I keep finding heaven on pancake mornings. I also keep finding heaven when I realise that certain ingredients are about to expire and whatever I expect to be slipshod turns out marvellous and beyond (you could’ve guessed it was ricotta in this case). From now on, I think every Monday shall be pancake Monday. There will be no regrets.
I didn’t want to stray far from these I wrote about quite a while ago, because they’re still my absolute favourite pancakes. I remember squandering my days trying to perfect them. But with university on my heels, there’s simply no time to faff around with proportions and measurements and whatnot. Yet, I needed a bloody good pancake, and a fluffy, well-risen, tender-stomached one at that. Monday would’ve gone quite badly otherwise. I suspect.
That’s where the ricotta comes in. And the chocolate, because 99% of my recipes are incomplete without chocolate. Chocolate crisping up at the edges, chocolate running down your bottom lip when you take a bite and the pocket bursts slowly, lovingly. The pairing of the mild cheese and dark chocolate chunks is not advanced, but necessary. Ricotta makes the batter creamy and mildly sweet, whilst the chocolate (dark, if I may) adds another lush dimension to the whole thing.
‘Twas a funny story, trying to get these right. My first time using the hob to cook pancakes was almost an ordeal. Burnt the first couple and had to chuck those, but the silver lining came when I found the perfect heating level (3) to allow for a nice golden-brown on both sides, without burning them and being left with uncooked centres. These pancakes seem to be more undercooked after the second sides are done, but that’s mostly because of the ricotta, which makes it denser without having to fully compromise on fluff and the slightest chew in the middle.
You deserve it.
Ricotta Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes (serves 2-4, makes 8 medium pancakes)
125g (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta (strain if watery)
135g (around 1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of coarse salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20g (slightly less than 2 tbsp) melted butter
240ml (1 cup) milk
60g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate
Preheat your pan or griddle on medium heat, and ready some butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, sugar, baking powder, chopped chocolate and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix together the ricotta, melted butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Pour the wet into the dry mix and stir until just combined. The batter should be quite thick.
Butter your pan (it should sizzle, but not too strongly), then heap batter onto a tablespoon before laying on 2 or 3 in your pan (you can do more with a griddle of course). Flatten a little with the back of your spatula, then wait 2 minutes before flipping to cook the second side, which will take almost less than half the time it takes to cook the first side. Place cooked pancakes on a paper towel to absorb moisture from the bottom.
Serve with yoghurt, fruit or nuts, and honey or maple syrup.
I have the worst love-hate relationship with social media.
One question: If you’re tweeting about some fabulous party you’re at, are you really having fun there? I don’t know about you, but I imagine someone standing in the corner, desperately trying to capture every moment of the fab food and lights and music, totally losing the purpose of socialising in the process. Pick at the food, dance a little, then back to the phone. Phone phone phone. Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are everyone’s best friends. Let me clarify: no, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m guilty of it, and so are many people in this day and age. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can go as far as to say that social media defines the 21st century. That, and obesity. Social media helps me stay in contact with my closest friends and is the perfect means to capture totally retarded moments on the spur. It’s funny, casual, fun, and I love it.
That being said, maybe ignorance is truly bliss? The light that illuminates a certain special occasion, a certain personal, intangible factor, is lost in the process of uploading everything real-time to the infinite cloud of technology. It’s so sad to visit restaurants and see parents barely looking up to talk to their children. The kids fiddle with their bolognese, look around, fold the corners of the posh napkins. Parents. Noses to phone, eyes to screens.. hmm, maybe look up to swallow that tiny starter, but soon after it’s always back to the frantic typing, the ‘This is work, dear’, the hair twirling and silent airs. Or when I see friends together and neither of them actually… Talk. I remember having my grandparents take my sister and I out when we were younger than the malleable age of 12, and oh goodness, the stuff we talked about! No screen distractions or clouding of words. Just good food, great conversation, and buckets of love and laughter. I, for one, am sometimes guilty of being that annoying phone addict (though I only recently got Snapchat and am still slightly averse to the idea of Twitter). I can’t not take a picture of a great dish when I’m out. However, I recently read an article on the dangers of social media and found it highly intriguing. Two people attempted to totally rid themselves of any form of social media for at least a week, and the result was basically that they reached a new state of being, almost approaching that of enlightenment, having sought and found freedom from the perils of pleasing others with their shiny self profiles. It’s true, isn’t it? Who would post a picture of daily family fights, of aspects of pain or severe depression? Social media really doesn’t reveal one’s true self, nor does it guarantee you a solid network of friends you can always reach out to. I have my close friends, here and (one) overseas, and love how all these platforms help me stay in touch. I realised this fact a while ago, but I felt the point was expertly reinforced in the said article, illuminating how people today define and appreciate relationships.
