Working at Ass O’Clock in the Morning (TM) has its good points and its bad points. I work a job that has rather…unconventional business hours, and our shifts are either 5:45am-1:45pm or 1pm-9pm. As a staunch diurnal, I have opted for the former of the two; trading those luscious hours of sleeping-in for the glory of being OFF WORK when most people are barely getting back from their lunch break. Still, sometimes getting up VERY VERY EARLY is tough.
My alarm rings (shrieks, screams, grates, wails, and other such sounds of annoyance) at 4:45am. For those of you unfamiliar with such times, 4:45am is a thoroughly ungodly hour, in which the only appropriate actions are dreaming, drooling, or getting home from pulling an all-nighter somewhere glamorous. Nevertheless, I drag myself out of bed. I don something that I pray will look semi-professional by the light of day, do my makeup by braille, and am out the door by 5:20am. If Rick is not home, I stumble out into the back yard to open the door and let out the chickens and ducks, who cluck/quack in protest at the cold wind and interruption of their sleep.
** Note: it is still very, VERY dark at 5:20am. It kills me to know I am actually up before the chickens (though there is possibly nothing so endearing as a sleepy hen. Really). **
Truth be told, I love my job. I love the freedom afforded to me by working the hours I do. Getting home at 2pm gives me ample time to take care of housework and prepare food and even have some down-time before the boyfriend and roommate get home. I get to work in the garden during daylight hours. I miss commuter traffic completely.
Sadly, though, it really puts a dent in my breakfast-foods consumption. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, but I do have a major soft-spot in my heart for breakfasty-type foods. So I try to make the breakfasts I *do* have be a little bit special.
I got a sourdough chef from my friend Alanna a few years back, and have somehow managed not to kill it completely. The learning curve (starting as a novice) of keeping a chef alive was steep, and for a time it was very hard to remember to feed it. But it was also kind of fun: sourdough (and other yeast/bacterial cultures) are kind of an underground trade, with people handing off jars and giving “babies” to each other in little bottles and baggies. It’s like being in an elite club, and when you’re in, it’s mighty addictive.
Because my go-to bread recipe does not call for sourdough (though I certainly use it from time to time for added flavor and lift), I’ve had to find creative uses for sourdough start to keep from having to pour it down the drain. Alanna gave me an awesome sourdough cracker recipe that I LOVE. My sourdough cinnamon rolls are to die for. I can now make a pretty decent sourdough-based pate brisee for galettes. But by far the thing that I use my sourdough chef for the most is good old fashioned pancakes: fluffy and light, but with that telltale tang that lets you know this ain’t no boxed batter-mix, these delicious pancakes are perfect with butter and syrup, a pile of fresh fruit and plain yogurt, or (as Rick likes them), a big scoop of organic peanut butter.
However you like to dress them up, these pancakes are a perfect tool in the homesteader arsenal: keeping cultures (sourdough, yogurt, vinegars, kombucha) is a great way to be self-sufficient and produce on-the-cheap many things that can be quite expensive in stores (have you SEEN the prices on kombucha recently? Because *I* have). Taking the time to feed these little buggers will guarantee you a lifetime of delicious, fresh food at the drop of a hat.
These pancakes make a healthy, stick-to-your-ribs meal with very little in the way of mess or tricky ingredients, and are guaranteed to satisfy just about anyone, come breakfast-time. And if you need some starter, well, I know a gal.
Note: the night before you are going to make these pancakes, mix about 3/4 c of flour with enough water to make something resembling thick cake batter. Add a large spoon full of sourdough start, and cover it. I use a recycled plastic yogurt container because the lid keeps out the dust without pressurizing the start as it rises. Over night, this should double – or triple – in volume. If your starter has been in the fridge (dormant) for a long time, give it a good 24 hours and another feeding to “wake it up” before you use it.
1 1/2 c sourdough start, stirred down (about 2 1/2 or 3 c if still risen)
2 Tbsp sugar or evaporated cane juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
4 Tbsp melted butter (I usually use half butter and half oil)
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp water (warm but not hot)
optional: up to 3/4 c fresh fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips
In a large bowl, mix the sourdough start with the salt and sugar. Then whisk in the egg and butter/oil until they are thoroughly combined. I like to keep my sourdough start about the consistency of a thick cake batter, which is perfect for this recipe. If the mixture (with egg and oil added) is still very thick, I sometimes add as much as 1/4 c of milk to thin it out. Otherwise the pancakes can get a little…overwhelmingly doughy.
At this point, I add any berries, chopped fruit, or nuts to the batter. My personal favorite is tossing in a handful of wild huckleberries (which I keep frozen and don’t even bother to thaw before tossing them in. They cook just fine while the batter rises in the skillet).
In a separate small cup, stir the baking soda in the warm water until it dissolves. Add this to the bowl of batter and stir lightly, just until it is homogeneous.
Let the batter rise slightly (no more than about 5 minutes), and then it’s ready to use. Scoop the batter out onto medium-hot greased skillets or a griddle, and cook the first side until the bubbles in the batter pop and don’t immediately close up again. That means it’s time to flip!
The second side shouldn’t take more than about 20 seconds, unless your batter is very thick.
Sourdough pancakes can get pretty rubbery if they sit and get cold, so I’d recommend keeping a towel over the plate of finished pancakes, or sticking them in the oven where the ambient heat will be held in. Of course, usually we have people grabbing them out of the skillet before I can even GET them to a plate, so maybe it’s not such a problem after all.
Serve these pancakes alongside some fresh homemade yogurt, some lemon curd, or just a sprinkling of powdered sugar: heaven.