I’ve been doing quite a bit of pancake experimentation lately. I’d rarely made them at home before a few months ago. I never order them at restaurants, with the exception of going to IHOP in high school after water polo practice and choosing them over toast to accompany my omelet. But suddenly, I’ve added yeasted, beer, spelt, banana bread, and now cornmeal varieties to my repertoire.
My dad would sometimes make pancakes on weekend mornings from a faded recipe card. But the thing that stands out most is that he would make a “blanket cake” — a pancake big enough to cover most of a dinner plate — to keep the rest warm while he finished the batch. For all I know, though, it only happened once. It’s a distant memory. I’m sure they were good but they didn’t inspire particular pancake allegiance. I don’t remember seeing my parents or brother eat one in the last ten years.
These simple cornmeal pancakes caught my attention because they don’t contain flour. You pour boiling water over the cornmeal, so it softens and absorbs the water, before adding milk to make a batter. The result is closer to polenta than fluffy pancakes, with a delicate corn flavor and slight crunch.
The strawberries at the grocery store finally turned the requisite shade of red for me to make my first tentative purchase of the year. They were good enough for me to eat quite a few of them straight from the basket as soon as I got home, but not so good that I hesitated to throw the rest in the oven. Roasting the berries with a little honey and vanilla made them soft and jammy, barely holding together in their syrupy juice.
Lemon curd whipped cream is the top contender to become my go-to dessert accompaniment for spring and summer. Light, creamy, with a subtle lemon bite — I could eat it with a spoon.
These pancakes are perfect for a weekend brunch. The combination of sweet cornmeal, strawberries, and lemon tastes like spring. And even though they may look like a serious upgrade to traditional pancakes and maple syrup, they take very little extra time of effort.
You can roast the strawberries in advance or throw them in the oven while you make the pancakes. If you want to make your own lemon curd, which you totally should if you can plan that far ahead, it will need to chill for at least an hour but can be made days in advance. I’ve included the super simple recipe I use below.
Adapted from Mark Bittman
- 1 ½ cups fine cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for cooking
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4-1/2 cup milk
Stir together cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the cornmeal, stir, and let the mixture sit until all the water is absorbed and it’s extremely thick, about 10 minutes. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring after the first minute, to help it along if your cornmeal isn’t absorbing the water.
Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Add milk, a little at a time, until the batter is spreadable but thick. Mine needed about 1/4 cup, but it will depend on your cornmeal.
Heat a large pan or griddle over medium heat. Brush with melted butter and spoon in batter, 2-3 tablespoons per pancake, to make as many as will comfortably fit in the pan. Cook until the underside is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side browns, 1-2 minutes.
Transfer pancakes to a low oven to keep warm until you finish cooking the rest and are ready to serve.
Honey-Vanilla Roasted Strawberries
- 1 pound strawberries
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Hull and cut strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on their size. On a baking pan, toss the strawberries with the honey and vanilla. Arrange in a single layer and bake until the berries darken and become soft, 15-30 minutes. The longer they cook, the more they will fall apart.
Lemon Curd Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup lemon curd (store-bought or see recipe below)
- 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the lemon curd and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Taste and add more powdered sugar, to taste.
Easy Lemon Curd
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from two lemons)
- ½ cup lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the curd is thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk, about 6 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.