Growing up, pancakes were a breakfast staple item. One of my earliest memories is going to a (now, sadly defunct) restaurant in St. Louis called “Cocoas” for breakfast with my family. I remember my grandpa carrying me over to where the cooks made pancakes on large, counter-sized griddles, and watching them as they ladled large spoonfuls of thick batter onto the piping hot surface. To my five-year-old self, what they were doing was something akin to magic; before my eyes, a large puddle of batter became the cakes that I slathered with butter and maple syrup.
Throughout the rest of my childhood/teenage years, pancakes were around at all the defining moments. Before the SAT’s, my mom made me large, skillet-sized M&M pancakes for encouragement. Looking back, I was probably on the verge of a sugar-induced coma after consuming these cakes, but at least I managed to pull off decent test scores. As it seemed, pancakes worked their magic once again.
When I moved into my apartment in Chicago, one of the first breakfasts I made myself was banana chocolate chip pancakes. There are few combinations better than banana and chocolate, and as I recall, the pancakes nursed me through a particularly stress-inducing weekend.
Now, I like to take chances on my pancakes; lemon blueberry ricotta, cinnamon apple and carrot cake are just some of the varieties that recently caught my eye.
I’ve been meaning to try this Lemon Poppy Seed Pancake recipe from Joy the Baker for a while, and this morning I decided to stop procrastinating. Normally, I barely have time for a bowl of cereal, but as it’s now spring break I can indulge in a homemade breakfast.
One of my favorite parts of this recipe is rubbing the sugar together with the lemon zest. I’d never actually done this before, so when I saw the directions in the recipe, I did a double-take. I just assumed that by mixing the lemon with the batter, my pancakes would automatically taste like lemon.
However, by massaging the lemon zest into the sugar you actually release more lemon flavor, and the sugar takes on a new personality. It’s citrusy, zesty, and just a tad sweet, and sparkles when it catches the light.
The rest of the recipe is straightforward and requires minimal effort; I was expecting the process to take longer, especially when Joy warned in her instructions that the batter might be lumpy. However, I found that once I mixed the poppy seeds in, the batter was thick and smooth.
I might have eaten some batter before…during…and after? frying the pancakes, but I think this is just one of the hazards of the job.
The result was buttery, not too sweet, and slightly tangy pancakes. I added a small pool of maple syrup on the side, and found that it added the perfect amount of sweetness.
Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes (from Joy the Baker)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
butter, shortening, or vegetable oil for frying
maple syrup for serving
In a small bowl combine granulated sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until sugar is fragrant. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the lemon sugar. Set aside.
In a separate bowl (or you can use a large liquid measuring cup), whisk together buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients. Add the poppy seeds and stir to combine. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes while the griddle heats.
Place a griddle, or a nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of butter, shortening, or vegetable oil to the pan. A teaspoon of fat will do for a nonstick saute pan, a bit more fat may be necessary for a griddle. Dollop batter onto hot pan. For small pancakes, use about 2 tablespoons for each pancake. For larger pancakes, use about 1/4 cup of batter.
Cook until golden brown on the bottom and and bubbling on top. Flip once and cook until golden brown on each side.
Place cooked pancakes on an oven-proof plate and place in a warm (about 150 degrees F) oven until all pancakes are cooked and ready to serve. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.