Hoe Cakes, also called Johnny Cakes, are an old southern recipe, originating like so many great southern recipes did—from meager ingredients and improvisation born of the hardscrabble life of a slave. The first recipes were most likely very basic—ground dried corn, maybe a bit of honey or molasses, and lard or fat drippings, cooked on the blade of a garden hoe over an open fire. Eventually, other ingredients, such as wheat flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder, butter or buttermilk, found their way into these recipes. Once cooking indoors became more accessible, and since one typically would not bring their garden hoe indoors to cook over a stove, hoe cakes became pancakes. The rest is breakfast history!
Sort of. Have you ever eaten pancakes for dinner? I don’t have time during the week to make much of a breakfast, and on the weekends, Mama sleeps in…..So, every once in a while, I start jonesing for a good breakfast, at dinnertime. Also, being the proper Catholic that I am, Fridays during Lent are meat free, and pancakes make a great Lenten dinner. The Episcopal Church down the street has a Pancake Supper during Lent, so it’s not just crazy Catholics the practice this observation.
Not many restaurants serve pancakes after 11:00 a.m., and those that do serve unremarkable pancakes. They are so unremarkable, that they often cover them up with canned fruit pie filling and whipped cream, as if that would make them less unremarkable. They also serve unremarkable lunch, and unremarkable dinner, but that’s not what I am looking for.
I want a pancake. One that has great texture, and great flavor. One that can, without being overwhelmed by syrup or fruit, look the world straight in the eye and say “eat me!”
With a side of bacon, thank you, because bacon makes everything better!
The easiest way to get the pancake I want, when I want it is to make it. Luckily for me, and you, and every pancake eating Catholic, Episcopalian, or herbivore out there, pancakes couldn’t be simpler to make. And they are so easy to sass up any way you wish…Take the basic recipe of your choosing, be it cornmeal, buckwheat, wild rice, whole grain, or plain old buttermilk, to name a few, and add whatever you wish. Dried or fresh fruit. Pumpkin. Nuts. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Ginger. Candied ginger. Crumbled bacon. Brussel Sprouts. That’s GROSS! Just seeing if you were paying attention.
There are so many good recipes for pancakes out there, but I am going to share one that is a little bit different, and super simple. It’s whipped up in seconds in a blender, and the base it Ricotta cheese. Yes, Ricotta cheese.. Ricotta is a super soft fresh cheese, frequently used in Italian desserts and pasta dishes. Used in pancakes, the result is super moist, with a dense, but light crumb…Sort of like the interior of a really moist popover, almost custardy. They are more similar to the thin, moist Swedish style pancake. Lemon or other citrus flavors pair nicely with ricotta, so this one has citrus juice and zest in the pancake. These are delish topped with melted butter and some granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar. They are out of this world with a bit of melted marmalade over the top. I thought my kids would take issue with the new type of pancake that landed on their plates, but they ate the whole platter in record time. Definitely remarkable.
Citrus Ricotta Pancakes
16 oz whole milk Ricotta cheese
1 tsp oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 T fresh orange zest
For serving: butter, cinnamon sugar, orange marmalade (or favorite syrup)
Preheat griddle or non-stick skillet to medium high (must be non-stick surface)
Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend for 30 seconds.
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto hot griddle. Cook until edges start to dry, and holes remain where the bubbles popped. Flip gently with a large spatula, and cook the other side for 30 seconds, or until done. Remove to platter and top with a pat of butter. Repeat with remaining batter. Sprinkle with sugar, or cinnamon sugar, and a drizzle of melted marmalade.
Instead of syrup, try these with simple butter and a bit of sugar (granulated, for texture). Melted orange, or lemon marmalade is perfect for these, or if you can find ginger syrup, it would be divine.