February 4, 2012

Corn Pancakes with Berry Sauce

You know you're reading Two Eat Philly when you see another pancake recipe.  Since we haven't posted one in awhile, it was time to continue the trend.  Once in awhile (particularly in winter), we like to bring back a childhood favorite- corn-based pancakes.  We loved corn pancakes so much, we begged our dad to make them every Sunday, even though he'd have to make regular pancakes for the rest of the family (apparently some people don't love corn as much as we do?).

The one problem with corn pancakes is the difficulty in forcing water into a coarse meal.  I recently tried a recipe that involved combining coarse meal and boiling water, and while it was quick, it still had a grainy texture (fine by us, but we imagine most others wouldn't love it).  In my second recent attempt, I used a different technique of soaking the meal for an hour before cooking up the cakes- and they were perfect.  What made them extra special, though, was the warm berry sauce we made as an alternative to maple syrup.  I could eat a stack of corn pancakes plain or with a little butter, but a thick, tart berry sauce lent it more of a special breakfast feel.

Cornmeal Pancakes (adapted from Food Network)
Serves 4

1 cup coarse cornmeal (I used this kind)
1 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat both work fine)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white (or flax substitute)
2.5-3 cups milk of choice
2 Tbsp canola oil

This recipe does require a bit of pre-planning.  About an hour before you want to begin cooking your pancakes, put together the batter.  First, mix all of the dry ingredients together (cornmeal through sugar).

Once well combined, add the remaining ingredients (using only 2.5 cups of milk) and mix until no large clumps remain.  The batter might seem slightly liquidy, but the cornmeal will soak up some of that while it rests.  Since I didn't use eggs, I felt fine leaving it on the counter while I ran a few errands.  It should sit for an hour, but you could probably also leave it in the refrigerator overnight with good results.  Once it's done "incubating," you can add an additional 1/2 cup of milk if it seems too thick (although in our house, there is no such thing).

When I returned, I still had some time before pancake production began, so I started on the berry sauce.   Since it's currently the dead of winter, I haven't been buying berries, but Trader Joe's makes an amazing frozen berry mix that includes big, fat cherries (side note: it's amazing in smoothies!).

Warm Berry Sauce
Serves 6 (as a topping)

1.5 cups frozen berries (and/or cherries)
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp cold water

This sauce is crazy easy- almost as easy as homemade cranberry sauce (which is frighteningly easy).  Place the first five ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally.  The berries should release liquid and begin to make a sauce.  I helped them out a bit by breaking up the bigger ones with the back of my spoon.

After five minutes of simmering, you'll want to add the cornstarch.  The goal of the cornstarch is to thicken the sauce- just as you would add it to a meat-based gravy.  As I was getting it out of the cabinet, J reminded me not to make the fatal mistake of adding cornstarch directly to the mix.  Instead, stir the cornstarch and cold water together until well dissolved (no clumps!), and then pour this mixture into the sauce.  It seems counterintuitive to add additional liquid when you want to thicken the sauce, but adding the cornstarch directly will form terrible clumps.  Mix the sauce well, and continue simmering for an additional five minutes.

The final product is warm and sweet, with the consistency a combination of syrup and jelly.  It's easy to pour or spoon over pancakes, but won't run everywhere or make the cakes soggy.

If you are averse to seeds, you could strain the mix, but you'd then also lose the small pieces of berries still present in the sauce (my favorite part!).  Without the addition of a ton of extra sugar, it's not overly sweet, but it was perfect for the almost savory corn pancakes.  It's also a great addition to plain yogurt, oatmeal, or even over toast.

These would make a great central dish for a group breakfast or brunch, but are easy enough to whip up on a whim- you might even have all of the ingredients in your pantry already!

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