Off the Griddle with Ihopapotamus at…Cracker Barrel!

cracker barrel

This November, I decided to satisfy my craving for pancakes by visiting a staple for many of those who both travel and love breakfast – Cracker Barrel. For me, going to Cracker Barrel is always a rare treat because there aren’t any locations on Long Island, where I grew up. Imagine my joy in discovering, then, on a recent road trip to Connecticut, that Cracker Barrel and its all day, everyday breakfast are a mere three hours from home!

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The East Windsor location is – as many Cracker Barrels are – tucked away in a parking lot next to a hotel, just off the highway. As soon as you pull in, you are greeted by the all-familiar rocking chair-lined porch leading up to the entryway. For those who have never been to a Cracker Barrel before – a problem that you need to rectify as soon as possible – every Cracker Barrel is set up virtually the same way. While it is easy to get distracted by the many adorable country-style gifts clustered cozily together at the front of the store, the avid pancake eater should take a sharp left diagonal from the entrance to reach the restaurant part of the store.

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The restaurant area of Cracker Barrel is almost universally marked by super-friendly waiters and waitresses, a casual country atmosphere, an extensive menu with low prices for enormous portions of food, and really fast service. The East Windsor location was no exception. It is worth repeating that although Cracker Barrel does have delicious lunch and dinner options, its breakfast menu is served throughout the day, so you can get pancakes anytime the craving hits.

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The menu has a variety of pancake options, from good ole buttermilk to pancakes served with a variety of fruit toppings, including apples, blackberries, and peaches. (All of these can also be easily and cheaply supplemented with your choice of meat, eggs, and/or fruit, if you’re looking for a complete pancake feast.) I went, however, for my favorite pancake on the menu: the wild blueberry pancake.

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Unlike the fruit-topped varieties, the blueberry pancakes are loaded with blueberries inside and out. They are also served with a full mini-jar of blueberry syrup (about half of which is usually left over, which you can then take home with you) and a scoop of butter.

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East Windsor’s pancakes did not disappoint. Although they looked a little sloppier in appearance than usual, because of the way the batter had been poured, the taste was buttery and sweet. A unique thing about ordering these pancakes at this location as opposed to others that I have been to was that the glass bottle of blueberry syrup had been warmed, keeping the syrup hot as I (liberally) poured it over the pancakes. The scoop of butter that was slowly melting over the pancake as I ate it was good but almost too much, in light of the buttery taste of the pancake itself; I ended up setting most of the scoop aside. My order included two large pancakes, which was more than I could finish; despite my best efforts, much of the second pancake went uneaten.

All in all, I was extremely happy with the way East Windsor served up my old favorite. I highly recommend that if you have not given these a try, you be sure to include a Cracker Barrel stop on your next road trip, especially if you’re in the East Windsor area. And don’t forget that when you’re finished with that day’s pancake adventure, you can revisit the gift shop afterward for Cracker Barrel’s own line of ready-to-go pancake mixes and syrups to take the magic home!

4 out of 5 Paul Bunyans: Untitled1Untitled1Untitled1Untitled1

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More like Panberries…amirite?

Cranberry Sauce + Pancakes = Panberries…just go with it.

I started thinking about what I should make today and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I figured it would be good to have a recipe to help use up some leftovers!

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I decided to target the cranberry sauce and after a quick google search (original recipe from The Kitchn) and some tinkering, I came up with a pretty good recipe! On their own, the pancakes are slightly sweet and perfect for snacking. I made regular sized pancakes but if you made them as silver dollars, they would be perfect for some all day snackage.

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(thank goodness the cranberry sauce can came with directions…)

Texturally, the pancakes are pretty soft and fluffy. Not super fluffy because the cranberry sauce weighs it down a little, but still moderately fluffy. I think a handful of pecans or walnuts would’ve gone really well with the pancakes. I did make a little cranberry sauce reduction (or just fancied up the canned sauce) that I poured on top of the pancakes and it was delicious.

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I noticed a lot of the recipes I saw online used someone’s “mother’s famous sauce’ or “aunt betty’s crazy good cranberries” or something like that so I figured my pancakes could have some of that goodness on top. I simmered the leftover canned sauce,  fresh cranberries, some ginger powder, a splash of maple syrup, and orange and lemon juices while I was cooking the pancakes and let it cool and thicken and it was DELICIOUS. I think I inadvertently invented my new go to cranberry sauce…go me.

