Monday, September 14, 2009

Pancake Perfection

I love blueberry pancakes, and yet they madden me when done wrong. Which they usually are. Perfectly fresh blueberries, I find, are a little too wet and juicy for ideal pancaking. They gush and squirt, in the worst case scenario they create a wet (albeit tasty) puddle in the middle of a pancake, damaging its integrity. On top of that, the intensity of their flavor usually leaves me unsatisfied.

Dried blueberries, unfortunately, aren’t much better. They are too dry. They are too chewy. They refuse to share their flavor with the surrounding batter, the stingy little bastards.

I’ve gone so far as to make a batch of pancakes with half fresh and half dried blueberries. Fail. They embodied the worst of both worlds. The dog, at least, thought they were fabulous.

Recently, thanks to a gift from my lovely hubby, I started drying my own blueberries. Nova Scotia blueberries are selling for fifty cents a pound this season. The results are beyond compare. Made from local berries picked at the height of ripeness and quickly dried, they have a depth of flavor unsurpassed by anything I’ve ever found in a store—and I’ve paid some ridiculous prices for Very Special Organic Dried Blueberries in my day.

Normally it takes 10-18 hours to properly dehydrate blueberries (depending on size). Last week, I stopped my dehydrator a couple hours into the process to check and see how they were coming along. The berries were just starting to wrinkle up, their skins still soft. I took a couple out and bit in. A hot, rich gush of juice flooded my mouth. They were… THE PERFECT PANCAKE BERRIES. Embodying just the right degree of wetness in combination with a soft exterior that broke upon pressure, they obligingly released hot, concentrated juice into my mouth. As, I quickly deduced, they would into a pillow of surrounding batter.

I expect that you can even freeze fresh berries, defrost them the day before, and pull this trick out of your hat in February. I'll certainly be trying it. (Warning: do NOT try this with blueberries bought “fresh” at the supermarket that have been shipped from Chile or someplace equally ridiculous—they will taste like soggy cardboard. Scout's honor.)

The Perfect Blueberry Pancake
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk (goat's milk works well here)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional melted butter
Fresh-grated zest of one lime
2 1/2-pints of fresh, local blueberries, dehydrated for 2 hours to about 2 pints

Preheat pan on medium. Whisk both flours and next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk milk and eggs in medium bowl. Gradually whisk milk mixture into dry ingredients. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, lime zest, and blueberries.

Coat the pan with melted butter. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook until bottoms brown. Turn pancakes over and cook until second side browns. Times vary, so keep checking until you get a feel for it.

Cook according to taste. I like my pancakes cooked in ample butter, so that one needn’t add more at the table. Pancakes cooked this way keep well wrapped up and make great stand-alone snacks to take here, there, and everywhere!

This is a handy brunch dish, as it’s ideal to put the blueberries in the dehydrator two hours before you start making the pancakes so they’ll be hot when you add them to the batter. If that’s not possible, however, they are still excellent if concentrated the day before and then refrigerated. Enjoyeux, mes amis!