I would actually say that I had made breakfast on Sunday morning for the ones I love, but Jeremy didn't eat breakfast ... he never wakes up hungry, even on weekend mornings when I have both the time and the inclination to make something special. So instead, I made breakfast for Tom and me -- something just a tad different from his usual routine of oatmeal and rye toast with peanut butter.
Eggs make a nice light summer dinner -- and we've been taking advantage of that during our recent heat wave -- so I didn't want to see them in the morning, too. I don't own a waffle iron, though I know I could have some fun with that! There was no bacon, no sausage, and I didn't want anything too heavy anyway. Quite frankly, I was just in the mood for pancakes.
And I had a quart of tart cherries at my disposal, freshly pitted after being purchased at the Farmers' Market. Michigan, of course, is rightfully famous for its tart cherries; and I am infamous for being their #1 fan.
Every year, I buy flats of cherries and then spend the rest of the afternoon getting sunburnt as I pit them, 'cause it's a bit of a sticky job which is better done outside; and if I'm going to be outside, I need a little burst of Vitamin D from the sun to remind myself that I don't only live at my desk and in my kitchen and in front of my computer.
Now, there are two kinds of cherries to tell you about:
The cherries on top (ha!) are Montmorency cherries, the traditional tart cherry we all know and love from pies and other baked goods; they're bright red with clear juice, and they are very sour. The ones below are Balaton cherries, a variety which originated in Hungary and which is fast replacing the Montmorencies 'round here because they're hardier; their skin is not quite as dark as that of a sweet cherry, and the juice runs clear. They're still tart, but are not excessively so.
Ideally I use both types of cherry, because each lends its own particular "je ne sais quoi" to the product. But on Sunday morning I only had Balatons available to me, and so that's what I used to make a lovely sauce for the pancakes.
I had grand, romantic visions of serving this charming breakfast to my sweetie, and set to work in the kitchen. Pancake batter -- oats, flour, eggs, yup. Sauce -- cherries, sugar, water, yup. Place everything needed for the sauce into a small saucepan to start boiling, get ready to stir in some cornstarch to thicken it a bit and ....
Don't I have a box of cornstarch in here somewhere?
Oh, no, that's right -- I used it up. Okay, where'd the potato starch (left over from Passover) go ...?
C'mon -- behind the flour?
Behind the cupcake liners and sprinkles??
Behind anything in this cupboard???
Oh, my God, I'm right in the middle of making this breakfast I'd promised and I can't find any cornstarch and I can't find any potato starch and I've got cherries bubbling in some liquid that isn't going to turn into a sauce and I'm going to be peeved and ticked off and upset and I'm going to have to apologize for this sorry excuse for a breakfast when I have a reputation to uphold as some sort of a cook?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Deep breath, now ....
I tossed in some confectioners' sugar, which contains cornstarch. Good, nowhere near sufficient. Now what? NOW WHAT??? Tapioca. I have some instant tapioca floating around here somewhere, though God only knows what kind of condition it's in since I've never used it and I think it's been sitting here for a coupla years. Oh, yeah, got rid of that, too, when I cleaned out the pantry shelves. This is why it's good to not do that sort of work -- you might be overly zealous and get rid of something that might prove useful once every 5 years or so.
So, finally I tossed in a bit of flour, hoping and praying that it wouldn't clump up and that it would serve as a thickener for my sauce as it does if it's used in a pie filling. And it worked ... oh, thank God! My reputation remains intact, at least for the moment ... until this post is read, anyway.
The pancakes turned out beautifully, rising nicely because I used a lot of baking powder to compensate for the heaviness of the whole grains. The sauce was sweet and loaded with cherries, and it turned out to be just the right consistency to pour over everything. Sigh ....
Whole Grain Pancakes with Fresh Cherry Sauce
2 cups Balaton cherries, pitted (substitute frozen or canned tart cherries, if necessary)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water
2 packets instant oatmeal (I used maple and brown sugar flavor)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 cups skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice of half lemon
Make the sauce: Place the cherries, sugar, 1/3 cup water and extract into a small saucepan; bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the cherries, stir, and lower heat to simmer; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, as you cook the pancakes. (Note: this is how I would have made the sauce if I'd had cornstarch. I actually used 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and a tablespoon of flour, if you want to replicate the results of the stressful scenario described above.)
Make the pancakes: In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a measuring cup, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, place 4 blobs of pancake batter into a 10"-12" non-stick skillet. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or so until the tops of the pancakes start to bubble, then carefully flip and cook for another 2 minutes.
Makes enough pancakes for 4 people.
Oh, by the way, I'm not someone who collects a lot of knicky-knacky cherry-related tzotchkes. I took all the photos of the kitsch at a local thrift store; I'm guessing that someone cleared out a grandmother's attic and dumped all those cutesy little things after they didn't sell at a garage sale, perhaps ....