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If that doesn’t say Thanksgiving to you, I don’t know what does. 😉 Just remember, I made these pancakes with plain old canned grocery store cranberry sauce and the pancakes were really good, so if you have any leftover artisinal or homemade sauce, I’m sure these pancakes could only be even better!

3.75 out of 5 stackies: stackiestackiestackie.75

Ingredients:

1/2 C flour

pinch coarse salt

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 C cranberry sauce

1 egg white

1/2 C milk

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 Tbs melted butter

zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

(makes 4 pancakes)

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Stir in the egg, milk, vanilla, butter, and zest.

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Stir in the cranberry sauce. It doesn’t need to be perfectly blended in.

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Heat a nonstick pan over medium low heat. Melt a little bit of butter in the pan and cook a scant 1/3 C batter at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes.

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Flip and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Top with extra cranberry sauce, maple syrup, or nuts. Enjoy!

 

Sesame Street!

Hey hey Fancakes!

This past weekend I went with a few of my friends for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Everything we got was delicious but what stuck with my tastebuds was a black sesame ice cream dessert. I love black sesame. Really, I love everything sesame so it’s no surprise that once I got a taste of that sesame goodness, I just kept wanting more. And that is why, this week, I basically had not choice but to make Sesame Crepes! (original recipe from food and punch)

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A quick note on the recipe before I dive into the flavor profile. The original recipe calls for rice flour, but I just don’t think that rice flour makes for good crepes – it makes the crepes more prone to cracking (you can see in the picture that the crepes are breaking a bit). Anyway, that’s why my recipe calls for regular flour but feel free to experiment with whatever flours you like.

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Flavor-wise, the sesame flavor is subtle, but definitely there, and, since they get mixed into the batter and sprinkled onto the crepes, there’s definitely a nice crunch to the crepes. On their own, the crepes are lightly sweet, and the orange blossom water comes through just a bit. With the extra honey and lemon, these crepes are the perfect snack – I’m definitely making them again!

3.5 out of 5 stackies: stackiestackiestackie .5

Ingredients:

(makes 8 crepes)

1/2 C flour

1 egg

1 1/2 Tbs sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 C milk

1/2 T butter, melted

1 tsp orange blossom water (or vanilla)

1 Tbs sesame seeds + more for sprinkling

honey

lemon

Directions:

Sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Whisk in the butter, milk, egg, and orange blossom water until you get a very smooth batter. Stir in the sesame seeds.

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Cover the batter with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the batter and put the batter in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour.

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Lightly butter a nonstick pan and set it over medium heat. Giving the batter a quick stir, cook 2 Tbs of batter at a time. Swirl the batter around the pan so that you get a very thin crepe. Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top of the crepe before it dries. Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges are crispy.

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Flip and cook for another minute or so.

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Continue to cook the crepes, stacking them up on a plate as you go. The residual heat will keep them nice and pliable.

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When you’re through cooking, fold them into quarters, and sprinkle them with honey and lemon juice.

Quince, Rhymes with Prince!

Hey Fancakes,

Sorry for the late post! I had some old friends from college come visit me this weekend (both of whom are ihopapotami!) and the pancaking got a bit delayed. In any case, I wasn’t sure what to do this week until I remembered that my other friend (also an ihopapotami…basically if we’re friends, I’m making you do a pancake review) had given me some quince from her CSA! I’ve never cooked with quince but they smelled delicious so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find a good recipe.

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I did a fair bit of research and everything I read was basically true – quince smell delicious, they’re almost impossible to eat raw (just very tart and dry), but after you cook them, they turn into this beautiful shade of pink and taste like a magical apple-pear hybrid. MAGICAL.

(photo from flowerona.com) These flowers, btw, they’re quince blossoms! I think they’re my new favorite – I’ve never seen them in person but if the google image search can be trusted, they’re all stunning.

Right, so after a quick search, I found this recipe from Saveur for Quince Pancakes that I followed exactly (except for making a half recipe). Besides the whole poach the quince part, the recipe is really quick to put together. And, even though the poaching takes a bit of time, you don’t need to babysit the quince – I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls while the quince was simmering away.

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Flavor-wise the pancakes were pretty good. There’s a light sweetness and then just the right bit of acidity from the quince. In addition to the apple-pear flavor, I thought that the quince had a little bit of apricoty-citrusness. Definitely use the powdered sugar, the extra sweetness on top really brings out the tartness of the quince.

