I mentioned in my last post that I’d attempted Heidi Swanson’s Cottage Pancakes recipe (with a few tweaks of my own) last Friday to great success, even though the ricotta I was using as a cottage cheese substitute didn’t come out quite right. And also that I made a brand new, glorious batch of ricotta with the intention of giving it a second attempt. Well, here’s what went down in that second attempt. (Spoiler alert: There were delicious results.)
I was instantly drawn to the idea of “Cottage Pancakes.” When I first read the title I began wondering, in what I felt was an ignorant way, if that could possibly really mean there was cottage cheese in the pancakes. Could such a combination exist, or was I a fool for letting my thoughts wander in that direction? It sounded impractically heavenly to me– too good to be true. When I finally made it to the recipe (you think I’m bad for long intros… though I’ll admit mine have yet to include the stunning vintage photos that were the makings of Heidi’s) I found the suspicions I’d tried to suppress were indeed accurate. How luxurious! How decadent! But there, in the comments, were so many compliments issued on the clever way of inserting some extra protein to the dish. Was is possible that this was not only a delicious twist but a healthy one? Since health is the general aim of 101cookbooks.com, that was a claim I was less reluctant to believe, and so dove straight in.
The main difference I noticed using proper ricotta as opposed to the sour cream-like sludge I’d come up with on the first try (I think the bottled lime juice I’d used wasn’t acidic enough for the curds and whey to separate correctly) is that, as you might imagine, the pancakes in the second batch had a bit more structure to them. They stood up a bit taller instead of trying to sprawl to all possible extremities of the pan. This made them noticeably easier to flip, which is a blessing for someone like me, for whom flipping has always been a bit of a bane. I remember even as children, when Mother Dear would allow my brothers and I to assist with the business of making pancakes, Ryan (two years younger than me!) was given the task and corresponding nickname of “The Quicker Flipper!” I don’t remember what my task or nickname was, but I feel confident it had nothing to do with flipping, or quickness.
One more note pertaining to pancakes (and childhood, actually… feeling a bit nostalgic it would seem) before sharing the recipe. Heidi had mentioned both how nicely a dill butter from her cookbook went with these pancakes, but also that they’re a total “blank slate.” Now, I don’t consider myself a “white bread” or “vanilla” person by any means (and in any sense, figurative or literal, of the words), but when it comes to pancakes and waffles I’ve almost always eaten them plain. I don’t mind syrup, or powdered sugar, or whatever else tends to find its way onto the breakfast table, but when I have my druthers they tend to be naked (is what… he said?). Still, dill has become one of my favorite herbs/spices (right up there with turmeric), and we have some growing in a little, oft-forgotten pot on the corner post of our garden wall, so I didn’t want to leave it out. I find that the pancakes soak up the perfect amount of butter during the cooking process and didn’t care to add anymore, dill-laden or otherwise (I suppose that’s the waif in me speaking); but I did sprinkle a bit of chopped dill on two of the pancakes before flipping and found that it did indeed add some nice flavor. If you’re into that kind of thing. Anyway, enough blabbering.
The main deviations I’ve taken from Heidi’s recipe are halving it, substituting ricotta for cottage cheese, and leaving out the cauliflower (couldn’t have a pancake dish getting too healthy on me, naw mean? Jokes, I bet these would actually be really nice with half a cup of chopped cauliflower included in the batter, I just didn’t happen to have any on me. Plus on both occasions I stuck to tradition and had these for breakfast, and I was having a hard time wrapping my head around cauliflower for breakfast.)
1/2 cup ricotta
3/8 cup of milk (you end up with odd measurements when you halve a recipe sometimes… Also I realized I didn’t have milk as I went to make this so I ended up watering down some heavy cream? Is this a huge faux pas or acceptable behavior in a pinch?)
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (ours is especially… how you say, “wheaty,” and so gives the pancakes a really nice bite and texture.)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter for frying
chopped dill (optional)
1. Combine ricotta, milk, and egg yolks until well blended.
2. In theory, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. I like to claim I’m simply lacking the equipment to make this happen (no whisk or beater?) but I have a suspicion I just have yet to hone my skills. And as you can see from the yellow tinge, the same applies to the separation of eggs.
3. In theory, sift flours, baking powder, and salt and then add to the cheese/milk/yolk mixture. Sifting is another one of those cooking techniques I know makes a difference but I treat trivially. Stir until just incorporated. (My picture suggests a few dry spots are okay… don’t know if that was intentional!)
4. Fold in your stiff peaks of egg whites (imaginary or otherwise) with a spatula or wooden spoon.
5. Melt a bit of butter in a non-stick pan over medium. The trick to determining pan-readiness that I learned from my mom in the days of Ryan-the-Quicker-Flipper is to run your fingers under the tap and flick some water on the pan. If the drops instantly get to dancin’, you’s ready! Pour between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of batter in the pan. If you wanted to add some dill do it now!
6. Because of their height it’s really easy to see when the bottoms of these pancakes start to set. It also means you don’t tend to get the proliferation of bubbles across the top when it’s time to flip like you do in normal pancakes. But like I said, you don’t need them. Wait a few minutes; you’ll see the edges of the bottom start to brown, and if your spatula goes under easily I’d say it’s time.
7. In addition to my affinity for plain pancakes, I also like them a bit undercooked (God, I’m weird) and so have no qualms about letting these get just the slightest sear and removing them from the pan. If you’re in the much larger “We-like-our-pancakes-properly-cooked-thank-you” camp, let them go about 2 minutes. You can always gently lift with a spatula to see if the bottom’s browned.
8. Share with your pup if you want. I was too greedy/hungry so instead just teased to get this picture.
Alright well 1219 words, two “that’s what he/she said jokes”, and however many childhood references later I think it’s about time I bid you farewell for this round. Happy pancake making!