I’ll start off with Instagram. I joined the platform in 2012, as one of my nascent endeavours to be part of the more ‘normal’ scene, where I could assimilate into the teen crowd and actually be more engaged with my other tech-savvy friends. Instagram really was one of my first few steps; heck, I only got Facebook in 8th Grade. My love for food and baking grew, displayed for the world to see on this one platform. I love how Instagram served to reinforce this love and passion. I met so many wonderful people and reconnected with old buds. How perfect, how engaging… and yet, incredibly dangerous. Most people know me as the amateur food blogger with a few thousand followers on my account (I admit it’s nothing impressive). It started off as nothing, then I started to post what I baked or what I had for breakfast (stereotypical Asian foodie, I apologise). As I gained more followers, I felt the need to impress, the need to enhance my own streak of perfectionism. Is that so bad? In most cases, it’s not. Nothing’s wrong with wanting to improve yourself in a specific field, being spurred along by supportive friends. But after years of being acquainted with my alter ego alexcrumb, I now fully acknowledge the fact that all the likes and comments in the world will never, ever, be able to satisfy any sort of emptiness, or justify a certain passion for something. It really, really doesn’t. Social media is much too glittery and superficial for that. I developed a few of my own posting rules, and hope they continue to keep me on the less obsessive side of things. When I whip something up, I take a few pictures. Then, I put my phone down. Ha, it’s rather weird typing this out; feels like I’m listing rules when really it’s just part of normal routine now. Anyways, voila! That is how my food stays hot. Great perks. I just put the iPhone down and eat or continue a meal I’m having out. Doing this makes me feel so much better about living in general. Trying to attain the highest degree of aesthetic sense is one thing, living in the present is another. Down, phone, down. It’s only later on in the morning or day that I’ll put it through my favourite filter, then post it with some appropriate (or utterly irrelevant) caption. It’s all good fun, but that’s just about it. What’s the point in letting Instagram eat into the rest of my day, perusing, scrutinising other people’s profiles, when I can work, read or talk to people? Instagram is a public, picturesque diary, and I love the occasional snoop, but life would not be half as purposeful or meaningful without the chance to unplug and tune in to your thoughts. In my case, it’s writing a diary, but for some others, it could be drawing, painting or running. Nowadays when I’m out, I won’t necessarily snap everything I eat, or I’ll just take a sneaky few shots, because I know how annoying it must be for the chef to poach eggs and have someone stand like an utter idiot for half an hour just to get the perfect bird’s eye view of all the food on the table. Been there, done that. Too many photos and standing like a rigid scarecrow= cold eggs with hard middles. Who wants that? I’m learning, I’m learning.
So. Back to the recipe I want to share. I must, oh goodness I must. A bit non-sequitur, I know. Whole ricotta pancakes? So like… ricotta cakes? Almost, my friend. Pretty darn close. I came across this wonderful pancake variant on one of my favourite Instagram accounts @ingwervanille, and couldn’t believe the results I yielded whilst experimenting with one short recipe just a few days ago… love how it turned out so well. It is only very slightly adapted, with less flour and the addition of greek yoghurt. If anything represents ‘light as air’, except perhaps a gorgeous cheese soufflé, then this is it. Punctured throughout with gaping holes of air. Light, slightly sweet and tangy at the same time. Ricotta is very mild, but the hot pan, butter and addition of vanilla brought the existent flavour to life. They do take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes because the cheese has to cook through together with the egg, and there’s hardly any flour at all, but it’s worth it. They will turn out incredibly light, golden, with that pretty patched pattern on both (well at least on one) sides. Sometimes, heaven’s on your side.
