Pancake. A cake in a pan. So simple, yet the lingual confusion is always there. I once had breakfast with a French woman. She wanted pancakes, and because I’m born and raised in Sweden, I made thin ones. That’s not what she wanted, she wanted thick pancakes. If she’d want crêpes, she said, she’d say crêpes. “Pancake” in French, is synonymous with the leavened American style pancakes. The English use the prefix American when talking about the leavened pancakes. The Americans, I guess, always mean the thick kind when they say pancakes, but they’re very much aware of the pancake world outside their own country. Perhaps we should thank IHOP for that. A Swedish pancake (pannkaka) is thin, but unlike a crêpe, you don’t use a T-shaped spreader to evenly coat the hot surface with batter, hence a pannkaka is never as thin as its French equivalence. Some argue that the crêpes batter is thicker than swedish pannkaka batter, in order for it not to run over the edge of the crêpe maker surface. Pannkaka is made in a skillet/frying pan that has an edge, and you want your batter to be liquid enough for you to be able to spread it evenly by simply tilting the skillet.
With that brief introduction to the world of pancakes, here’s my take on the American classic. Pancakes with cherries and chocolate. Served with a cherry infused maple syrup. This is freakin’ amazing no matter if you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, a tasty desert, or diabetes.
Why do I use baking soda instead of baking powder, and what’s the difference? Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate as its active ingredient, the part that actually creates bubbles that leavens your baked goods, but because the sodium bicarbonate needs acid to react, the baking powder also includes acidifying agents (potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tartar), and usually starch as drying agent. Baking soda, on the other hand, is pure sodium bicarbonate. I’m using sour cream in my batter, enough acidic compounds to let the bicarbonate do its job.
This is for 4 people, or 2 very hungry ones.
Time it takes:
- 10-20 minutes to pit the cherries and make your batter, depending on which pitting method you use. Pit’em!
- 30 minutes of pancake frying. The larger the frying pan, the more pancakes you can fit, the shorter the time standing by the stove.
- 4 minutes to serve four portions (about a minute per serving)
- 250 g of black cherries (weight before they’ve been pitted)
- 250 g of sour cherries (weight before they’ve been pitted)
- 150 g of maple syrup (not maple flavored corn syrup, you want the real stuff Canadians make!)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 25 g of butter
- 2 eggs
- 200 g sour cream (if you can’t find any, use crème fraîche)
- 250 g of full milk
- 220 g of unbleached cake flour (if you can’t get a hold of it, use a high quality all-purpose flour)
- 20 g of sugar
- 4 g of salt
- 6 g of baking soda (not baking powder!)
- zest from 1/4 lemon
- 70 g of dark chocolate
- butter for frying
- 4 spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese to serve, one per serving
- some extra chocolate to grate on top
- 4 cherry to garnish, one per serving
- Start by pitting all the cherries (see video for two different techniques), and cutting the vanilla bean in half, scraping off the seeds from inside. Put the seeds aside for now.
- Put the maple syrup, half of your pitted cherries and the empty vanilla bean into a saucepan and let simmer over low to medium heat for 15 minutes. Then, set it aside and let cool. But don’t go and rest while it’s simmering then cooling, you have work to do.
- Melt the butter, I use a microwave for that and it works perfectly.
- Whisk the eggs, milk, sour cream, melted butter and the vanilla seeds you scraped off some minute ago. Now, in another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and sift them over your wet ingredients. It’s important to sift, it gives you a light and beautiful pancake. And by the way, if you notice that your granulated sugar doesn’t want to get through your sieve, you’re not going crazy. Sugar is – I’ve learned – considered a wet ingredient in the world of baking, so you should have mixed it with the rest of the wet ingredients. Anyway…
- Chop the chocolate and fold it into your batter together with the rest of your pitted cherries, and lemon zest. Folding is just another word for gently moving your spoon around.
- Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Now, you could make the pancakes the old fashion way by simply pouring it onto the pan. I do, however, strongly recommend you to buy a metal ring (e.g. English Muffin Ring, google it). It gives you perfectly shaped pancakes, and gives them an even height. When the baking soda starts producing tiny air bubbles, the leavening is forced upwards along the side of the ring. By the way, don’t forget stir the batter before every pancake, to make sure all of them get their fair share of cherry chunks and chocolate.
- When bubbles begin to form and pop on the pancake’s surface, lift the metal ring off, and flip the pancake over. Just cook it about a minute, until it gets some color, you don’t want dry overcooked pancakes. If you can’t cook tons of pancakes simultaneously, I recommend you set your oven to 50 degrees Celsius, and keep your pancakes warm in there. Again, be careful with the heat, you don’t want to dry them out.
It’s time to serve.
Before you do anything, ask yourself if you really used half sour cherries (bright red ones, a little sour) and half black cherries (dark ones, very sweet). If you only used the sweet kind, your syrup might lack some acidity. Compensate by adding some fresh lemon juice to taste.
Put a pancake on a plate, and pour some of the vanilla and cherry infused syrup onto it. You’ll notice how the pancake sucks the syrup up, like a sponge. You want precisely that, trust me. Put some of the cherries on top of it, and then the next layer of pancake. Repeat, and add a third layer of pancake, syrup and cherries. Then make a nice shape of your mascarpone cheese, and put it on top. The unsweetened mascarpone will work excellent together with the sweet pancakes. Grate some chocolate on top. I then put a fresh cherry on there, just for the looks.