So we were here, talking about what we want to make our moms for Mother’s Day brunch. Right away, Ruth said, “Quiche,” because that’s what her mother actually wanted three decades ago and what, to this day, she still makes in her memory. Whitney said, “English muffins,” on account of her and her mother’s love of a restaurant where the English muffins are the size of your forearm, diving boards of hollandaise sauce for their Eggs Benedict.
But I didn’t know what I’d make for my Ma. You see, most of my breakfast memories from childhood were of her feeding me. Her making sure I got my breakfast at the kitchen table while she filled my lunchbox, which I would forget, causing her to chase down the school bus in her bathrobe. Weekends, when she’d take me where I’d want to go. Half the time, it would be the IHOP, which decades later would I realize she actually didn’t like because of her distaste for big, floppy, American-sweet things. Of course, within minutes of our arrival, my brothers and I would be stuffing our faces, ignoring her. What I’m saying is: I don’t remember what she ate.
But over the years, I’ve figured out some things about what Ma likes. She prefers her sweets subdued, subtle in their sugar. She believes the French sensibility of lightness to be the classiest of pastry aspects. She loves her food hot, hotter than most mortals can physically handle, let alone enjoy.
And so, thinking back to those Jersey-fall mornings at the pancake house, how many sickly syrupy mornings she gave up for us, I think what I should do is make her the best, lightest, subtlest, hottest pancakes I know.
Marion Cunningham’s Heavenly Hots, from The Breakfast Book, are those pancakes. She describes them as “seeming to hover over the plate,” and they really, truly, are astonishingly light. They go in your mouth and disappear, as if they are just a ghost, an idea of pancake-ness. They cook in seconds, so to serve them at their hottest, at their absolute best, have your guests hang out with you right by the stove and feed them to them the moment they come off the heat.
That’s how I’d like to serve brunch to my Ma. And maybe I’ll have a lunchbox of sandwiches ready for her after.
Bridge Creek Heavenly Hots
Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book
(makes 50-60 dollar-size pancakes, serves 2-4 people)
You’ll do a double take when you read the ingredients, but yes: You read them right.
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup cake flour
2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
Clarified butter or vegetable oil, as needed to film pan
Make the mix: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients (but not the oil) and whisk together. If you do this in a blender, you’ll incorporate more air into the pancakes, but can you handle that much lightness?
Get the pan hot: If you have a griddle, now’s the time to bust it out. Otherwise, use the widest frying pan you have. Nonstick is nice, but not necessary. Heat it over medium heat until quite hot but well below smoking.
Cook: Add a thin film of oil or clarified butter to the pan – almost just brushing it on. For neatness’s sake, hold the mixing bowl over the pan and pour spoonfuls of the batter onto the surface, enough to spread in 2½-inch pancakes (Just about a tablespoon.) When you see bubbles on the top of the cakes, flip gently (I like to use one of those super thin, super small metal cake spatulas) and cook for just another few seconds until the surface sets and turns a light golden. If you're having trouble flipping them, just don't worry about it. Do it with confidence. And that tiny thin spatula really helps. Serve immediately, though they’re still delicious cooled.
For serving: You can serve these with good syrup, of course, but I really love these pancakes with whipped cream and jam or macerated fruit on the side.