Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Toasty Pecans and Ginger-Apple Compote

Here's the thing. Let's say the school year has hit, and you're going up for tenure next year, and your calendar is flooded with back-to-back meetings and classes and meetings, and you're not sure which way is up, and you just woke up on a Sunday morning with the disorienting sense that it might be Tuesday.

Or let's say you've been meaning to bake a carrot cake for your husband's birthday. Since, well, technically since last October.

Or let's say you deeply need a nice big dose of delicious.

Or let's say you have decided to dedicate some portion of your life to pursuing the impossible dream of cooking the Perfect Breakfast—one that tastes sinfully like dessert while also magically possessing the nutritional profile of MyPlate's Platonic ideal of a meal, perfectly balancing whole grains, low-fat protein, fresh vegetables, and fruit—like you're some sort of Willy Wonka-inspired, pancake-obsessed locavore whose brain has been stir-fried by lack of sleep and looming deadlines and the early morning hour and a dazzling array of fresh fall carrots glowing orangely from the depths of the refrigerator.

Or let's say you're none of the above, and just happen to be reading this.

If so, I have important Life Advice.

Are you listening?

Make these.

(Adapted from this recipe with a glance at this recipe and a persistent personal addiction to toasted pecans and gingery apple-based toppings.)

1/2 cup stoneground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp toasted chopped pecans
(toast whole in a pan until fragrant, shaking from time to time, then chop)
1 egg
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
2 cups grated carrot (brush well, then grate with the fine hole side of a box grater)

For the compote:
2 apples, peeled and flat-diced (or zanziputted, if you will, which I would and did)
2 tbsp pastured butter
2 tsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
Generous dash or three of cinnamon
Maple syrup for the table

Mix the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans) together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the brown sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, and finally the grated ginger. Add the carrots, and mix well.

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just blended (I'm always hearing that the secret to fluffy pancakes is to not over-stir, and after careful and strenuous empirical tests involving delicately cramming large bites of pancake into my mouth, I have decided that I agree). Let rest for five minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the compote. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the apples and stir to coat, then cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two. Add the brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon, and cook for a minute or two more, until the apples just start to release a little juice. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about five minutes or until the apples are desired tenderness. Turn off the heat.

While the compote is simmering, start the pancakes. Heat a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and use a nonstick spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the pan. Add pancake batter by the quarter cup (you can also make these silver dollar pancakes as its ancestral recipe apparently recommends, by dropping the batter in 2-tbsp increments instead). Cook for about two minutes until the sides look a little dry and the bottom is golden brown, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more until both sides are golden brown and the inside is cooked through.*

Stack the accumulating pancakes inside a piece of tin foil loosely folded in half that you set on the burner behind your pan, or put them in the oven set on low to keep warm.

Serve topped with compote and extra toasted pecans if you have them, with maple syrup on the side for drizzling.

Serves 4.**

*It is perfectly acceptable at this point to taste-test a pancake to make sure it's cooked. Just try to save a few for breakfast. If you're making the slightly bigger pancakes, you may want to turn the heat down just a little after the first batch, so they cook through all the way without turning too dark on the second side.

**These also reheat well the next day if you make extra (just stick in the toaster for about half the length of time you'd use for a piece of toast, and apply liberally as a heavenly Monday morning inoculation against the work week).

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