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Brown Butter Ricotta Pancakes with Cardamom Apples

I have been staring at a container of ricotta in my fridge for weeks now. We bought it for Shack's lasagna but then he thought he needed more and bought a bigger container of the stuff from Costco and used that instead. I don't use ricotta all that much and I didn't know what to do with it but I knew that I didn't want to end up throwing it out. I spent a couple of days toying with the idea of doing muffins so I read recipes, looked at tastespotting, read more recipes and nothing spoke to me. The easy way out was to make stuffed pasta but Shack is away and I am trying to not eat pasta while he is gone because when he is home, we eat it way too often. Then, last week a little voice in my head started to whisper "ricotta pancakes would be nice".

Now, I have no idea who that voice belonged to because not only have I never eaten a ricotta pancake, I don't really eat pancakes at all. The voice wouldn't shut it's pie hole so I started to search. At one point I was researching savoury ricotta pancakes but that wasn't working out for me and I kind of knew The Kid wasn't going to go for it. I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for ricotta pancakes with sauteed apples. The recipe for the pancakes wasn't what I was looking for, but those apples were. Once I found the apples, I just needed to find the perfect pancake recipe, which I eventually did. I love the nuttiness of browned butter so that was an easy change,  I swapped the cinnamon in the apples for cardamom and I was off. I waited to make them until Shrove Tuesday because it felt like the right thing to do and it really is a perfect excuse to eat dessert for dinner. We made them for The Neighbours, who shared their champagne and orange juice with me which was a fine trade, don't you think?

I will admit that I had to dirty a number of bowls and it kind of felt like it was going to be way too much work and too many steps but it was all worth it. The whipping of the egg whites is the touch that I think takes these over the edge - that and browning the butter. They are super light and fluffy although, maybe because I am not used to eating them, they were way more filling than I expected and I only ate one, but oh what a perfect single pancake it was. I also figured there must be a reason that 99.9% of every recipe for ricotta pancakes included lemon in some form so I didn't touch that and it's weird but the lemon really brings out the subtle flavour of the cheese. I don't know why that is, it just is.

As far as the cardamom apples go, I would make these to eat on anything. They would be equally delicious over some ice cream or greek yogurt or plain old pancakes or french toast or pork chops or just in a bowl on their own. The cardamom flavour is very subtle and doesn't take away from the nutty buttery ricotta pancakes at all.
They are a perfect match.

I may not have been much of a pancake fan before but I am now.

Brown Butter Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from Chow

5 tbls butter, plus more for cooking them
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs, separated
2 tbls sugar
1 tbls lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta

*cardamom apples, maple syrup and powdered sugar

heat the butter in a small pan and cook until it starts to foam and just turn brown and remove from heat right away. Pour into a bowl and let it cool a bit.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; set aside.

Place egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the milk and the cooled, brown butter and whisk until well blended.

Add the reserved flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (do not overmix); set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or a med bowl with hand beaters, whip the whites until soft peaks. Halfway through whipping them, sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the reserved batter until just combined. Again, don't over mix or your pancakes won't be fluffy.

Gently fold the ricotta into the batter, being careful not to break down the texture of the cheese (the batter will be lumpy and streaked with ricotta); set aside.

Heat a large nonstick frying pan or whatever you use to cook pancakes over medium heat until hot, enough that a drop of water sizzles.

Lightly coat the pan’s surface with butter, then use a 1/4-cup measure to scoop the batter into the pan. Cook until bubbles form on top of the pancakes, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until the bottoms are golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve immediately the cardamom apples, some maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Cardamom Apples

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbls butter
3 tbls sugar
1 tsp cardamom
fresh lemon juice to taste

In a large saute pan, cook the apples in the butter over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened. Sprinkle them with the sugar and cardamom, and continue to cook them,  stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 more minutes, or until they are cooked but not mushy and totally falling apart. Stir in the lemon juice and keep it warm until the pancakes are done

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