I’m writing this as I’m enjoying that stack of cheese pancakes I whipped up for brunch this Sunday. I save the big breakfasts for the weekends when I have the time to actually cook one, and because I like to eat lightly during the week when I’m watching what I’m eating. Breakfast then would be my regular iced coffee and a quarter cup of high fiber oat bran, mixed in with a third cup of warm skim milk and a dash of sweetener. I let it sit for a few minutes to thicken and I end up with almost a half cup of my version of an oat meal breakfast. Or I would occasionally pick up a bread pudding muffin from my favorite stop on my way up to work these days: Eli Zabar’s over at Grand Central Market.
Weekends, though, are different. I wake up when I want to (unless my thirteen year old wakes up before me and requests for a special breakfast which is rare! — waking up earlier and asking for a special breakfast, that is!). I would know what I was having the Friday before when I would make a “bread run” through my favorite bakeries in the city — say when I feel like whipping up some French toast (give me some real challah bread!) .. this time, I only picked up some tomatoes (craving my tomato scrambled eggs), and I knew I would have pancakes for Sunday.
And there are the weekends when I’m on my own, and I get to structure the whole weekend around me. (Laundry time included.)
I love the complete pancake mixes. (I don’t know what I would do without dear Aunt Jemima!) While I don’t mind having them as is, slathered in syrup and heavy cream, I make a fancier version by adding something along the way. I grew up on Maya hotcake mixes, and I remember happily making pancakes for merienda (afternoon snack) for the entire family. Of course back then, I used a carajay (our Filipino version of a wok) and had to mix the egg and water in and cook the pancakes using a touch of oil or butter. Fast forward to now in New York where I’m a mom and after I actually discovered I could cook! We have Aunt Jemima and our old reliable non stick pans for those gorgeous pancakes..
My favorite version is a decadent caramel pancake where I sandwiched sliced bits of caramel squares in between, or put a good layer on top and microwave to melt.. I had tried mixing in the caramel as slivers in the batter, but the caramel would melt and stick to my turner. Messy. When you are simply adding the caramel, there is no adjustment to the recipe. I follow the 1cup mix: 3/4cup water as prescribed by Aunt Jemima.
It gets a little trickier when you are adding dry ingredients like shredded cheese or mashed bananas, because the consistency of the batter changes. How much you add of your extra flavoring ingredient depends largely on how much you want to have that flavor present in your pancakes. I go by the simple rule of thumb that if I’m adding something to flavor up my pancakes, I don’t want a hint of it, I want it present and adding oomph.
For cheese, I usually end up putting in a quarter cup to each cup of mix, and then I up the water to a full cup. I use shredded cheese that comes in those packets and when I’m out of that, I would usually do two tablespoons of the grated Parmesan which is stronger in flavor. Just a heads up that the cheese can add pungency to the pancakes, so sensitive noses beware! Personally, I prefer cheese pancakes with corn syrup, and I do them with a generous bath of heavy cream.
Another nice addition to pancakes is bananas which will give you a banana bread-like flavor. I mash up half a ripe banana to each cup of mix and again, up the water from 3/4 cup to 1 cup. You want your pancakes to flow and settle on the pan and not be chunky and all clumpy. Mashing the bananas will give you clumps, but you also need those to incorporate into the pancake mix seamlessly. I try not to mash my bananas to too smooth a consistency because I like biting into my bananas as I eat my pancakes. If you want only the flavor without the banana bits, then mash away to a smooth paste and watch it disappear into your batter.
Finally, how about some red velvet pancakes? There was a time I had left over red velvet cake which I needed to disappear quick before it started showing in my middle portion. Again, rule of thumb to add around a quarter cup of crumbled cake bits to every cup of mix, but with this one, no adjustment necessary for the water. The cake comes moist and literally extends the batter without adding more dry ingredients that would stretch the liquid portion of the recipe. At least that’s how it worked for me.
There are so many ways to make breakfast for one a special treat to celebrate you. We often get caught up making special meals for others that we forget we deserve the special treatment, too. On weekends when all is quiet and I only have me to worry about, I give it the extra effort to create a special treat and take care of me.