I learned how to cook in my grandmother’s kitchen, making the thing she made that I loved best: pancakes. I don’t have the recipe and if there was one, it was not written down. She would add all the ingredients to her bowl while I stood on a stool next to her, holding her electric mixer and beating egg whites until they were light and stiff. She taught me how to fold them in, and explained why this was such an important step. It holds all the air, she said. It makes them fluffy.
I didn’t really see how that worked, since the egg whites were gone when you folded them in, but I remembered the lesson even as the years went on and I took the inevitable shortcut: pancake mix. Just add water.
When I found myself with leftover Squash and Apple Compote, which just cried out to be served as part of a brunch, it occurred to me that pancakes from a mix just wouldn’t do, so I pulled out my 1940’s era pamphlet of Kate Smith’s Favorite Recipes, and found her pancake recipe, which folds in egg whites at the end, the way my grandmother and I used to. So, Mr. Faraway went to work beating egg whites, spilling egg whites, and then successfully beating a second batch of them into stiff peaks, while I assembled the remaining ingredients.
In a very hot, lightly oiled griddle pan, these pancakes cook up almost as light as air, or as Mr. Faraway pointed out, as light as angel cake, which was my other favorite thing from my grandmother’s repertoire. The outside browned perfectly and stayed crisp. The pancakes didn’t have much taste to them, making them the perfect vehicle for pretty much anything sweet you might want to add – syrup, fruit compote, whatever. They are not good on their own for the same reason.
- 1 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
- 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
- Sift flour once, measure, then add baking powder and salt, and sift again.
- Combine egg yolks and milk; add gradually to flour, beating only until smooth.
- Add melted butter. Fold in egg whites.
- Cook on a hot, greased griddle or frying pan. Makes about 10 griddle cakes.