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Sunday Morning Pancake-Making

On Sunday the day rose up grey and gloomy and I heard the distinct patter of rain outside as I burrowed my head deeper under the blankets and reminded myself there was no need to get up early; weekend mornings, at least when I’m not going to yoga, are for sleeping in. So I did a bit — ’til nearly 9. It was delicious and I’d like to repeat that again very soon.

But after the New York Times was fetched from downstairs and tea was drunk and I’d half-way started on the Style section there was a niggling at the back of my mind. Pancakes, a little voice (whose?) whispered. You know you need to use up the rest of the buttermilk. The frozen blueberries in the freezer. Make pancakes …

So after a generous gulp of the rest of the tea in my cup I hopped out of bed — though at the same time I tried to be surreptitious; I wanted what I was about to do to be somewhat of a surprise –, put the kettle on for more tea (green this time; I’m off the coffee for a bit, though I do miss it), and hunted through the cupboard for vanilla, cornmeal, a pinch of cinnamon, sea salt. I sipped and sifted and added a good glug of vanilla with the classical station as accompaniment. I whisked a few eggs to fry up separately and lamented the lack of vegetarian breakfast sausage.

And so I cooked a batch of pancakes.

Saturday mornings were pancake-mornings when I was growing up; my dad used to make his special recipe — incorporating oats, honey and cornmeal — for pancakes almost every weekend, and we clamored for them when he was out of town. In season, he would pile in fresh blueberries picked the afternoon before from the bushes growing in the backyard; in the winter we would eat them plain, or with the last frozen bits of summer’s preserved bounty.

Alas, somewhere along the way, I lost my taste for the things. I am more of an oatmeal-eater, a whole-wheat toast smeared with peanut butter and jam sort of a diner, and I am usually not interested in eating a big breakfast of heavy, bready sweets. I’ll let the occasional egg slip in once in awhile, but my standard work-a-day breakfast is a banana, a cup of green tea (just lately), and a bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit (boring I may be, but at least I’m reliable).

But every so often I get seized with a breakfast notion. Perhaps the idea for cherry muffins if I happen to have a lot of cherries on hand, or vegan blueberry muffins, or browned butter banana bread with plums, or whatever. And even though I might skip pancakes or waffles on a regular basis I don’t mind treating myself once in awhile, especially when the kitchen smells delectable enough to lure unwitting fiances to the dining room, paper in hand.

And how did Sunday’s pancakes taste? Light enough for the pancake-averse and just slightly gritty from the cornmeal with a hint of vanilla and plump and juicy with blueberries. The buttermilk added delectable moisture (which is essential if one, ahem, wanders away for a few moments to set the table and returns to find her pancake a bit overdone) and its delicate tang balanced the sweetness of the berries. They were not especially beautiful, my pancakes, but even I, who typically avoids such things, couldn’t get enough.

We ate our pancakes with warmed maple syrup and spoonfuls of blackberry jam — the blackberry jam I swore I was sick of after canning all those jars, but the thing about that jam is that it’s really good and it’s difficult not to eat it. I wrote an article for NPR about it, in fact — publication date TBD — which had encouraged me to incorporate it into a few different recipes, including a gorgeous blackberry jam cake and a batch of lemon sorbet. I’m thinking the next time I make pancakes I might stir some jam into the batter, too — just to see.

This coming Sunday begins the massive cake-baking project so breakfast may simply be toast gulped down in a hurry. Then again, you never know …

[print_this]Buttermilk Pancakes, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup+ blueberries, fresh or frozen

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine (do not overmix; batter should be lumpy). Add blueberries and stir lightly to combine.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat until a few sprinkles of water dropped on the pan or griddle splatter. Using a pastry brush, brush the pan with a little melted butter or oil.

Drop the batter by tablespoons-ful onto the pan and cook about 2-3 minutes (or until batter is firm and bubble form) before flipping over to cook about 1-2 minutes. Keep pancakes warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve (but they are best eaten very fresh and very hot).[/print_this]


  1. Thanks for the nod to Dad’s pancakes! I sure miss those blueberry bushes…remember we relocated them to accommodate our lovely dog Willie…and alas they were never the same. Those were great pancake days…..but yours are top notch!

  2. We have pancakes nearly every Sunday. Buttermilk pancakes, my whole-grain flour mix, so that I don’t have to eat white-flour pancakes. In the summer, we add blueberries. In the fall/winter (starting now) we add pumpkin or butternut squash. It’s almost a worshipful experience.

    I eat my pancakes with fruit – fresh berries in the summer, applesauce in the winter. Sadly, no butter, but honestly, I’m okay without it. I pour a tablespoon of maple syrup on my plate as an occasional dunking treat, although I mainly use it to tip my bacon into. For some reason, I love bacon with maple syrup.

    It’s a lovely breakfast for lingering over the Sunday paper(s).

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