“So who wants some more pancakes ?”
The silence spoke volumes but how did this happen and most of all, how did this happen to me ?
48 Hours Earlier – Friday morning
It was Friday morning and I was taking a quick break from pushing piles of paper around my desk in order to make it somewhat look like I was being busy & productive here at the paycheck factory. I was on the phone with my wife and we were trying to finalize the weekend plans. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered wanting to try to make a new kind of pancake that I was calling a “Smoothie on a Plate”. My wife thought it sounded like something fun to try so she suggested that I could give it try on Sunday morning. Going over the plans in my head helped kill off at least the next five minutes of my day and I started to mentally make a list of things I would need from the store. I was excited, this was going to be my “NEW & IMPROVED” signature dish since most people out there are still afraid to try the chili that bites back – my alligator chili.
24 Hours Earlier – Saturday morning
Shopping list in hand, I bought the last items I needed at the grocery store. I was psyched. I was ready. This dish was going to put me on the map. All I could do was think about how awesome it was going to be and how cool the pictures would look with the back slapping blog I was going to write. I almost wanted to go to bed early so I could wake up and start cooking.
Breakfast Time – Sunday morning
Now before I start in on the rest of my tale, I wanted to reflect back a little. As I have mentioned on other occasions, I have been known to overthink a thing or two. When we were Maui recently, I couldn’t help but notice the banana pancakes and the macadamia nut pancakes that were on the breakfast buffet as well as the coconut syrup that sat next to the maple syrup. It got me thinking about different kinds of pancakes beyond the normal Bisquick pancakes I make by the flipperful every few weeks. When we got back from Maui, I made banana pancakes and blueberry pancakes and banana blueberry pancakes and they were good but they weren’t that “signature” pancake I was looking to create. I started to think some more and the more I thought, the more the cobwebs in the vast recesses of my brain began to smolder. I could almost see my vision through the clouds of mental cobweb smoke and I just had to act on it. I was going to create and make my “Smoothie on a Plate Pancake”.
If you read one of my earlier blogs, you probably skimmed over the section where I talked about this particular pancake because it was buried somewhere as an afterthought and to be honest, I don’t really read my blogs either so it would just as easy for me to miss it too. That being said, I had envisioned the “Smoothie on a Plate” as being a Banana & Coconut Pancake with Strawberries inside topped off with a Pineapple Syrup and Whipped Cream (Home Run ! Overtime Goal ! Winner !) and that is what I made.
I have to admit that I cheated right off the bat by grabbing a box of Bisquick rather than making the making the pancake batter from scratch. I did that more for the sake of convenience than laziness though I will admit, I don’t really have a good pancake recipe from scratch. I normally would have used 2 cups of Bisquick but I figure that since I was going to have some extra liquid in the form of some crushed bananas, I should use 2 ½ cups instead. (Mistake # 1 – too much bisquick – made the pancakes taste doughy). I threw in 2 eggs and 8 ounces of light coconut milk (Mistake # 2 – too thin – should have grabbed REGULAR coconut milk) and began stirring, mixing and beating with an old fashioned egg beater. I then mixed in a dozen chopped strawberries (Mistake # 3 – you will see why)in hopes that it would come out looking like blueberry pancakes. Alas, the extra half cup of Bisquick really thickened up the batter and probably was not really needed. In an attempt to thin the batter a little, I over poured the remaining 4 ounces of lite coconut milk into the batter and finished stirring. The batter was now a little too thin but I really didn’t want to add more Bisquick without adding another egg and I thought that adding another egg would just make it thin again. So I left it as is and focused my attention quickly back onto the pineapple syrup I was trying to make.
I forgot to mention that I had had a vision of pineapple syrup being drizzled over a stack of these pancakes when I first started thinking about them. Only in northwestern New Jersey, it isn’t exactly as easy finding pineapple syrup as it is in Kihei at Tutu’s Pantry (www.tutuspantry.com) and I couldn’t find any of the pineapple topping like I associate with a Dairy Queen Banana Split in the ice cream sundae section of the store so I grabbed a jar of pineapple preserves in the jelly & jam section and decided to improvise from there. I put the whole 8oz jar of preserves into a sauce pan with a half cup of maple syrup, some lemon juice, sea salt and a splash of water. I set it to a medium low heat and stirred it occasionally as it cooked down to what turned out to be an awesome syrup that could be used as a glaze on pork or ham too.
Now it was finally time to make the pancakes. With great fanfare in the kitchen, I spooned the first pancakes into my ancient non-stick electric griddle and rather than watch them hold their shape and begin to puff, they continued to run seep beyond their desired borders and didn’t really start to fluff. I had to use my spatula to keep the first batch from running into each other while I studiously checked to make sure they were browning on the bottom (without sticking) and bubbling in the center. They were doing bother but again without the puffiness or cake like appearance I am used to from my regular pancakes. (I was blaming the coconut milk). Eventually I flipped the pancakes and they looked just about perfect in the pan. A nice golden color and they started to rise slightly in the middle. You could even hear strawberries starting to sizzle. This was a sound I didn’t remember hearing when I made blueberry pancakes but I ignored it. I got the 5 pancakes out of the pan and immediately spooned in 5 more so I could serve 2 to everyone to start. This pan didn’t run as much and I let them bubble a touch longer in hopes that I was making them just a little bit better than the first batch. I flipped the pancakes in the pan and got the now cooling pineapple syrup ready for it’s debut.
The second batch of pancakes came out of the pan and onto the plates and I was feeling good. I grabbed the sauce pan of slightly warm pineapple maple syrup and drizzled spoonfuls on top so that they ran down the sides. Finally I gave them each a shot of whipped cream on top. All that was missing was the parasol you find in so many tropical drinks. Everything looked great.
Looks, however, can be deceiving. The pancakes were then and a bit mushy in the center. The strawberries were mushy and seemed to lack flavor. The moisture from the strawberry pieces had soaked into the pancakes and helped contribute to the mushiness of the pancakes. The banana and the coconut milk were there but that’s all they were. They didn’t announce themselves in any way shape or form. The pineapple maple syrup rocked but as I mentioned before, we were already talking about what else we could use it for before I was even done making the rest of the batch of pancakes. I figured I just needed to cook the pancakes a little bit longer in the pan and that the kids would still eat them all up so I asked…
“So who wants some more pancakes ?”
I turned to daughter # 1 but she had already cleared her plate from the table. Daughter # 2 was still inexplicably working on hers and my son, the bottomless pit, said “No thanks Dad. I’m full.” as he threw away his paper plate & napkin. Even my biggest fan, my lovely & adoring wife, just looked at me. I was in shock. How did I screw it up so bad ?
In looking back at it all, I realized that I made a lot of mistakes. I overcompensated with the Bisquick thus causing the doughy, biscuit like taste to the pancakes. I should have used regular coconut milk instead of lite coconut milk in order to give it a little more flavor & heft . I should have cooked the bananas in brown sugar & butter to sweeten & condense the banana flavor a little. I also should not have put wet cut strawberries into the batter. I would have been better off macerating the strawberries in some sugar and or fruit juice or Grand Marnier or Cointreau to give them a little more flavor and then poured them over the pancakes with the pineapple maple syrup. And the pineapple maple syrup is the one thing that I will not change a thing the next time I try to make these again.
Oh and there will be a next time. I refuse to be “one and done” with this idea. I have failed in the kitchen before so this feeling isn’t something new. It’s just a feeling that I don’t like to have every often. So come back next time, when we talk about frying up those crickets that were chirping earlier in the blog……or not.