I am a slow learner: one of five children, I didn’t grasp the concept of sibling rivalry until I came across the term in a college textbook. But I do have some brains, and it didn’t take a doctorate, a master’s, or a bachelor’s degree for me to figure out that families have competing interests. This past Sunday was mother’s day, and my brother was throwing a party for my mother. This left little time for Santa Maria, so we celebrated early, on Saturday.
I started the day off with fresh-fruit pancakes. Before Santa Maria and I became parents, would spend Saturday mornings lazing about in bed. There was little else we wanted to do. Pancakes became the only reason to get out from under the covers.
I knew a few things about pancakes that made eating them as good as any other activity we might engage in during those laid-back mornings. I found it was as easy to stir up a batch of batter from scratch as it was to open a box of mix. My old roommate Kevin Conley taught me how to caramelize bananas on them. He also showed me the trick of beating the egg whites to make them light as air.
I became so obsessed with beating the egg whites that I once served inch-high pancakes to my extended family one post-Christmas morning and they started calling me “Fluff Daddy.” Santa Maria isn’t as enthusiastic about the super fully cakes so I’ve eased off on beating the eggs. I still do it, just not as rigorously.
In cooking the pancakes for Santa Maria back in the days before children, I made an amazing discovery. Pancakes, those steamy, floppy, sad-sack diner mainstays, can come light and fresh with an otherwise unheard of crispy edge. The trick is to eat them right off the frying pan—no stacking a bunch in the oven. And making them small, silver dollar sized, helps. The crispy and buttery edge only lasts about as long as it takes to get the plate from the kitchen to the table. Enjoy it if you can. It’s a rare pleasure.
My batter is adapted from a recipe in “The Joy of Cooking.” I separate and beat the egg whites. I fold them into the wet batter and I’ve learned that you do not need to mix the batter completely. Too much stirring will make the pancakes tough. Mix the wet and the dry ingredients just long enough to combine them. Leave a few lumps, and let the batter sit for a few minutes. By the time you come back to it, they will have dissolved.
I cook the pancakes in the traditional manner, but I also spice them with cinnamon or nutmeg. I put slices of bananas, pears, apples, and other fruits on the half-cooked pancake before turning it. When I flip them, the fruit caramelizes and the result is delicious.
One note: Nina isn’t fond of fruit and she won’t eat the pancakes the way I make them. Santa Maria figured out that we could grate some apple and put in the batter. She eats them this way, and I’ve learned that they are pretty good, too.
For the batter:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups of milk
- 2 eggs, whites separated
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork (many cookbooks will tell you to sift the flour; I've never bothered to do so)
Melt the butter.
Mix the yolks in with the milk.
Beat the egg whites until they can barely hold a peak.
Combine the dry ingredients with the wet.
Don't mix too much.
Fold in the whites.
For the toppings:
Slice a banana, pear, apple, or other fruit thinly.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add some butter. Pour in the batter. When bubbles form, layer on the fruit. Flip the pancake. Cook until finished. Serve with Maple Syrup.