Monday, July 7, 2008

stones and pits

One day last spring I visited some friends who happen to run an incredible organic farm in Pennsylvania. After a brisk evening camping on the grounds I was treated to some the best blueberry-oatmeal pancakes and the most welcome cup of coffee a frozen camper could ever appreciate. That one breakfast initiated a chain of blueberry pancake weekends that saw me through the whole season. I still haven't quite got the craving out of my system and just might not be sure if I'm hungry for the pancakes or simply wistful and nostalgic. Isn't it amazing how good company can make something so simple transcendent?

While blueberries are abundant for the time being, the following recipe takes advantage of two of the season's other specialties: yellow peaches and sweet cherries. My *appreciation* of cherries of all kinds is well documented among those who know me, so it might not be too much of a surprise that I post a recipe or two here including this most loved fruit. And who wouldn't love a sunny bowl of yellow peaches and blushing Rainier cherries with their breakfast? So, in nostalgia and hunger I offer this recipe:

Corncakes Two Ways: Yellow Peach and Sweet Cherry Compote and Butter and Maple Syrup
(I adapted the recipe for Corncakes from the cornmeal pancake recipe on the package of the highly regarded Bob's Red Mill Medium Grind Cornmeal)

Makes about 8 corncakes


For the Corncakes:

1/2 C. boiling water
1/2 C. plus 2 Tb. cornmeal (medium grind, preferably, such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 C. plus 2 Tb. buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 C. whole wheat flour (I most often use King Arthur flours)
1/4 C. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 Tb. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 Tb. granulated sugar (brown sugar might work well also)
2 Tb. corn oil, plus more for the pan

In a small bowl sift together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, pour boiling water over cornmeal and whisk until thick. Add buttermilk, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg. Add the flour mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir in the oil.
Heat a skillet or gridle over medium heat (add a little oil, if your pan is not non-stick) and pour batter by small ladle-fulls onto the hot skillet. The batter will be thin and the cakes will not puff up as much as regular pancakes. When small bubbles begin to appear and pop on the surface (about 1-3 minutes), carefully flip the cakes over and cook another 1-2 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from the skillet and place on a plate lined with a paper towl. Serve warm with Yellow Peach and Sweet Cherry Compote or the classic butter and maple syrup.

Yellow Peach and Sweet Cherry Compote
(double this recipe to have enough compote for all 8 corncakes in the previous recipe)


1 medium yellow peach (slightly underripe is fine), peeled* and cut into quarters and then into thirds (12 slices altogether)
1-2 handfuls sweet cherries (Rainier's are quite nice if you can find them, but any sweet variety will be delicious), pitted and sliced into quarters
1 Tb. granulated sugar
1 Tb. water
1/2 small pat of butter (optional)

Heat fruit, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until fruit begins to soften and water and sugar thicken - about 5 minutes. If desired, finish with butter: Add butter to fruit mixture and continue to stir until melted)

*The easiet way I know to peel a peach is to drop the whole peach into a pot of rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water just until the peach is cool enough to handle - the skin will peel away easily at your fingertips. However, as I was only using one peach in this recipe I just cut the peel away with a paring knife.)

**If your fruit is very ripe, cooking is not necessary. Simply slice the fruit and place in a bowl with a little bit of sugar (to suit your tastes) and let sit 30 minutes or so to release the juices.

Butter and Maple Syrup

Well, this is obvious and self-explanitory, but there is something really scrumptious in the combination of salty butter, sticky-sweet syrup and satisfying cornmeal. Just a suggestion with the syrup: the aforementioned farm friends introduced me to Grade B maple syrup for pancakes. If you can find it, it really does have more of that maple-y flavor.

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