Sometimes I sit here and reminisce about the days not so long ago when I could spend hours leisurely strolling through stores, looking up useless information on the Interwebs, or binge-watching whatever TV series tickled my fancy. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it a little, but in some ways, becoming a parent with no free time has been good for me by nudging me along in the general direction of time efficiency. I never thought it possible that one hour could equal 10 errands, or 10 minutes plus any variety of baby-bouncy-contraption could translate into me wearing actual clothes for the day. I regularly find myself measuring my productivity window in nap-time increments.
Yesterday, however, I hit the pause button. I let the dishes collect in the sink and the dust bunnies wait another day. The morning sun was streaming in through the windows as if to say, Today is beautiful...enjoy. So I did. I gave the cold shoulder to my stay-at-home mom guilt and put on a fresh pot of coffee. Then I did something I've never done before: I made pancakes....for myself...on a week day....for no particular reason. Pancakes always seemed to me like a special treat, like they were off-limits unless it was the weekend or vacation. Why is that? These actually took no time at all to make. In two hours time, I had these made, eaten, and the kitchen cleaned up before Lucas woke from his morning nap. I even had time to snap a few pictures for you. :)
I think my ulterior motive for making these was actually just to have a vehicle for this syrup. I actually forgot that we have three rhubarb plants on the side of our garden shed, planted by our new home's prior owners. Unfortunately, these plants fell through the hypothetical "out of sight, out of mind" cracks, and now prime rhubarb season is almost over. It pains me to think of all the deliciously tart rhubarb treats we could have been eating all along this spring. I think I subconsciously dismissed these plants as unripe or something due to their green color. Then the other day I saw a green variety called "White Victoria" at the Lincoln Square Farmer's Market which sparked my interest. After doing a little digging on this site, I found this:
A deep red petiole is the more popular among consumers, but these plants are often accompanied by poor growth and yield. Green varieties are often much more productive. Consumers also often assume the red stemmed rhubarb is sweeter than other colors but color and sweetness are not necessarily related. The Victoria variety, which is probably the greenest variety, can produce some very sweet stems.
Jackpot. Out to the shed I went to collect my bounty. Thank you, previous homeowners, for that nice little surprise. I didn't grow up on rhubarb, so its appeal has been slower to take hold with me over the years. I guess I never understood how it could be so great if you had to pair it with something else, like strawberries or apples. I am now officially ashamed for ever thinking this. Its flavor is bright, tart, and the perfect complement to anything sweet. I just love it with the ginger and the hint of lemon from these pancakes. I added a few strawberries to the syrup since my rhubarb was green, and because I think the pink color is so gorgeous, but you could easily omit the berries if you're using the more common red variety. Rhubarb syrup is also great on plain yogurt, vanilla bean ice cream, swirled into oatmeal, or even as a soda water flavoring. You can use the leftover pulp (minus the ginger pieces) as a spread on toast, English muffins, or other breakfast pastries.
Oh, and these pancakes are to-die-for as well. I adapted the recipe from Williams and Sonoma's Lemon and Ricotta Pancake recipe, which you should try sometime too...it is heaven! The recipe uses cake flour and whipped egg whites, making these light-as-air and the perfect complement to the sweet rhubarb-ginger syrup and your favorite berries. Go ahead, make them for yourself...on a week day....I won't tell. :)
Fluffy Lemon Pancakes with Rhubarb-Ginger Syrup
Yield: about 8 pancakes and 1 cup of syrup
2 cups rhubarb, diced
2" small piece fresh ginger root (about the size of your thumb), peeled and thickly sliced
4 strawberries, sliced (optional)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
fresh berries and powdered sugar, for garnishing
- Combine the first set of ingredients in sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat until the rhubarb has broken down to a pulp and the liquid has slightly thickened. Strain into a bowl and pop into the fridge to cool and thicken a bit more. Save the pulp for another use.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, vanilla, sugar, and lemon zest and juice.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry mixture to the egg yolk mixture and carefully whisk until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until you get soft peaks.
- Fold in the whipped egg whites at the last minute, just before making the pancakes.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray (or butter).
- Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the pan. Cook a few minutes on each side til golden brown, then lay the cooked ones out on a lined cookie sheet (don't stack). Keep the tray of pancakes in a warm oven (200 or lower) just until the last one is made.
- Serve immediately with the rhubarb-ginger syrup, powdered sugar, and any fresh berries you like or have on hand.
- I used green rhubarb, which is why I added the strawberries to the syrup for color, but you can easily omit the berries from the syrup.
- The cake flour truly makes a difference in the lightness and fluffiness of the pancakes. If you can't find cake flour, try substituting 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus 1/2 cup cornstarch.
- When cooking the pancakes, don't touch or try to move them around the pan while cooking. Just let them do their thing and get golden brown on each side. They'll be much prettier. :)
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