Fluffy Pancakes

I have never met a pancake that I didn’t like, though I must admit to having favorites. Boxed or bagged pancake mixes are okay in emergencies or when camping, but homemade pancakes are so easy to make and taste so much better that we seldom use mixes today. We never use a mix for buckwheat pancakes. The batter for great buckwheat pancakes must be leavened with yeast overnight. If you need persuading, try my recipe for Raised Buckwheat Pancakes Raised Buckwheat Pancakes.

While we most often breakfast on Buttermilk Whole Wheat Pancakes, when the doctor orders you to begin a low fiber diet in preparation for a colonoscopy, white pancakes go on the menu. Mrs. David A. Bontrager of Haven, Kansas, called these “Plain Pancakes,” when she contributed the recipe to Mary Emma Showalter’s Mennonite Community Cookbook, but there is nothing plain about them, especially once I began making them with some buttermilk. These fluffy cakes are worth making often because they really are fluffy and delicious. This recipe makes nine or ten cakes.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs, separated

PROCEDURE:

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together into a mixing bowl. Stir the milk, buttermilk and oil into the dry ingredients until you have a fairly smooth batter. Separate the eggs, dropping the yolks into the batter and the whites into a one quart mixing bowl.

Use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks. Then beat the yolks into the batter on medium speed for about a minute. Raise the speed to high and beat for another fifteen seconds or so. Stir a couple tablespoonfuls of beaten egg whites into the batter, then fold the remaining egg whites into the batter by gently tipping the batter over the egg white with a rubber spatula. This is not difficult to do, and you can find videos and detailed tutorials online. Here is a photo of batter ready for baking. Note that you can still see a few small globs of beaten egg white in the batter.

Put third cup measures of batter onto a non-stick skillet or griddle over moderate heat (350º on an electric griddle) and cook the batter until the edges turn dry and a few bubbles appear in the center of the cakes. Turn them and cook another minute or so until they are done. Repeat and eat with butter and maple syrup.

NOTES: My mother folded beaten egg whites into various puddings and cakes, but I think that I was actually taught the procedure by my high school French teacher. She taught us how to make chocolate mousse and introduced us to avocados. I have forgotten her name but not her contribution to my culinary education. Equally important, she taught me enough French to pass the Graduate Record Exam years later when I needed certification in a second modern foreign language.

I like a fried egg or a country pork sausage patty with my pancakes. Jerri sometimes treats herself to pancakes with peanut butter, jelly or jam.

Esther’s Pflaume Brei

German Hausfrauen tell their busybody husbands “Viele Köche verderben den Brei” while wives in the United States remind theirs that “Too many cooks spoil the broth” or depending on what their mothers taught them, they might say “the soup” or “the pudding.” All these words refer to something good to eat if made by a cook who can concentrate on the recipe.

Change the genders if you will, but I learned this proverb from my mother who shooed me out of the kitchen with it if I was in her way, so I think of it as something women say to men. “Brei” is the standard or High German word for this kind of food, but in Low German, people say “Prei” or use an entirely different word, “Mus,” which is often translated as mush, but which also describes foods that we would call soups, though probably not broths.

“Pflaume” is easier, since the same word is used in both High and Low German for the purple fruit we call a plum. Thus, “Pflaume Brei,” “Pflaume Prei” and “Pflaume Mus” mean the same thing: Plum Soup. This is a German version of a sweet soup that is very popular in the Scandinavian countries. Anyone living in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota must have tasted or at least been offered Swedish “Fruktsoppa,” Norwegian “Sot suppe” or Finnish “Hedelmäkeitto.” In the United States fruit soups are usually served as desserts, but in Europe you will also find them on breakfast buffets in good restaurants.

Since Jerri’s Mennonite grandparents came to the United States from the Ukraine but spoke a dialect of High German, Jerri’s mother, Esther, made Pflaume Brei. Jerri’s versions of Pflaume Brei varied from time to time because she never wrote down the recipe. However, her sister-in-law Joyce gave us a copy of Esther’s recipe that Jerri found in one of her recipe boxes, so we can share it with you.

Think of Pflaume Brei as a Mennonite comfort food. Esther’s grandchildren loved it. Tricia, one of her granddaughters, once told Jerri that it was her favorite food. Fruit and dairy are both good for you, so here is how to make something that tastes good and is also good for you.

INGREDIENTS:

1 30 oz. can whole purple plums in heavy syrup
1 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar
Enough sour cream to make a pourable liquid

PROCEDURE:

Drain the plums into a three quart saucepan. Remove the seeds and mash the fruit. Stir the mashed plums into the syrup and add one cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil over moderate heat while you make the thickening.

Use a fork to blend the flour, corn starch and a half cup plus one tablespoon of sugar together in a small bowl. Stir a quarter cup of sour cream into the dry ingh redients, then add more sour cream by heaping tablespoonfuls until you have a thick mixture but one that you can pour into the plums.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for about a minute, then stir in the thickening. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring the Pflaume Brei back to a boil, stirring continuously with a fork.

Continue cooking and stirring for about three minutes to make sure that the corn starch is thoroughly cooked. Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.

Serve warm or cold.

NOTES: Add sugar to suit your taste. Kids like it sweeter than we do.J