I used to thrive on change, even created it if need be, just so I could shake my life up a bit. But over time I settled into patterns, thinking consistency was better for my peace of mind, and that of those around me. Life as a popcorn kernel ricocheting off the lid of a pot over high heat isn’t restful for anyone, no matter how exciting all it all appears to be at the time.
As I deliberated on making these pumpkin pancakes this week, the old pull to shake things up raised its flirtatious head. I love pancakes with their pillow-soft texture, and slight chewiness as I bite into them, but frankly I settled into a way of making them long ago – down to my favorite well-seasoned griddle. I have rules. They must feature lemon zest and some kind of berry, a tradition that started in my cramped kitchen in college. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, all fair game. Banana or pumpkin, no thank you.
But it’s Autumn, and the pumpkin seduction is on. They’re everywhere right now: in chili, muffins, cookies, and yes – pancakes. Photos abound in all my food magazines of little harvest moons stacked on a plate, with maple syrup and melted butter drizzling down their sides to form a sweet pool.
I felt the shift, a tentative movement at first, a letting go. Once I embraced the idea, it became easy to change a few more ingredients. I played with different flours and sweeteners. Before I knew it, I found myself sliding headlong into a complete transformation of my trusted recipe. With abandon I added spices, and then some cream cheese, nixed it, and scooped in some ricotta instead. I separated the eggs and whipped up the whites to a frothy foam. Three versions later, I sat down to fluffy, soft pancakes that tasted like Fall; a pumpkin spice cake drizzled with syrup and butter that melted in my mouth. Change is good.
It may be a long time before I make pancakes with zest and berries again.
Pumpkin Ricotta Pancakes
These pancakes are fluffy from the whipped egg whites, and taste like a pumpkin spiced cake in Autumn. This recipe can be made with 100% all-purpose flour, but I encourage you to split the flour to include buckwheat flour. Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to the wheat family, and is completely gluten-free. It's packed with nutrition, a terrific source of protein, and has a nutty flavor.
- 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) buckwheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (approximately 1 orange)
- 2 extra large eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade B
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree from a can or make your own
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and orange zest. Set aside.
- Separate the egg yolk from the egg white into two separate bowls. The yolk should be in a medium-large bowl. Whisk the yolk together with the maple syrup, buttermilk, melted butter, pumpkin, ricotta, and vanilla extract until completely combined.
- Add the dry mixture in thirds to the wet, and gently whisk together until a batter forms.
- Using a hand-held mixer, whip the egg whites to medium-firm stiffness. If you dip a beater into the frothy whites, and turn it upside down, the peak should droop just a little and hold. Fold the egg whites into the batter in halves using a spatula. There should be occasional pieces of egg white visible in the batter.
- Heat a griddle over medium heat. Melt a little butter on the griddle and pour the batter to form 4" pancakes. They will spread just a little, and this size is comfortable for flipping. Don't flip the pancakes until the sides are visibly firming up, and multiple holes appear in the batter, about 3 - 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute.
- Repeat until all the of the batter is cooked.
- Serve with butter and maple syrup.