RUTH'S APPLE PANCAKES
Excerpted from Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky's Golden Wonder, by Rona Roberts
Ruth -- aka "Mother," "Sweetie Face," "Mimi," or even "Jonnie" -- made small, light apple cinnamon pancakes that soaked up the hot sorghum she served with them. Ruth's seasoned black skillets cooked the pancakes perfectly. She used only small bits of butter to grease the pans (and boost the flavor). Nothing ever stuck. Ruth did not use a recipe, but managed perfect pancakes every time. This recipe is for those of us who need measures and instructions to enter Apple Pancake Heaven.
Ruth believed her light-textured pancakes depended on sifting the dry ingredients, separating the eggs and beating the yolks and whites separately, and folding all together with the lightest, most minimal touch possible. No skimping on the steps!
As you begin working on the pancakes, gently heat a cup or two of excellent sorghum. Add a pinch of baking soda to freshen the taste; this makes a tasty foam. The hot sorghum will be ready when you deliver the first of these unforgettable, tender, thin (never doughy) pancakes to the table.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium sized firm, tart apple, grated coarsely, with or without skin
4 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter, lightly browned if you wish, and cooled to nearly room temperature
Sift the flour, and then measure it back into the sifter. Measure and add the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon to the sifter. Sift these ingredients into a large bowl.
Add the grated apple to the dry ingredients, and stir well to distribute it through the dry mixture.
Use two additional bowls, medium sized, for the wet ingredients. The easiest way to proceed here is with two bowls that fit a stand mixer. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into one bowl, and the whites into the other. Set the whites aside.
Beat the egg yolks until light yellow in color and very thick.
Add the buttermilk and melted butter; mix well.
Add 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar to the egg whites, and beat the egg whites until stiff.
Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until nearly mixed, using just a few quick turns of a large spoon through the batter.
When a few streaks of flour are left, add the beaten egg whites and fold lightly into the batter.
Heat a large cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush it with butter. Cook the pancakes in batches, using about ¼ cup for each (or more if you prefer larger pancakes).
Serve with the hot sweet sorghum syrup.
NOTE: This last step—the addition of sorghum to the exquisite pancakes—is crucial for the completion of the whole wondrous experience. The underlying complexity of sorghum, added to the delicacy of the pancake flavors, lifts this breakfast to the stars. Though Ruth might have allowed Kentucky maple syrup as an option, had she had it then. All hail Country Rock Sorghum and Bluegrass Maple Syrup. How Ruth would have praised and cherished you!
Yield: Four generous servings