Since it has been an unseasonably cool and very rainy week, keeping us stuck indoors, it has also been a week of treats. Last night, I made silver dollar pancakes and bacon for dinner. I don’t know what is so sinful about transferring a Sunday-morning meal to a Wednesday evening, but it certainly brightened up everyone’s week.
It being strawberry season, I had all the things to make strawberry shortcake on hand, which was my project Monday afternoon when the rain poured down like Armageddon outside.
Strawberry shortcake is, of course, absurdly easy to make. It has three components:
- Strawberries, hulled and quartered, and mixed with a small amount of sugar; the riper they are, the less sugar they need. Let them macerate a while to produce some juices.
- Shortcakes, made from your favorite biscuit recipe with a little more sugar added. I like to make biscuits with half-and-half or cream for dessert recipes. I brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with sugar to get deeper browning when baking and add a touch more sweetness.
- Whipped cream (see below).
To assemble, bake the biscuits, let cool and split. Spoon some strawberries in the center and top with whipped cream. This treat brings spring to a dreary day.
How to Whip Cream
Chill a mixing bowl and the mixer beaters in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla (optional) to the bowl. Start beating on the lowest speed until bubbles start to appear, about 30 seconds. Switch to medium speed until the cream starts to thicken, another 30 seconds. Switch to high speed and beat until peaks appear, about 20 seconds more for soft peaks and 30 seconds more for stiff peaks.
Store covered in the fridge for several hours. Here’s a guide to whipping cream with pictures of soft and stiff peaks.
A genuine Dutch Baby.
For Sunday breakfast yesterday, I made a Dutch baby. This is a kind of pancake that is cooked in the oven so it puffs up like a giant popover. Once you take it out of the oven, it deflates quickly, but it is very light and sweet, delicious with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries. I’ve made something like this before,
but I didn’t realize then that its real name was Dutch baby
For my Sunday afternoon baking project, I made rosemary focaccia. I love focaccia and will eat it for breakfast, sandwiches, snacks, anytime. It’s like pizza without all the stuff. The recipe I tried was from Cooks Illustrated and called for a potato. I’m not sure it was the best recipe for focaccia out there, and I would like to experiment with other takes on it before committing to a go-to recipe.
The popover pancake coming out of the oven.
I made this for Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. It is a large pancake cooked in the style of a popover, so it puffs up quite magnificently. It really does look impressive coming out of the oven, but it collapses quickly, so you have to take it straight to the table. (In the photo, it is already starting to collapse.) We ate it in the traditional style, with butter and syrup, but I think it would be excellent topped with fresh berries and maybe a little confectioner’s sugar or whipped cream.
The recipe comes from The Good Egg, a very useful cookbook if you like to cook eggs several times a week, as I do, since it is full of ideas for new things to do with them. The main change I would make to the recipe is to oil the pan before pre-heating it in the oven. This should keep the pancake from sticking. I didn’t do this the first time I made it, and too much pancake was left behind in the pan.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 8- or 10-inch cast-iron, oven-proof skillet
- vegetable oil for the pan
- 4 lg. eggs
- ¾ cup milk
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 tbsp. butter
- syrup, confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream and/or berries or other fresh fruit to serve
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the skillet with a thin film of oil and put it in the oven to heat for 5 minutes while you make the batter.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and salt. Whisk in the flour and mix until smooth.
Remove the skillet from the oven. Add the butter, swirling it to coat the skillet as it melts. Add the batter and return the skillet to the oven. Bake until puffy and browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove to the table and cut into wedges. Top as desired.
Pancakes are a great choice for Sunday morning breakfast because we usually have all the ingredients we need hanging around the house, and besides, who doesn’t like pancakes? They’re incredibly simple and easy to make, but to get fluffy, tasty, perfectly cooked pancakes, there are a few tricks to keep in mind. (Adapted from a recipe in The New Best Recipe).
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 cups buttermilk or 2 cups milk + 1 tbsp. lemon juice (adding lemon juice provides the tang reminiscent of buttermilk)
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp. butter, melted
Mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and butter into the milk or buttermilk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until they are just barely moistened. Avoiding overmixing is the key to light and fluffy pancakes. You want your batter to have plenty of lumps.
Brush a griddle with oil and heat over medium. It’s important to let the batter rest at least 5 minutes and have a hot pan, so give the griddle time to heat. Use paper towels to brush a thin film of oil over the cooking surface.
Use a tablespoon to measure out a silver dollar-sized “test” pancake. The test pancake should be well browned on each side. If it’s too light, you haven’t let the pan heat enough. If it’s too dark, turn down the heat. I always make two or four tests and feed them to the dogs after they’ve cooled down.
When the pan is ready, pour about ¼ cup of batter onto the griddle and let brown on both sides. You’ll know when the pancake is ready to flip when bubbles appear on its surface. If you want to add blueberries, banana slices or chocolate chips to your pancakes, sprinkle them on after pouring the batter on the griddle.
Lower the heat between batches to keep later pancakes from overcooking. Keep cooked pancakes warm on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven for up to 20 minutes. Leftover batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for several days.