Banana pancakes to savor for brunch

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I like to take my time getting up on weekends, when my cat lets me, and making a big breakfast before starting my day. I usually go for omelets or silver dollar pancakes, but sometimes I like to try something new.

I had a couple bananas ripening on my counter last week, but wasn’t in the mood to make banana bread. So I transformed them into these banana pancakes from Williams-Sonoma. Of course, just reading the recipe got Jack Johnson’s “banana pancakes” song stuck in my head, so I had to dig it up to play while I got to work in the kitchen. It set the tone for a lazy Sunday.

These were the best banana pancakes I’ve ever made. They were fluffy and — because I chose not to completely mash the fruit — had tiny chunks of banana in them. I used almond milk because I didn’t have regular milk on hand and it worked surprisingly well.

I cut the recipe in half since I was only cooking for myself and it made six pancakes, so I had them for two breakfasts. They were beyond delicious both times.

So get your Sunday started right by heading to the kitchen and making a batch of these pancakes. You’ll be glad you did.

Ingredients
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use 2 teaspoons if at high altitude)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small, very ripe banana, peeled
1 cup milk (almond milk can also be used)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maple syrup for serving
Sliced bananas for serving

Cut the butter into 3 equal pieces. Put 2 of the butter pieces in a small saucepan and set the remaining piece aside. Set the pan over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a pot holder, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix with a fork until well blended.

Put the banana in a small bowl. Mash with a fork until almost smooth. Add the milk, eggs and vanilla and stir with the fork until well blended. Pour the banana mixture and the melted butter into the flour mixture. Mix gently with a rubber spatula until the batter is just blended. The batter should still be a little bit lumpy.

Put a griddle over medium heat until hot. To test if the griddle is hot enough, flick a drop of water onto it. It is ready if the drop dances quickly and evaporates. Put half of the remaining butter onto the griddle and spread it with a metal spatula. Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the griddle, spacing them about 3 inches apart.

Cook until a few holes form on top of each pancake and the underside is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully slide the metal spatula under each pancake and turn it over. Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the top is puffed, 1 to 2 minutes more. Using the spatula, transfer the pancakes to a serving plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the pancakes while still hot with maple syrup and sliced bananas. Makes 12 4-inch pancakes.

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Not your average baked potato

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Baked potatoes are good, but sometimes twice-baked potatoes are better. This was the first recipe I tried from the Williams-Sonoma Cookbook that my brother bought me for my birthday a few years ago. It’s probably one of the more decadent baked potato recipes you’ll ever make. One of these could be a meal in itself, but they also go well with salmon or steak.

I like this recipe because it’s straightforward, and the ingredients are something most people have on hand. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, it’s easy to substitute or just do without. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled, depending on the number of people you’re serving.

The one warning I have is that the cheese can make it oily after it bakes. I recommend either using less cheese or using a harder, aged cheddar instead. If you don’t like cheddar, you can use whatever you’d like.

IngredientsTwicebakedpotatoes2
4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves rinsed well
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup firmly packed shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until the shallot is translucent, about three minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the spinach, and toss until wilted but still bright green, about four minutes. Transfer the spinach mixture to a sieve set over a bowl and press all the liquid out of the spinach.Twicebakedpotatoes3

Using a serrated knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off one long side of each potato and discard. Scoop out the potato flesh into a bowl, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Add the sour cream, salt, pepper and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the potato flesh and mash with a potato masher to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup of the cheese and then the spinach. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, mounding it high. Press the remaining cheese on top of the filling.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a small knife into a potato and leave it there for about 15 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade; if it is hot, the potatoes are ready. Serve immediately. Serves 4.