Texturally, the pancakes are pretty soft – the pancakes are really fluffy but also burn easily. If you’re worried about your pancaking powers, I would recommend making slightly smaller pancakes so you can control the cook time and temperature better.

Overall, I’m definitely glad I tried these pancakes, if for no other reason than I got to use quince. I might have to join a CSA myself just so I can get weird/new vegetables and fruit for me to make pancakes out of.

3.5 out of 5 stackies: stackiestackiestackie .5

Ingredients:

(makes 5 pancakes)

1 quince, peeled, cored, and diced into chunks

2 Tbs sugar

3/4 C milk

1 T butter, melted (+ more for cooking)

1 small egg

1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

powdered sugar

Directions:

Cook your chunked quince, sugar, and 1/4 C water over low heat for about half an hour. The quince will get very soft and the liquid will be almost done. Transfer the quince to a food processor and puree for just a few seconds (you want some chunks to remain). You could also use a potato masher if you want even chunkier quince! After the quince has cooled, whisk in the milk, melted butter, and egg. Sift in the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

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Stir until just combined. The batter will be a very very light yellow – almost like a suuuper creamy corn chowder.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium low heat. Melt a sliver of butter (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Cook 1/3 C batter at a time.

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Cook for about 2-3 minutes, until the bottom is fully cooked, and the edges look a little dry. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

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Top with powdered sugar and enjoy!

B is for: Bacon, Bleu Cheese, and Buckwheat.

Hey fancakes,

Have you ever told your friends and family that you’re into something and then, because everyone you know is awesome, you constantly get gifts/emails/messages related to that interest area? Yeah, s0 that happens to me with pancakes and owls (this blog could’ve been “so you think you can owl” in a HEARTBEAT).  Anyway, shoutout to my friend Aryn who emailed me this recipe from what should i eat for breakfast today for buckwheat pancakes with bacon and bleu cheese.

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I’d been sitting on the recipe for awhile because I’m not a huge fan of bleu cheese but this morning I just felt like mixing it up a little. I ran over to the store and grabbed some mild smelling bleu cheese (yes, I stood in the cheese aisle and sniffed all the bleu cheeses to pick what I thought would be the mildest – I am that person), bacon, and green onions. Frankly, if you like bleu cheese, this mix of ingredients is hard to go wrong with.

(basically how I feel about bleu cheese – image from arcamax)

I can’t say that I love bleu cheese now, but even if you’re like me, I’d encourage you to try this recipe – it’s actually got a pretty perfect balance of salty and sweet and the bleu cheese really just lends a subtle creamy, salty, earthy underflavor to everything (“underflavor,” trademarked!).

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So the only ingredient I actually had a problem with was the buckwheat! I thought it made the pancakes a little too sandy/gritty. I’ve tried to remedy that problem by adding an egg and using whole wheat flour instead. I agree with the original recipe that you need something a little more substantial than regular flour for these pancakes but 100% buckwheat just wasn’t quite right to me. You could go cRaZy and do 1/2 buckwheat + 1/2 whole wheat, or even throw in some rye flour! (wut wut!)

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This was definitely one of those recipes where I would take a bite, chew thoughtfully, and have to take another bite to really figure out the flavor profile…I’d say I ate about a half of the stack before I felt like I had really gotten a handle of the flavor profile…totally worth it.

3.75 out of 5 stackies: stackiestackiestackie.75

Ingredients:

(makes 4 pancakes – enough for 2 slightly hungry people)

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/2 Tbs baking powder

pinch salt

1/2 C milk

1 egg

1 T butter, melted

1 T maple syrup (+ more for drizzling)

1/4 C green onions, chopped

1/8 C bleu cheese, chopped into small pieces

bacon, at least 4 pieces for the pancakes

oil for cooking

Directions:

Cook the bacon! I did mine in the oven but cook yours anyway you like best.

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Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, egg, butter, and maple syrup until you get a nice smooth batter.

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Add the chopped green onions and bleu cheese. Whisk well with a fork making sure to break up the bleu cheese crumbles.

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It’ll look a little like sludge, but no worries, it’ll taste good! Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add about a quarter sized amount of oil to the pan. Cook a scant 1/3 C of batter at a time making sure to spread the batter out a little – the batter will be on the thick side.

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Cook for about 2 minutes, until the top is dry and you can see that the bottom is nice and browned.

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Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Layer the pancakes with bacon and drizzle with syrup. Enjoy!