I have become completely enamored of yet another cookbook. Sorry. I just can't help it. Honestly, I would have thought that by now just about every combination of ingredients had already been put together in recipe form, but boy was I wrong. The latest addition to my cookbook collection is Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again by Lisa Schroeder, proprietress of the wildly popular Portland, Oregon, restaurant, Mother's Bistro & Bar, and Danielle Centoni. Lest you think I add cookbooks to my collection willy nilly, let me tell you that before another cookbook comes into this house it is checked out from the library, thoroughly viewed and reviewed, recipes are tested, and when I find that I want to make nearly every recipe in the book, I buy it. This was one of those cases.
A great lover of anything almond, I was completely taken in by these pancakes that call for almond paste as one of the ingredients. As I find anything with almond paste to be swoonably delicious, I had to make these. Happily I had exactly what I needed leftover from a recipe I'd tried earlier, so let this be a lesson to you to never discard extra almond paste. Without a doubt these are the best pancakes I've ever eaten (and one look at my thighs will tell you I'm a seasoned veteran when it comes to pancake consumption). They take a bit of time to prepare, but the wait is well worth it. I cut the recipe and half and used 1/4 cup to measure the batter onto the griddle rather than the 1/2 cup called for in the recipe, so had lots left over. I froze the extras -- they freeze beautifully! -- and have had them any number of times since, each time they are just as delicious as the first. If you like almond, you owe it to yourself to make these. Or maybe surprise mom with a batch for Mother's Day.
Almond Poppy Seed Pancakes
Makes 16 pancakes
3-1/2 oz. almond paste
2 cups whole milk
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
1 Tbs. almond extract
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup poppy seeds
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or clarified butter, for brushing the griddle
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Whipped butter, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Heat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the almond paste in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed while adding the milk, a little at a time, to loosen up the paste until it's smooth and not lumpy. Alternatively, you can process the almond paste with a little of the milk in a food processor until smooth (add just enough milk to help the almond paste thin out).
Add the sour cream, almond extract, and eggs. Whisk or process until well-blended and smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Whisk well to thoroughly combine.
Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients while gently stirring, and mix just until combined. (Don't overmix or you will activate the gluten in the flour and the pancakes will be chewy, like bread, instead of fluffy.) The mixture will be a little lumpy (and that's OK; if you have pockets of flour bigger than a dime, smash them against the side of the bowl to break them apart without having to stir the batter more). Pour in the melted butter and gently mix just until incorporated. (Sometimes melted butter solidifies when added to cold ingredients. Adding it now helps disperse it evenly in the batter and smooth out some of the lumps.)
Place a griddle or wide (preferably 14-inch) saute pan over medium heat for several minutes. If using an electric griddle, set the heat to 350 degrees F.
Sprinkle the griddle with a few drops of water; they should bounce around before evaporating. If they sizzle away quickly, the heat is too high. If they just sit there and slowly steam, the heat is too low. When the griddle is properly heated, brush with oil or clarified butter, and then wipe with a paper towel so it's evenly greased. (Big spots of oil or butter will promote uneven browning and your pancakes will have dark and light spots.)
Ladle 1/2 cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle, an inch or two apart. Sprinkle evenly with 1 Tbs. toasted almonds.
Cook until bubbles begin to pop on the surface of the pancakes, the edges look a little dry, and the underside is golden, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and continue cooking until the pancakes are cooked through, about 1 minute more. (If the undersides of the pancakes are browning or burning before the tops get a chance to form bubbles and dry out, the heat is too high. If it's taking much longer than 2 or 3 minutes for the bubbles to form, the heat is too low.)
Repeat with the remaining batter. Keep the pancakes warm on a heatproof platter or baking sheet in the oven.
Serve with whipped butter and maple syrup.
From Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again, pp. 287-290. BUY IT! Go NOW!
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