Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Griddle Cakes...and roses & calla lilies

At the start of an intensive gardening day, I sometimes make fortifying American pancakes especially since The Calm One has secured a reliable Canadian maple syrup connection here in France. The puffiness of griddle cakes differentiates them from European crêpes which means baking powder/soda is a necessary addition. The dry and wet ingredients require just a light mixing--a tiny lump here and there only is assurance the pancakes will be of a tender texture. If even more airiness is desired, then the eggs can be separated and the beaten, stiff whites folded into the batter. Each griddle cake was anointed with a pat of sweet butter, then stacked, and lastly the pile was gloriously drenched in one-hundred-percent-pure maple syrup.

I use the recipe from my culinary bible, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, which is as follows (including variations):

(Makes 16 small or 8 large cakes--I halved the recipe using one egg to get about 8 small ones)

Milk, 1/2-3/4 cup* (1-13/4 dl)
Butter, melted, 2 T
Egg, 1 (I used large)
Flour, plain, white, 1 cup* (140 g)
Baking powder, 2 teaspoons
Sugar, 2 T
Salt 1/2 tsp
*American measure, that is, 8 fluid ounces equals a cup

The amount of milk you use will determine how thick these griddle cakes or pancakes are. Start with the smaller amount suggested and add more if the batter seems too thick. Try to have the milk at room temperature before mixing... Serve with maple syrup or honey.

Beat the milk, butter, and egg lightly in a mixing bowl. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt and add them all at once to the first mixture, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Lightly butter or grease a griddle or frying pan and set over moderate heat until a few drops of cold water sprinkled on the pan form rapidly moving globules. If you wish small pancakes, drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the pan, or pour about 1/4 cup from a measuring cup if larger pancakes are desired. Bake on the griddle until the cakes are full of bubbles on the top and the undersides are lightly browned. Turn with a spatula and brown the other sides. Place finished griddlecakes on a warm plate in a 200 degrees F (95 degrees C) oven until you have enough to begin serving.

Buttermilk Griddlecakes. Use buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt instead of milk and substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the 2 teaspoons baking powder. Note: I diluted the yogurt with a little water to get a consistency similar to buttermilk, and the cakes turned out very well. Baking soda is activated by the presence of acid in the soured milk products.
Whole-Wheat Griddlecakes. Use 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour and 2/3 cup white flour. If you wish, sweeten the batter with 2 tablespoons molasses or honey instead of sugar.
Oatmeal Griddlecakes. Heat the 1/2 cup of milk, stir in 1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal, and let stand for 10 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients, reducing the flour to 2 tablespoons.
Buckwheat Cakes. Use 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour.
Apple Griddlecakes. Peel 1 tart, juicy apple, cut it in thin slices, and stir it in.
Blueberry Griddlecakes. Add 1/2 cup blueberries. If you use canned blueberries, strain them before adding.
(p. 496, 1987 hardcover edition)

Decades ago, I had the pleasure of renting the top floor of a Brooklyn townhouse owned by two sisters of Italian ancestry called Rose and Lily. They grew thyme, rosemary, and marjoram in their garden and carefully dried them in bunches hung around their ground floor apartment. An offering of a syrupy mint cordial regularly enticed me into their meticulous abode. My having so many small glasses of the delectable liqueur had Rose joking in her earthy way that my pee would turn green. Now I am in the southwest of France in our own house and growing/drying herbs and surrounded by roses and lilies!

L'etoile de Hollande so far has been the most magnificent surprise in our garden. When arriving here four years ago, we saw a scraggly, scrappy, tangled, not very tall network of spindly branches that gave forth one rose. But what a rose it was! Boasting a diameter of five inches, the plushest, dark red petals, and a captivating damask fragrance, a single flower was enough.

It was only this year after continuing care on my part and abundant rain that it finally claimed the entrance balcony rail as its rightful domain. We now have over a dozen in full flower with numerous blushing buds-in-waiting.

This rose is a robust climber. A present it is about twelve feet above the ground.

That's a white spirea and a red weigela below the balcony & a purple leaf, ornamental plum

Another luminous beneficiary of the plentiful rain is calla lily. They love moist but well drained soil which means if I don't remember to water them copiously each day during our long, hot season, they sulk. When we lived on the Oregon coast, they did so well in our garden that I referred to them as the Calla Forest.

One of the two original clumps which came with our place

This adventurous one settled down on its own initiative far away from its home to a small square oasis smack in the middle of our 'ancient' terracotta patio which most likely appealed to this plucky seed because I tend to remember to water this area.

They share precious space with some rambunctious cottage pinks

The main inhabitant of this little green spot is a tall Queen Elizabeth hedge rose whose shadow gracefully provides some dappled shade for the Callas.

The rose bush is about eight-feet high and is just starting to put out its first blooming flush for the season.

Though it is possible to propagate callas by seed as the gracious oasis volunteer has managed to, it is usually accomplished by dividing its rhizome like I have done with these transplanted near a camellia and some sweet violets.

My favourite sedentary spot in the garden has now become this 'alley' which runs along a side of our house. Brimming with pleasant thoughts, I sit here most days...

Behind the chair: sweet violets, irises, glads, roses, callas, lilacs, aucuba & an ivy-covered tree trunk

...gazing at the garden 'major' glistening and sparkling as the sun sets.

Falstaff rose, Mrs. Sinkins cottage pinks, culinary sage, various veggie beds & mass of white English daisies

As the twilight deepens, so does my peaceful joy.

The tent of horticultural fleece is keeping tomatoes snug

This was the first time I managed to plant potatoes as early as February. The Dolwen variety has just begun to flower which means some primeur potatoes will be ready for harvesting in several weeks.

Rose and Lily would have approved of the flowering thyme in the upper right!

À la prochaine!