Working on a Sunday is much more bearable when preceded by a swim and a mountain of pancakes. These are some of the best I have ever made. While I love the French-style crêpes that I used to make when I was younger (my mum bought me a special crêpe pan, and I had endless fun swirling the mixture around to fill it, then flipping the paper-thin pancake over with a palette knife), I prefer thick, fluffy, American-style pancakes for brunch. I think this is mainly due to greed, but also the enjoyment of dolloping a thick spoonful of batter onto a pan, hearing it sizzle, waiting a couple of minutes, and flipping over something with a satisfying seared crust on the outside and a thick, pillow-like, doughy softness in the middle. If each bite also contains some form of fruit, even better.
I have three ways of making these: the first involves using ricotta cheese, egg yolks and flour, and then folding in thick, beaten egg whites to make the pancake rise. They're very good with orange zest and blueberries or raspberries added to the batter. The second way is to use mashed, ripe banana in the batter to thicken it. You end up with thicker pancakes with a subtle banana flavour that are very good with poached fruit. The third way is to use buttermilk or natural yoghurt in the batter, and add a teaspoon of baking powder/bicarbonate of soda to make them rise. This is what I did today. I also decided to use chopped pears in the batter rather than the usual berries, because I have a bottle of maple syrup, and pears and maple syrup are one of my favourite culinary combinations.
It works incredibly well. The pancakes are light and fluffy, with a slight tang from the yoghurt, and there are juicy cubes of sweet, grainy pear in the middle. Pile them up high, add some crushed hazelnuts for crunchiness, and a drizzle of maple syrup, and you really do have a plate of brunch heaven. I think these will become an autumnal brunch staple from now on. I really cannot convey how good they are, so I will just have to give you the recipe and hope you decide to make them.
(serves 2): Sift 125g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder and half a tsp bicarbonate of soda along with a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and crack in an egg. Using an electric beater, mix the egg into some of the flour. Then add 200ml natural yoghurt (or buttermilk) and a splash of normal milk. Beat the mixture to form a lump-free batter (add more milk or flour if needed - you want a fairly thick consistency but one which will still drop from a spoon). Add a teaspoon of cinnamon. Chop two ripe pears (I used medium-sized Conference pears) into small cubes and mix into the batter.
Get a non-stick frying pan quite hot (you want it hot enough to make the mixture sizzle as soon as it goes in) and grease with butter. Drop small amounts of the mixture onto the pan and spread out. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles appear on the top, then flip over and cook for another couple of minutes. I tend to turn the oven on to about 100C and put the made pancakes in to keep warm while I make the rest - this also ensures that any which are still a bit liquid in the middle end up nice and fluffy. Crush some hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar. Pile the pancakes up on a plate with a sprinkling of nuts between each one, and drizzle with maple syrup. Delicious.