Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Morning After

Cultural differences come swiftly into focus when we are at our most pathetic-- when we're tired or really hungry and just want something familiar. It becomes clear very quickly is that what is comfortable and familiar for one person might possible be weird and completely inappropriate for another. Around noon after a very late night a couple of months ago, I came into the kitchen wanting pancakes, which for me are most appropriate either late at night or on weekend morning. And I thought everyone would want pancakes, what is there possibly not to like about pancakes on a Sunday morning(ish) after you went to bed at 6? But no, suggestions of pancakes were met with a "gracias pero solo quiero desayuno colombiano y despues dormir" (thanks but I just want a Colombian breakfast and to sleep) from the half-awake hoard of Colombians who had just gotten back from an asado (barbeque) that had gone so late everyone ending up falling asleep on the floor. A pot of rice was already simmering on the stove and tomatoes and onions were being chopped up to make a guiso (a tomato and onion concoction that goes into almost everything Colombian) for the eggs. I thought, these people are nuts, who makes rice from scratch under these circumstances?

At any rate I wanted pancakes (I of course find it completely reasonable to make pancakes under these circumstances), and I wanted my American pancakes, not what are called panqueques here, which are closer to what we would call crepes. I wanted fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and bananas and quite possibly chocolate chips, but unfortunately maple syrup is impossible to come by here, and there were neither bananas nor chocolate in the house. But these are seriously the tenderest, lightest pancakes ever, and even without maple syrup I will eat them happily. And they don't have that awful aftertaste of Bisquick pancakes, which I know a lot of people adore but which I can always taste when I order pancakes in the states in a cheap diner. As far as the topping goes, for those of us who currently don't have access to maple syrup, a bit of sugar and butter, caramelized together and then sauteed with any fruit, but especially bananas, is clearly not the same as maple syrup but works quite well.

All-American Fluffy Pancakes

1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour 
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. buttermilk, or 2 scant cups milk (2% or whole) mixed with 2 Tbsp. white or apple cider vinegar and left to sour while you gather all the rest of your ingredients together
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated (if your eggs are from the fridge, place them in a bowl with hot water for a couple of minutes to warm them up. Hot, not boiling, unless you want egg salad pancakes.)
optional but wonderful: chopped dark chocolate and grated coconut or bananas and pecans

Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a cast iron skillet, heat the butter until it´s melted, then pour almost all of it into a bowl with the buttermilk and egg yolks and stir well. Return the skillet to the burner and leave it on medium-low heat. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt all together into the buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. If the batter seems very thin, fold in a bit more flour-- I sometimes need more due to the humidity and variations in flour. Fold in the egg whites.
Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet, and when bubbles start to form on the surface and the edges begin to look dry, flip the pancake with a spatula. If you want to throw in chopped chocolate or anything else, sprinkle it on top as soon as you pour in the batter, and if it's chocolate make sure the pieces aren't protruding too much or they will burn when you flip the pancake over (if you have banana slices this is a good thing- you want the surfaces exposed so that they will caramelize.) Cook another minute or so until light brown, then remove to a plate and move on to your next pancake. You might have to experiment with the heat to get it just right-- you want the bottom to be golden brown when it's time to flip the pancake over. Stack the pancakes so they keep each other warm.
Eat them with maple syrup, coffee, orange juice and bacon if you're feeling really American.

Los panqueques (pancakes) gringos son esponjosos y tiernos, y se comen normalmente con miel de maple. Aca no se consigue facilmente la miel de maple, que me hace mucha falta, pero en vez de eso uno puede comerlos con miel o con una salsa hecha de fruta caramelizada con mantequilla, azucar y una pizca de sal (eso funciona muy bien con los bananos.)

Panqueques a la Gringa

1 1/2 -2 tazas de harina de trigo blanco (tipo 000)
2 cucharaditas de bicarbonato de soda
3/4 de una cucharadita de sal
2 tazas de suero de leche, o leche cortada, o 2 tazas de leche mezcladas con 2 cucharadas de vinagre de vino blanco o de manzana, y las dejas cuajar por 10 minutos
6 cucharadas de mantequilla
2 huevos, a la temperatura ambiente, separando las yemas de las claras (golpea el huevo en el borde de un bol y pasa la yema entre las dos mitades de la cascara, dejando la clara caer en el bol)
opcional pero muy rico: chocolate picado y coco rallado o banano con nueces

Bate las claras hasta el punto de nieve. En una sarten de hierro fundido o de otro tipo con fondo grueso calienta la mantequilla hasta que se derrita, despues echala casi toda en un bol con el suero de leche y las yemas y mezclalo todo. Devuelve el sarten al fuego y dejalo calentar sobre un fuego medio-bajo. Coloca la harina, el bicarbonato y la sal juntos y tamizalos sobre la mezcla del suero de leche y revuelvelos suavemente pero no demasiado. Si la masa te parece muy liquida, incorpora un poco mas harina. Incorpora las claras con delicadeza.
Echa 1/4 de taza de masa en la sarten, y cuando salgan burbujas y los bordes empiecen a secar, voltea el panqueque con una pala. Si quieres echar chocolate picado o cualquier otra cosa salpicala encima apenas que eches la masa, y si es chocolate fijate que los pedazos no esten saliendo tanto porque cuando voltees el panqueque se van a quemar, por el contrario si estas echando tajadas de banano es bueno que salgan de la masa, para que las superficies expuestas se caramelicen. Cocinalo otro minuto o hasta que el otro lado este dorado, ponlo en un plato, y sigue haciendo el mismo proceso con los demas. De pronto vas a tener que experimentar con el fuego-- el fondo debe ser dorado cuando el panqueque esta listo para voltear. Apila los panqueques para que se queden calienticos.
Comelos con miel de maple, jugo de naranja, cafe y tocineta si te sientes muy gringo.

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