heaven, I haven’t been there. And interesting article.


skippy 12.10.12 at 5:31 am

i’m with samchevre, i always add cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of vanilla. also, if you don’t have maple syrup, honey and/or jams of any sort will top them off quite nicely.

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