Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes with Ricotta

I had the remainder of a carton of ricotta cheese in the refrigerator after making Chard Tart with Feta and Olives. I also had a nostalgic yearning for freshly-picked wild blueberries after talking to my parents on the phone. Mom had been blueberry picking with Grandma in Upper Michigan and Dad was singing the praises of the blueberry pie she had made with the day’s catch. It called up images of the time I also went blueberry picking with my mom and grandparents and we bagged what had to have been some kind of legal limit. We took home about 25 quarts (really!) and my grandparents had almost as much. I don’t even remember what we did with them all.

Sadly, all I had access to after hearing of that great pie was a bag of frozen blueberries from the supermarket. I also had access to a recipe for blueberry ricotta pancakes that might just help me get my blueberry fix and use up that cheese in the refrigerator. I flipped and switched ingredients, took some liberties with the recipe, and ended up with a mighty fine breakfast, especially for a Monday morning.

I used vanilla soy milk in place of regular milk in this recipe, mostly just to use up what I had. It is considerably sweeter than milk, so if you use milk, instead, you might want to add some more sugar (say a couple teaspoons). Speaking of sugar, as long as I was going vanilla, I used the vanilla sugar I’ve been preparing on the counter. It simply consists of regular granulated sugar with spent vanilla beans (those from which I had already scraped out the seeds or used to infuse a liquid, then rinsed and dried). You just let it sit there in a canister or other sealed container and the vanilla pods give a subtle flavor and aroma to the sugar. It’s good in coffee, but, as I said, it’s subtle and may not have contributed all that much flavor to these pancakes.

Since I figured the ricotta cheese might make heavier pancakes than I’m accustomed to, I separated the eggs, beat the yolks with the ricotta and soy milk, and beat the egg whites to stiff peaks to lighten and puff up the batter. I don’t usually take the time to do this with pancakes, but in this case, I think it was worth it. The pancakes were light and fluffy and even kept their airy texture reasonably well after being chilled and then reheated the next day.

Since I used frozen berries, I partially thawed them before folding them into the batter. Thawing them completely can lead to a mushy product and a strangely-colored batter. I also usually don’t put blueberries directly into pancake batter, preferring to sprinkle them in as the pancakes cook. This batter was sturdy enough to hold them and puffy enough to suspend them, however, and it worked out just fine. The key is to distribute the berries evenly.

Enough about the pancake procedure. How did they taste? In a word, delicious! They’re pleasantly sweet with just enough cheesy flavor to give off a teasing hint (just a hint) of blueberry cheesecake. They would probably be even better with fresh wild blueberries, but I made do quite happily. (Harry liked them, too). But I’ll have to mark my calendar to pay a visit to my parents at this time next year to get some of that blueberry pie!

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes
Based on a recipe in Cooking Pleasures magazine

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
¾ cup soy milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups blueberries, partially thawed if frozen

1. In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together until well combined. Set aside

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ricotta, soy milk, and lemon zest. Set aside.

3. With an electric mixer (or a whisk if you’re tough) beat the egg whites until they just reach the stiff-peak stage. Set aside.

4. Preheat a griddle or pan (electric or stove-top). I heat an electric frying pan to 350 F. Pour the egg yolk mixture (from step 2) into the flour mixture (from step 1). Stir gently until almost completely combined. Leave a few lumps or spots of dry flour.

5. Add the blueberries and beaten egg whites (from step 3). Gently stir until the egg whites are incorporated and the blueberries are well-distributed. Try not to deflate the egg whites, but do not leave blobs of heavier batter on the bottom of the bowl.

6. Oil, butter or spray with cooking spray your preheated griddle or pan. Pour or spoon batter about ¼ to 1/3 cup for each pancake onto the pan. Cook until the bottom is browned. Turn the pancakes with a spatula and cook on the other side until it is also browned. These pancakes seemed to get dark fairly quickly, so if they are cooking too fast on the outside before the center is done, reduce the heat and cook them more slowly. Remove from the pan and keep hot in the oven until ready to serve.

Makes about 15 pancakes. Serve with maple syrup and butter. Leftovers can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator to be reheated in the microwave. (Fresh pancakes are best, but these reheat rather well.)

Other recipes like this one: Apple Cinnamon Pancakes, Double Banana Walnut Pancakes

One year ago: Cherry Plum Crisp

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