The eternal question in the bruncher’s mind? Sweet or savory? It’s often a no-brainer- those fluffy golden waffles are just calling your name or you can’t think of anything but that pillowy omelet with sizzling hash browns. Other times, the choice just isn’t so obvious…maybe you want sweet, maybe a little savory, maybe somewhere in between.
The beauty of these buttermilk corn cakes, from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe lies in their versatility, their ability to go sweet or savory in a split second. Just as corn bread can be equally at home with butter and jam as with chili, so these corn cakes take to whatever topping you put on them, much more so than an ordinary wheat flour pancake. Case in point, as I was whipping up a batch of these corn cakes the other weekend, I went through the fridge pulling out condiments we might like to try on them, ending up with no less than a dozen items. From syrups to jams to butter to sour cream to fresh salsa, all of them seemed right at home atop these fluffy little beauties. I ended up stumbling upon two favorite topping combinations: first, a dollop of sour cream with fresh strawberry jam and second, sour cream with a heaping spoonful of salsa. Should you decide you want to take them in a decidedly more savory direction, Katzen suggests adding corn kernels and jalapenos to the pancake batter. I’ll admit, I’m intrigued, but for sheer versatility and simplicity, these buttermilk corn cakes are a perfect pick.
Buttermilk corn cakes (about ten 4-1/2 inch pancakes, enough for 2-3 people, depending on how hungry you are)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
butter for the pan (optional)
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Measure the 1 cup buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measure. Add the eggs and beat gently with a fork or a small whisk until thoroughly combined. Beat in the vanilla.
3. Pour the buttermilk mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don’t overmix; a few small lumps are okay.
4. Place a griddle or a skillet over medium heat. After a minute or two, spray it lightly with nonstick spray, and if you like, melt in a little butter. Using a 1/4-cup measure with a handle, scoop up batter and pout it onto the hot griddle.
5. Cook the pancakes for 3-4 minutes on the first side, or until really golden on the bottom. (Don’t turn them too soon. The trick is to flip them only once, which keeps them light and tender.) The second side will go a little faster, 2-3 minutes, depending on the heat.
6. Serve right away with your chosen toppings.