The other day I woke up with a serious hankering for some good, old-fashioned American pancakes. (Or flapjacks, as Wikipedia insists we call them in the U.S. – the article was clearly not written by an American – we don’t put PB&J on everything, people!) Without my trusty copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and after a search on his website came up fruitless, I decided to wing it on the recipe, based on what I remembered from the book.
My favorite kind of pancakes are undoubtedly the buttermilk variety. However, I was skeptical as to my chances of finding buttermilk in a French supermarket. Luckily, that’s an easy one to substitute if you have milk and lemon juice (which are easy to come by here). I figured I should be able to find either baking powder or baking soda without too much trouble, and flour is a staple. So I headed off to the store to see what I could find. Well, I walked right past the flour on the first lap, since it turned out to be all but hidden on the bottom shelf underneath the packaged baking mixes. Next to it was the poudre à lever, literally “baking powder,” but on closer inspection was revealed to be more along the lines of baking soda, with flour added for some reason. This may be trickier than I originally anticipated.
I did find maple syrup in the international aisle, near the oyster sauce and curry mixes. It was outrageously expensive, but sometimes you need a taste of home. The label on the syrup is quite entertaining:
I like how at the top it says, “Product of Canada,” and immediately below it says, “USA.” This company, Classic Foods of America, also makes peanut butter, microwave popcorn, tortilla chips, guacamole, and pancake mix, among other things. Never having seen a label like this before, I wondered if it was an American regional brand I was unfamiliar with, or maybe produced by another major company for export. Nope. It’s a French company.
Anyway, I brought home my goodies and put together some pancake batter using a combination of milk, fromage blanc, and lemon juice in place of the buttermilk and simply guessing how much of the levure chimique to use. I think I used a little too much liquid, because the batter was thinner than I remember it, and a little more bubbly than usual.
But it was pancake batter nonetheless. I set about frying them, and after a couple of ugly ones (the first batch is never good), they started working as I expected.
I’m hungry all over again just looking at them. As the thin batter may have predicted, the pancakes themselves were thinner than I usually make them, but certainly passable. Smothered in butter and drizzled with maple syrup, they made a breakfast (well, by now I was firmly in brunch territory) fit for my craving. Now that I know pancakes are possible here, I will be adding them to my weekend repertoire, but I will probably tweak the recipe as I learn more about how French poudre à lever works.
Epilogue: I wolfed down this entire plate in record time.