Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday Worship

For many people, Sunday mornings are for religious ritual. Well, I'm not so different, but I pray at a different personal altar - my beloved stovetop. This morning, I was seeking the ultimate pancake truth, and let me tell you, I found the answers I've been looking for. These flapjacks were absolutely divine! I have a new book that I draw inspiration from in my life, and it's the New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated and the makers of the television show "America's Test Kitchen." Hmmm, I wonder what the differences are in the old book vs. the new... Anyhow, it's a fantastic publication. If you are familiar either with the periodical or the tv show, you will know that they basically geek out in their quest for the best possible method of preparing whatever they tackle, trying variation after variation, and testing their results on a panel of tasters. I love that! This book clearly explains their testing, considers the aspect of personal preference, considers both equipment, ingredients, and procedures, and settles on a favourite recipe for each dish, while keeping a very practical approach in terms of reasonable time, recipe complexity, and clean-up. It's filled with great tips and also notes on tastings of different brands and types of ingredients. Well, I decided to try their light and fluffy pancakes recipe. I've been searching for a light, fluffy (is there anyone who likes them otherwise?), sweet, and flavourful pancake recipe. While preparing and eating my pancakes, I was reflecting on the spiritual choices that people make for their lives. I found this definition of meditation, in the context of religion, on a website: "An extended and continuous concentration on a single object, with this object being the only thought in your mind, may be a good definition of meditation." One very useful purpose of prayer, religious ritual, and religious mediation is to create a personal calm within, to counter the stresses of life. Well, you can connect with your God(s) in church, and I'll take my pancake ceremony. The service was complete with music (today, the radio was playing classic rock), the smell of the butter in the pan (better than incense), personal reflection, concentration, a sense of calm, and a bit of ceremony in the application of maple syrup. A code of ethics? Well, I think it's immoral to use that fake maple syrup stuff. Only pure Canada Gr. 2 for me. Religious services also provide social connection with others of like mind, and isn't it a great thing to share in the greatness of pancakes with someone you love? So I'd like to share my recipe with you. I substituted sour cream and a little 1% milk for the milk with lemon juice (or buttermilk) called for in the recipe simply because that's what I had around, but I really liked the sweet, tangy flavour and texture of these pancakes, and may wind up always using these. I also halved most of ingredients in the recipe from the book (which originally makes "16 pancakes, serving 4 to 6") . I followed their tips for using a very gentle hand in mixing the dry with the wet ingredients, and not overmixing. They also believe that the best way to test the temperature of your griddle/non-stick frying pan, is to make a mini pancake with a tablespoon of batter, and it should yield a golden brown colour after 1 minute, rather than a blond or dark, uneven pancake. The book is full of great guidelines like how to keep your pancakes warm until you've made them all. I picked it up at Book Warehouse, and I think it's changed my cooking forever. My faith in the book grows with each recipe that I try to incorporate in my life. Had enough? Yah, I thought so. So here's the recipe:

Nancy's Enlightening Pancakes

Makes about eight four-inch pancakes (or two large deities), serving one to two

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup 1% milk (approximately, to yield very thick but oozing consistency)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons of ulsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
a little butter to rub the pan with, or vegetable oil.
optional: 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries, rinsed and dried

1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt together in a deep bowl.
2. Whisk the egg and melted butter into the sour cream and milk.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet, and whisk gently until just combined. It should be lumpy. Do not overmix.
4. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, rub a little butter or oil on pan, use mini pancake method of testing heat discussed above. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto three spots on the skillet. Alternately, make cutesy shapes with the batter. Yes, that's a Nancy variant on the recipe. Could you tell? Then you can say, "I see [insert favourite religious or pop culture figure here] in my pancakes!" I recommend Laughing Buddha, as he should be particularly easy to make with blobs of batter. And there's always Elvis in his later years.
5. If using blueberries, sprinkle fresh or frozen dry berries onto the pancakes now, as they set. Cook until large bubbles begin to appear, 1.5 to 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes with a thin, wide spatula, and cook until golden brown on the second side, 1 to 1.5 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately. If making a larger batch, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place pancakes on a rack in a baking sheet to keep pancakes warm and not soggy.

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