Growing up, part of our weekend routine included my mom’s pancakes. My brothers and I loved the way she made them, stacked up high with a pat of butter on top and clear syrup dripping down to the plate. We would watch her cook them, eagerly awaiting the bubbles to form on top, signaling that it was time to flip. We would tease my brother, and laugh about how the dimple on one side of his cheek resembled a bubble on the pancake. Then, we would eat our breakfast, all together as a family, before we were all off in different directions – my parents shuttling my brothers to their Little League games and me to my organ lesson or to the library.
Looking back, I’m not sure if it was the pancakes we loved or if it really was the time we spent together. After all, we found out later that she just used the recipe on the back of the Bisquick box. I didn’t even know what maple syrup was until I was much older because all we had at home was Karo syrup.
As much as I loved the simplicity of my mom’s pancakes, now that I’m all grown up, I prefer something a little fancier, like these ones flavored with orange zest and ricotta cheese from chef Bobby Flay. They involve a little extra effort, but are definitely worth it. These pancakes are light and fluffy, due to stiff egg whites being folded gently into the batter. Yet, at the same time, they are rich and filling, due to the addition of ricotta cheese.
I wanted something seasonal, yet different, to top my pancakes, so I knew exactly what to do when I saw the season’s first kumquats at the farmers market. These little sweet and sour beauties, the size and shape of a large olive, belong to the genus Fortunella, which is a relative of the citrus. Some varieties have actually been hybridized with many types of citrus. However, unlike citrus fruits, kumquats have edible smooth and shiny rinds. They are eaten whole, peel and all, minus the tiny seeds. Their mild, sweet rinds are the perfect contrast to their pungent, tart pulps. They make great jams and marmalades, especially when combined with other fruits like oranges and cranberries.
To make the compote, I “candied” the kumquats by cooking them in sugar, water, vanilla paste and orange liqueur until they were soft and the resulting syrup had thickened slightly. To cut the sweetness, I added a little candied ginger, which also gave it a little zing.
Orange Ricotta Pancakes with Kumquat and Candied Ginger Compote
Yields 2 to 3 servings
For the pancakes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
3/4 cup whole milk
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
butter or nonstick cooking spray, for cooking
powdered sugar, for garnish
candied ginger, chopped, for garnish
For the compote
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon candied ginger, or more, to taste, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1 whole vanilla bean, seeds removed or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups kumquat, cut in half and flesh removed
1/2 cup clementine or tangerine, peeled and segmented
Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest and whisk until smooth.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff.
Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta/egg yolk mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Whisk in a small amount of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
Heat a cast-iron griddle or large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Brush with butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle in about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan and cook the pancakes for 3 or 4 minutes. Flip, and cook the other side until golden brown. Stack desired number of pancakes and serve topped with the Kumquat and Candied Ginger Compote (recipe follows). Dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle chopped candied ginger.
For the compote: Combine the sugar, water, candied ginger, orange liqueur, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Add the kumquats and orange segments and cook, stirring frequently, until the fruit softens and the syrup thickens, about 5 minutes.
Orange Ricotta Pancakes adapted from Bobby Flay, as seen in Brunch with Bobby (Cooking Channel)
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