September 24, 2011

Sunday Pancakes

Sunday Pancakes with peach jam and bacon

I don't know about all of you, but brunch is something I always look forward to.  When I lived in New York this summer, I was struck by how popular brunch was. Everyone, it seemed, had a favorite brunch spot to go to and made going there a regular part of his or her weekend routine.  Getting invited to brunch always felt like a treat to me, a chance relax with someone and sit over a drawn out meal of coffee, orange juice and pancakes. Even in the city that never sleeps, brunch is a meal never to be rushed. I loved lingering over Sunday brunch until every drop of coffee was gone and every smear of syrup licked up from the plate.

In New York, brunch finds its way into every corner of the city's restaurant population. Sometimes it's in the back booth of an old diner over stale coffe and overcooked eggs, sometimes it's outside on a patio with a spicy Bloody Mary and a plate of eggs benedict drooling in hollandaise.  It's a slow start to a slow day and the last time to catch your breath before Monday snaps us back to the swing of things.

Meggie eyeing Damiano eyeing the Tropicana

At Wesleyan, where I go to college, brunch is just as important. When I was a freshman and sophomore, brunch took place at our dining hall, where long lines of bleary-eyed, pajama-bottomed, hungover students would line up for plates of cheesy eggs, bacon, and homefries. We would sit at the long tables and discuss how insane, or hilarious, or tragic the night before had been over cup after cup of coffee.

My junior year, when I lived in an apartment, I started to cook Sunday brunch at home with my roommate Damiano. We would eat egg sandwiches and sip coffee and tea in our crammed, windowless kitchen. We soon missed the liveliness of the dining hall and the heaping plates of cheesy eggs, so we decided to return.

One day, we finally made our way over to the dining hall for brunch. I waited in the long, winding line for my plate of cheesy eggs, bacon and homefries (which I covered with maple syrup - I love the sweet/salty thing). I then went over to the bagel station to toast myself a bagel.  As I was waiting for my bagel to toast, standing there in my flip-flops, a girl waiting for her bagel dropped her bowl of pipping-hot, sugar coated oatmeal all over my feet. Clearly embarrassed, she quickly looked up at my face, back down at my feet, and then without at word or gesture of help walked away into the dining hall. I just stood there, sloppy oatmeal burning my feet, cheesy eggs in hand. Needless to say, the girl did not come back for her bagel.

After wiping up the oatmeal, no thanks to my fellow bagel-toaster, I too went into the dining room and sat down with my friends.  A bit burned by the oatmeal incident (in more ways than one), I found the rest of the morning perfectly unenjoyable, the cheesy eggs overcooked and dry and the bad coffee completely unsatisfying. I vowed never to return. And I never have.

Since then, making brunch in our kitchen has become an important part of my college weekend routine. And just like many New Yorkers insist on eating their brunch at their favorite local spot, I insist eating my brunch at home, last year in the apartment, this year in our shared house.

Tired of the usual egg sandwiches we would make for Sunday brunch, Damiano eventually tried out a recipe for pancakes. They have become something of an institution for our Sunday mornings. Everyone who eats them comments on how light and fluffy they are. The ones pictured above are from our first weekend back this year, served with fresh peach jam Damiano made in California.

There's a couple of secrets to these pancakes: First, they are not made from Bisquick, they're made from scratch. Second, they call for a lot of baking powder, giving them a nice rise. Finally, they are cooked in butter, which I think is a must for delicious pancakes. Oh, and did I mention that they are insanely easy to make?

So if you have a weekend brunch routine that you like, stick to it. If you're still looking to start one, these pancakes are certainly a step in the right direction.

Recipe below.

Sunday Pancakes
Serves 4 hungry college students
Adapted from All Recipes

We serve these with all types of toppings, like different kinds of jam, syrup, peanut butter and nutella.

-3 cups all-purpose flour
-7 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons salt
-2 tablespoons sugar
-2 1/2 cups whole milk
-2 eggs
-6 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for cooking

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk, eggs and melted butter. Whisk until everything comes together.

3. Place a skillet over medium heat and when hot, butter the base of the pan. Pour batter into the pan, approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake, and cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly golden brown. Serve at once.