After one last spiteful week, which included snow (yes, SNOW, in late April), my grass is finally coming up green. I say we all deserve pancakes. In fact, we've deserved them all along.
Throughout the winter I've been engrossed in Amanda Hesser's prolific update of the classic– The Essential New York Times Cookbook. This book is elegant, fascinating and enormous. A self-described "150-year flip book of American cooking," it is bursting with stories, historical facts and endearingly bizarre food trends. I want to curl up in bed with it at night and pore over the chapter on Pies, Tarts and Other Desserts (which opens with New Jersey Blancmange, circa 1876, and ends with Sugared Puffs, circa 2009). And I want to make everything I possibly can, because this book is also full of damn good recipes.
David Eyre's Pancake is one of them. A pancake in name only, more like if a lemon bar had married a souffle, this recipe has been feeding each and every one of my house guests since I discovered it in January. It's a complete cinch to mix up and the ingredients truly are ones you're likely to have on hand. But the main reason I love it– it's just so fun to make.
There's something so satisfying about pulling out a cast-iron skillet on a cold winter morning (or, now in our case, spring). The flour, milk and eggs come together quickly. And then it's time to swirl a generous dab of butter in the pan and warm it up over an open flame. When you pour the batter into the hot pan it sizzles and you can smell the rich fattiness of the butter. Good things are to come.
The pancake puffs up to glorious heights in the oven, like an edible cumulonimbus cloud. This sight is fleeting, of course, because what goes up must come down. But the last (and possibly best) part of the process is to sprinkle powdered sugar over the entire pancake and place it briefly back in the oven. When it comes out for the last time, you finish it off with plenty of fresh lemon juice squeezed over the top. The juice hits the hot sugar and forms a tasty crust in places here and there. The recipe suggests you serve the pancake with jelly on the side, but as far as I'm concerned, you don't need it.
The only thing missing? A plate of hot and salty bacon.
David Eyre's Pancake
Recipe adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook (2010)
The recipe makes enough for two.
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon, or a bit more to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, milk, beaten eggs and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Beat lightly and don't be afraid to leave the batter a little lumpy.
2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet (I like to use my cast iron skillet). When the pan is very hot, but the butter has not browned, pour in the batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pancake is golden brown and delightfully puffed up.
3. Sprinkle with the sugar and return the pan to the oven for a minute or two. Finally, sprinkle with lemon juice. Cut the pancake in half or into wedges and serve. You may wish to serve it with jelly, marmalade or syrup, but may also find it completely unnecessary. Bacon, on the other hand, is a non-negotiable.