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Cornmeal and Currant Pancakes & Paul Bunyan’s Flapjacks

Posted By Lynne On September 7, 2010 @ 10:27 pm In Breakfast and Brunch, Comfort Food | 11 Comments

The first pancakes I ever ate were Swedish pancakes made by my Scandinavian mother and grandmother. Every October when my dad and his buddy went off duck hunting for the weekend, we would have a pancake feast. Swedish pancakes are big thin eggy things that we slathered with lots of butter and sugar, and folded in quarters. The butter melted and formed this buttery, sugary syrup that dripped all over. So good.

I grew up in Minneapolis and pancakes played a big role in the tall tales told about the famous Minnesota lumberjack folk hero, Paul Bunyan. It seems Paul’s kitchen covered about ten miles of territory in the north woods. His stove was an acre long, taller than a pine tree and when fired up it melted the snow for 20 miles around. The way I heard it told, Paul could eat 50 pancakes a minute.

S.E. Schlosser at americanfolklore.net tells it well: “It was quite a site to see that cook of Paul Bunyan’s making flapjacks. Cookie would send four of the boys up with a side of hog tied to each of their snow shoes, and they’d skate around up there keeping the griddle greased while Cookie and seven other men flipped flapjacks for Paul Bunyan. Took about an hour to make enough flapjacks to fill him up. The rest of us had to wait our turn.”

Yep, I grew up on these stories. In fact, I think it was in third grade, we did a big mural about giant Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox, which included those big pancakes.

I have been thinking about all the forms of pancakes I have eaten in my life, and you know what, there are quite a few. Hotcakes, griddlecakes, flapjacks, johnnycakes. Crepes filled with creamy seafood or bananas and caramel sauce. Buckwheat blini with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Blintzes with ricotta and strawberry jam. Latkes with butter and apple sauce. I think every culture and cuisine on the planet has a savory and sweet version of the pancake. And who has not eaten at an IHOP at least once in their life.

So here is one of my renditions of the pancake, made with plain yogurt and currants. I like the way they stay thick and substantial. And next time I make these to photograph, I’m going to freeze the syrup so it drips languidly down the side in food styling grandeur. Thank you, Denise.

Cornmeal, Yogurt and Currant Pancakes

Serves 4

1 cup all-purpose four
½ cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried currants, soaked in warm water or brandy 10 minutes, drained
1 ¼ cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs
½ stick butter, melted

1. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, then stir in the currants.

2. In another bowl, stir together the yogurt and eggs with a fork, then stir into flour mixture with the melted butter, just until incorporated. (Don’t forget the butter)

3. Heat a lightly greased large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat until hot. Pour ¼-cup measures of batter into skillet in batches, forming 3 ½-inch cakes. Cook about 3 minutes until golden, then turn and cook 1 more minute, or until golden.

4. Keep warm in 250 degree oven if desired while cooking remaining cakes.

5. Serve griddle cakes with warm syrup.

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