It's hard to believe that way back in 1838 this young and mostly unsophisticated country nurtured snobs. What else could one call the writer of a homemakers' manual that flatly stated:
"Pancakes, sometimes called slap-jacks or flap-jacks, were formerly much used throughout the eastern and middle United States. They were in special demand during the winter; and are in many places, very fashionable still. They are a very inferior kind of food, but are most wholesome when eaten alone and nearly cold, or with a very little milk; whereas they are commonly used hot, and with molasses, or, what is a thousand times worse, covered with melted butter."
Well, what would that author of "The Young Housekeeper, or Thoughts on Food" think of us today? Our landscape is dotted with pancake palaces and waffle cottages and, yes, we like them hot and with plenty of melted butter. Perhaps the opinionated lady would have liked the maple syrup we have substituted for molasses.
There is no doubt about it, pancakes and waffles are cheery food. They are hot, substantial and very tasty. They are not for everyday nutritious eating but are very much worth an occasional treat.
Given the busy morning routines in most households, frying pancakes for breakfast is a time luxury few of us can afford. But, now that winter is definitely here, bring on the pancakes and waffles for the weekends. In fact, a flapjack brunch would be a very sunny way to begin a Saturday or Sunday. And, best of all for the cook, it's mighty easy to put together.
The dry ingredients can be mixed together the day before. On brunch morning just add the liquid mixture and you are ready. Depending on the equipment you have, several different flavored batters can be prepared and cooked on different griddles.
Few households have the wonderful old soapstone griddles since they have limited use. But any skillet can do the trick, and with today's non-stick pans the cakes flip right out of the pans. An electric waffle iron is a great instrument. And remember, don't wash the interior surface. The more seasoned it becomes the more easily the waffles slip out from its grasp.
The basic pancake batter can be varied by any number of additions: buttermilk instead of plain milk; adding fruit such as blueberries, chopped apples or bananas; stirring in dried fruits such as cherries, apricots, prunes, or dates; incorporating spices and grated lemon zest; substituting fruit juice for part of the liquid as in the recipe below.
The array of toppings you put out can be as restrained or as generous as you like. The minimum, of course, is maple syrup and butter, either melted or in pats. In the latter case, make sure they don't travel straight from the refrigerator to the table.
Other more fanciful toppings can include sliced strawberries or bananas, honey, jams and orange marmalade, apple butter, applesauce and whipped cream for the devil-may-care breakfasteers.
The buffet should be rounded out with sliced cold ham, fried bacon and perhaps some sausages. The only other essential requirement is coffee, lots of it.
Any day that starts off with your flapjack fiesta is bound to be a great day.
Makes about 6 waffles.
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange
1/4 cup melted butter
Resift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into mixing bowl. Beat together in another small bowl eggs, vanilla, milk and orange juice.
Gradually pour liquid ingredients into flour and stir with wooden spoon to blend well. Gently stir in grated orange rind. Do not overwork batter; it should remain a little lumpy. Finally, stir in melted butter, cover, and put aside for at least 1 hour.
Heat waffle iron. Scrape batter into pitcher and when iron is ready, pour in enough batter to cover 2/3 of iron's surface. Close the cover and bake until most of steam has stopped escaping from around sides of the iron. Remove baked waffles at once.