- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I love pancakes. I enjoyed making all sorts of pancakes when my daughter was young - blueberry, chocolate chip and banana were just a few of my specialties. Whenever we traveled to new destinations, we always sampled the local pancakes. I can still remember the huge, fluffy hot cakes drizzled with warm maple syrup at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

On one of our trips to California‘s Sonoma wine country, we spent the evening at the George Alexander House, a charming bed-and-breakfast in the little town of Healdsburg. We awoke the next morning to find a version of these heavenly, fluffy pancakes awaiting us in the cozy country dining room.

These sophisticated pancakes include creamy ricotta that creates an airy sweetness, while the addition of whipped egg whites folded into the batter produces a moist and light result. I like the addition of orange with the pear topping. Some crisp bacon and fresh fruit juice are all you need to make this a breakfast or brunch you won’t soon forget. Serve these on a lazy Sunday morning with caffe latte.

Pancakes require some basic skills. Here are a few tips:

• Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until they are just blended together. Working the batter for too long will cause the pancakes to be tough.



• Use a large nonstick skillet or flat griddle.

• Heat the pan and then add the butter to it. Make sure there is not too much butter or the pancakes will be oily.

• Use a measuring cup with a spout or a ladle.

• Pour the batter slowly, because it will spread.

• Cook the first side until tiny bubbles appear across the pancake. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Ricotta pancakes with sauteed spiced pears

For brunch, accompany these pancakes with a crisp, fruity Johannesburg Riesling or a spicy Gewurztraminer. Make the pear topping up to one day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

PEAR TOPPING:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 large Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch dice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

PANCAKES:

4 large eggs, separated

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter for cooking the pancakes

For the pear topping, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pears and saute for about 5 minutes or until the pears are softened. Add the sugar and continue cooking until the pears are soft and the sauce is slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, cinnamon, orange juice and vanilla, and cook for another minute. Cover and set aside, keeping warm.

For the pancakes, combine the egg yolks, ricotta, sugar, orange zest and flour in a medium bowl, and whisk until well-combined.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer combine, the egg whites and a pinch of salt and beat on medium speed until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Add one third of the egg whites to the pancake mixture and fold them in gently. Fold in the remaining egg whites, making sure no white streaks are left in the batter.

To cook the pancakes, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large griddle or saute pan over medium heat. Pour in about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Add more butter as necessary.

Serve the pancakes immediately with a large dollop of pear topping. You can also serve these with some warm maple syrup if you like.

c Diane Rossen Worthington is author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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