Whether it’s polenta, cornbread, spoonbread, grits, johnny cakes or cornmeal pancakes– I love the taste and texture of cornmeal.
In Berkeley, Zak and Tara introduced me to a great breakfast cafe called Meal Ticket, which makes terrific buttermilk cornmeal pancakes.
At home I tried to replicate the recipe by taking my regular hotcake recipe and replacing some of the flour with cornmeal. Results were disappointing…. Just not as tender or corn-y (I sense a country-western song coming on).
Then I came across a technique of making a kind of cornmeal mush, which is then added to the pancake batter. This makes the pancakes nice and moist, and I added a little uncooked cornmeal for texture.
I’m usually reluctant to whip egg whites, as that extra step is a bit of a bother. You could just make the cornmeal pancakes with whole eggs, and they would still be good, I’m sure. The recipe below is still in progress, so if you try it with more uncooked cornmeal or whole eggs or some other adjustment that you think is good, please let me know.
But as to that extra step of whipping the egg whites– it’s really what makes these cakes so light and, well, heavenly, that I think it’s really worth it. For a special occasion, anyway. Like a Sunday morning.
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons medium-grind cornmeal
- 1 – 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk*
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup white or whole wheat pastry flour*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 egg whites, beaten till stiff but not dry
Slowly pour 1/2 cup of cornmeal into 1 cup of boiling water in a small pan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly and put in a large bowl.
Add buttermilk and melted butter to the cornmeal mixture and whisk till smooth.
In another bowl, mix dry ingredients — flour, 2 tablespoons cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add these to the cornmeal mixture.
Gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
* Note — You may find that you need a little less than 1 cup of flour. If the batter seems too thick, add more buttermilk.
Cook large pancakes (about 5 or 6 inches across) in a little butter or oil or combination. Top with butter if you like, and warm maple syrup. Serve them the way they do at Meal Ticket, with some chopped fruit on top or on the side.