Whole Ricotta Pancakes (for 2-3)
250g whole milk ricotta (usually one normal tub from the supermarket)
one teaspoon vanilla extract
one tablespoon greek yoghurt (optional, but helps the flavour)
2.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
one teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
Preferable toppings: greek yoghurt, fruit and honey/ butter and maple syrup/ squeeze of lemon, honey and frozen fruit/ nut butter and maple syrup/ the world is your oyster
Preheat your pan on medium heat. Mix all ingredients together, with the exception of the flour, in a medium bowl. This recipe can actually just be done with one bowl and a normal dinner spoon. Using a tablespoon, fold the flour in. If your batter looks too wet to work with, add another half tablespoon of flour. 2.5 tablespoons worked just fine for me, but adjust according to what you see. The batter should be pale and wet, with expected clumps of ricotta. It’s all good.
Butter your pan. Using the same spoon, dollop clumps of batter onto the pan. Make mini coins or large round ones. Whatever you fancy. Wait for bubbles to appear around the sides and in the middle. Once bubbles are visible in the middle, wait a little while longer, for at this point they are still pretty fragile. After around 4-5 minutes, check the underside. Yours might take a little shorter, so just check and see. Once you are able to slide your spatula under the whole underside of a pancake, do a quick flip and cook the other side. The other side takes much shorter to cook, around 1-2 minutes. Layer the pancakes on a kitchen towel to absorb excess grease or moisture, or just serve immediately on plates.
This, dear foodies, takes 10 minutes to make, and just a little longer to cook. Dead. Easy.
A few people have requested this recipe, so I’ll quickly post it to prevent any unwanted snags at my feet a little later. The thing is, I never make pancakes a whole lot, which probably sounds like sacrilege to most. I then came across the quaintest, most moreish-looking recipe for lemon ricotta hot cakes on the website whiteonricecouple.com, in other words the most beautfiful food photography blog ever? And ok, I actually came across it two months ago. So yes, it’s been a whole two months before I decided to whisk some butter and sugar together for the sake of following it. God, it’s a beaut. I followed the original recipe once, but the second time I made a few adjustments.
These hotcakes, or mini silver dollar pancakes if you will, are oddly tender due to the quick-whisked egg whites in the batter (don’t fret! This part takes 30 seconds at most! I swear my life on it) and whole-milk ricotta and milk. Yes, you need good, whole milk for this. None of the almond or soy stuff, no matter how nourishing that feels later on. It’s a Sunday.
Ricotta Pancakes (serves 2-3)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2.5 tablespoons sugar
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
0.5 teaspoon nutmeg/cinnamon
0.5 tablespoons baking powder (I like decimal places, if you cannot already tell)
1.25 cup whole milk ricotta
0.5 cup milk
2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
butter for cooking
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg/cinnamon (I didn’t have fresh nutmeg so I just used cinnamon) and baking powder for at least 30 seconds.
Separate the eggs and put whites aside.
In a medium bowl containing the egg yolks you just extracted from those beautiful fresh eggs you just cracked, whisk in the ricotta, milk and vanilla extract. Lots of vanilla. Yum yum.
Immediately fold the dry ingredients in and do NOT overmix. Mix until just combined and set aside.
Whisk the egg whites by hand until foamy. I urge you to do it by hand because this step takes no time at all and why would I want you to whip out those dreaded electronic whisks for extra cleaning later on? Come on now.
Pour the translucent whites into the batter you set aside and mix until just combined once more. Don’t be thorough with this batter, it does its job when you’re more laid back.
Cook on a medium hot pan with a thin film of unsalted butter. It takes around 2 minutes a side. Flip when you see mini bubbles forming on the surface.
Serve with butter and maple syrup (smashed berries and jam if you want) because that’s all you really need for this darn brilliant recipe.
Take a fork, cut a nice triangle in the stack, or of two if you’re polite, and enjoy with a cup of good coffee.
Make a mental note to make these again in the near future.