Pancakes, Pals and Peace for Whitney

February 12, 2012

This snowy, cold, gray, pre-Valentine’s Day Sunday was only meant to be a brunch for bringing friends together.  The line up included my special someone (of special pancake flipping importance on this brunching Sunday), the lovelies who gather around my table quite frequently, my old friend and Brazilian host, Thiago, and Omar, my new neighbor/the man who gave me my bakery experience.  That snowy Sunday was only meant to be what most great Sundays are meant to be:  good food, good laughs, good coffee, good friends, good memories.  This Sunday brunch was all of those, but it also took on an historical importance based on the events of Saturday afternoon/evening.

Nina texted me a seemingly random question, “can we listen to Whitney [Houston] during brunch tomorrow?”  I hypothesized maybe this choice was the next logical step after my Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou musical selections, but I still asked why she would make such a request.  “She just died a few hours ago.”  Thus this Sunday brunch came to include the pancakes and pals, as planned, and a WHOLE LOT OF WHITNEY!  We literally listened to Whitney for hours, and I had a nagging desire to watch The Bodyguard the entire time.  Rest in peace!

Omar said he was craving pancakes.  I’m always in the mood for brunch foods that absorb maple syrup, but this specific brunch request highlights my odd kitchen flaw:  I suck at flipping!  Luckily, I have a partner in pancakes, and I swear, I do like him for more than his pancake flipping abilities (though, that is a pretty strong reason for liking someone).

Running a bit behind schedule (let’s be real, we were clearly in the all out “lunch” portion of the day, but I stand by the “brunch” categorization) meant whipped cream beaters for the licking.  The pinks and reds were a nod to Valentine’s day, and those bows were an homage to Whitney herself!

The final additions came to the table while the expert flipped the last pancakes.  I made a bright orange side of roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and spices.  The coffee was hot, and the drinks were about to be bubbling.

Appropriately enough, it was Thiago’s aunt who introduce me to the little touch of fancy a cinnamon stick can bring to a coffee.  Gingerbread can bring a little touch of the sentimental if you shape it just right…

A Rosy Salad

Roasted beets
Grapefruit
Blood orange
Fresh sprigs of mint, chopped

Serve with chocolate balsamic dressing, which I first served as part of a Swedish accented brunch and more importantly, that chocolaty sauce also pairs really well with pancakes!

Organic Pomegranate & Cranberry Sparkling Sodas + Prosecco and a slice of lemon because the cocktail is clearly prettier that way.

Whole-Wheat Cranberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Homemade Whipped Cream

Cranberry Sauce Pancake Filling

Ingredients

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
Fresh juice from 2 small lemons
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
cinnamon
nutmeg

For the Cranberry Sauce

Combine the cranberries, wine, water, lemon juice and zest in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to heat until cranberries begin to pop.

Add the brown sugar and spices.

Continue to simmer until mixture thickens.

Allow to cool.

Drain and reserve liquid. Add cranberry sauce liquid to pure maple syrup to serve with the pancakes.

Whole-wheat Cranberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups organic yellow cornmeal (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup organic light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups soured milk*
1 Tablespoon almond extract
1 stick organic, unsalted butter, browned
**Cranberry Sauce (recipe above)
Pure maple syrup + reserved cranberry sauce liquid

*This is another practice I gleaned from my mom.  Rather than waste some milk you wouldn’t drink, bake with it.  In the event you have managed your milk consumption in a timely fashion, you can use regular milk or buttermilk for extra flavor.  

For the Panckaes

Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, four, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Add milk, almond extract and the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Beat until smooth.

Mix in browned butter, and then stir in the cranberry sauce.

Add 1/2 tablespoon melted butter to large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet, spacing apart.

Cook pancakes until golden brown on bottom and some bubbles begin to break around edges, about 2 minutes.

Turn pancakes over; cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.

Repeat with remaining batter, adding more melted butter by 1/2 tablespoonfuls to skillet as necessary.

Serve pancakes with cranberry sauce maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Whipped Cream
(this goes quickly!) 

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use.

The Jono Cakes Special (left):  Dollop of Whipped Cream + Chocolate Balsamic Sauce
The Quelcy Cakes Special (right):  Dollop of Whipped Cream + Cranberry Maple Syrup (I am sincerely addicted to excessive quantities of pure maple syrup)

Apparently Nina and Deanna had done extensive Whitney research the night before via youTube.  This led to Nina trying to portray Whitney’s rather emaciated stages.  Without any disrespect, that impression led to quite the comedic outbreak.  Time for Omar and Thiago’s initiation to the With The Grains Brunch Tradition… bring on the GIF FILE!!!  There’s also some magic, since Jono had to leave early and Deanna came a bit late.  GIF Magic!

Another round of coffee, conversation and lots of laughter…

Whitney Houston
We will always love you!
August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012 

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