I can recall only two dishes my dad made for us when we were growing up. One was peanut butter & jelly sandwiches… or peanut butter & jelly graham crackers, peanut butter & jelly rice cakes, you get the idea. I’ve inherited his love – nay, obsession – with all things peanut butter, which manifests as a daily snack of peanut butter & apple. They say you are what you eat so my veins must be running with Skippy crunchy-style, or more recent years, Trader Joe’s creamy or crunchy-style. I don’t really discriminate unless the peanut butter is unsalted. Unsalted is just gross. You cannot convince me otherwise.
The other item my dad would make us when we were younger was pancakes! Usually from a box, but we didn’t care. When the stack of fluffy pancakes moved from the kitchen to the table, we attacked like hyenas fighting for scraps on the sahara. We were plenty well fed, but growing up in a family of three meant you had to be fast when food landed on the table.
As an homage to my dad, I decided to make an apple compote and dollop of peanut butter topping. The compote is made with just enough sugar to caramelize and a hit of lemon. I am not a fan of overly sweet breakfasts, so if you need to add an extra teaspoon of sugar, go for it. I use apples for the compote, but use whatever fruit you have in your kitchen – plums, cherries, or pears or whatever! It’s pretty hard to mess up a compote as long as you stir frequently on a low heat and wait for the fruit to break down into a jam-like consistency.
It’s standard over here for me to use a non-traditional flour. I decided to go with buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten-free, and adds a rich, nutty and earthy flavor. I don’t like to say I am gluten-free (because that would be very Californian of me), but I do notice my digestion and skin are happier when I use buckwheat, rice, tapioca or even coconut instead of wheat flour in my baking.
With that being said…. I will never say no to bread, especially fresh baked sourdough from a bakery, but I try to stay away from baked goods from a plastic bag. If you’re curious why, I recommend the Netflix documentary series “Cooked,” which is based on Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. In the third episode, “Air,” Pollan explores the science behind bread making and gluten, and examines the current bread making process, where additives in industrialized bakeries are seen as the root of the cause for the reason people have become sick from breads. This episode makes sense to me because the number of people with gluten-intolerances seems crazy high in light of humans eating bread for thousands of years. Maybe this will inspire you to hit up your local bakery for some fresh bread instead of pre-packaged bread from the store!
For the pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoon coconut sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
pinch of salt
⅓ cup olive oil
1 large egg
1 cup yogurt
For the compote
1 pound apples, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
zest of 1 lemon and the juice
Make the compote. Place a small saucepan on the stove over low heat. Add the diced apples, butter, and sugar. Let simmer over the stovetop and stir frequently to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You can cook this for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to an hour. The fruit should lose its shape and morph into a jam-like consistency. Once your compote is done, add the lemon zest and juice, stir and remove from heat.
Time for pancakes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grab an oven-safe plate or cookie sheet. When you finish the first batch, put the pancakes on the plate or pan and keep them in the oven. Add the other pancakes batches to the oven as you go. This strategy ensures the pancakes are still warm when you are ready to serve!
Heat up a large cast iron on the stove top using the medium setting. I prefer to use a cast iron because it gives the pancakes a nice crust but if you have a non-stick pan that will be fine. I’ll wax-poetic about cast irons another time…
Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. Mix together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just enough to combine. Lumps are your friend.
Add butter to the cast iron. If the butter browns too quickly and starts to burn, turn down the heat. We want the butter melted but no burnt butter. If the butter burns, take the cast iron off the stove top, wipe out the pan, and start again.
The size of pancakes is a very personal choice. I typically use a tablespoon to place a heaping spoonful of batter in the pan. You can make the pancakes smaller or larger depending on your preference. Don’t overcrowd the pan. I can fit either 4 small or two large pancakes in my 10-inch cast iron comfortably.
Once the pancake batter is in the pan, keep an eye on it! I check after 1-2 minutes but may take up to 5. You are looking for tiny bubbles on the top and golden edges. When this is happening, I use a spatula to gently flip the pancake. The second side will take another 1-2 minutes to finish. Slide the first batch of pancakes into the oven to keep them warm while you finish making the rest of the pancakes.
If needed, add more butter to the pan and continue dropping batter and flipping after 1-2 minutes. After each batch is complete, add the pancakes to the oven to stay warm. After you have used up all of your batter, you can take all of the pancakes out of the oven and turn the oven off. Stack the pancakes 3-4 high, top with desired amount of compote, a dollop of peanut butter, maple syrup and serve.