I am bad at weekend mornings. I hear that some people, maybe even a lot of people, have weekend mornings that involve a hot breakfast, hot coffee, the Sunday Times, and hours that pass slowly, quietly, as though on tiptoe, but I am not familiar with that kind of weekend morning. I like mornings a lot, but I am not good at planned relaxation, and I married someone who is similarly impaired. We went to visit his grandparents in Florida over New Year’s, and we were very tired and verging on sick, but instead of reading books, lying on the beach, or whatever one does on vacation in Florida, we wound up kayaking in the Everglades. With alligators. (To be fair, it was my father-in-law’s idea. Relaxation impairment is a genetic trait.)
Anyway, my weekend mornings are, by and large, identical to my weekday mornings. They involve cold cereal, a glass of water, and hours that pass quickly, unceremoniously, while I am busy doing whatever I happen to be doing. I know that this is just how I am, but I don’t like it. I feel somehow that it is deeply wrong. I want to do better. I want to make more oatmeal pancakes.
I first ate these particular oatmeal pancakes when I was seven, I want to say, when one of my uncles got married in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. We stayed at the Inn at Fordhook Farm, a hotel on the private property of the Burpee family, of the Burpee Seed Company. I remember little of the wedding, except for the fact that my uncle’s fiancée was an incredible woman, beautiful, a Presbyterian minister with poufy blond hair and a great laugh, and that her sister was beautiful too, and that they fascinated me. I thought they were perfect in every way. My uncle’s fiancée, the woman who became my aunt, passed away about a dozen years later, and when I think of her, I remember her just like that, like she was at her wedding. I also remember that the Inn at Fordhood Farm served oatmeal pancakes for breakfast, and that my entire family went crazy for them.
My mother must have asked for the recipe, because somehow we came home with a copy of it, and my mother isn’t the stealing type. She made them a couple of times, but I was unmoved. I liked them at the inn, but at home, I wanted our usual family pancake, by which I mean Bisquick. I was a kid, you know? But a couple of years ago, I thought of them again, and I asked her for the recipe. I made them, and I liked them quite a bit, although, to be dead honest, I found them a little bland. They also had what can only be described as an odd amount of cinnamon: not enough to bring a real flavor, but too much to ignore. Anyway, I was not sold. But, a month ago, on a whim and I don’t know why, I decided to try AGAIN. This time, I left out the cinnamon, doubled the salt, and lo and behold, I too am now crazy. (For the pancakes.) (Just to clarify.)
In the weekends since, I’ve already made these pancakes three times. I also made coffee! We even had a friend over to eat with us, which is the very definition of Fine Weekend Morning, even though that particular friend, our friend Ryan, happened to be staying in our basement at the time, so we didn’t exactly have him over, but still. I’m tempted to say that I’m on a weekend morning roll. Though that might be optimistic.
Either way, these pancakes have won a spot in my repertoire. Not only do I like to eat them, but I love the process of making them. It starts the night before, when you measure out some oats, pile them into a bowl, and then pour a decent amount of buttermilk on top. This mixture sits in the fridge overnight, during which time the oats plump and swell and go soft, the perfect base for a winter pancake. (This overnight step means that you do have to plan ahead, which takes spontaneity out of the equation, but if you’re me, it’s nice, because once you’ve got your oats soaking, you’re locked in, and you won’t wake up lazy and eat cereal instead.) To the soaked oats you add melted butter and a couple of beaten eggs, and then you stir in some flour, leavening, a little sugar, and salt, and what you get is a great, great pancake: gently sweet the way oats are, impossibly moist, hearty but not heavy, not light but not leaden, lovely. They fry up to a handsome shade of gold, and fresh out of the pan, their outer edges have a thin, lacy crunch that dissipates in a matter of minutes, so get on it.
If you want to add blueberries here, you can use fresh or frozen. (And if you’re using frozen, there’s no need to thaw them. The hot pan will do that for you.) I don’t like to stir the berries into the batter, because then you wind up with weird purple streaks, so I press them into the individual pancakes as they cook. You can use however many berries you want, but be sure to add them after the pancakes have cooked on their first side for a minute or two, so that the batter has time to start to set. When you flip the pancakes, the heat of the pan will make the berries sizzle and soften nicely.
Also, if you find yourself with any leftover pancakes, as I often do, know that they are delicious. This past Saturday, I had three left over, so I put them in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter, and I ate them cold that night, after going out for a drink, a completely undrinkable drink, with a girlfriend. I love gin, and I love Lillet, and I have nothing against Scotch, but apparently I do not care for the union of gin, Lillet, and Scotch. Cold pancakes saved the day.
The night before:
Combine the oats and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The morning of:
Take the bowl of buttermilk and oats out of the fridge. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Add the eggs and melted butter to the oat mixture, and stir well. Add the flour mixture, and stir to blend. The batter will be very thick.
Warm a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, and brush (or spray) with vegetable oil. To make sure it’s hot enough, wet your fingers under the tap and sprinkle a few droplets of water onto the pan. If they sizzle, it’s ready. Scoop the batter, about a scant ¼ cup at a time, onto the pan, taking care not to crowd them. When the underside is nicely browned and the top looks set around the edges, flip the pancakes. Cook until the second side has browned.
Re-grease the skillet, and repeat with more batter. If you find that the pancakes are browning too quickly, dial the heat back to medium.
Serve hot, with maple syrup.
Yield: about 12 pancakes, or 3 to 4 servings