MAKES 2 LARGE PANCAKES, TO SERVE 4 TO 6
240 ml + 120 g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whole grain spelt or Kamut® flour
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
120 ml (1⁄2 cup) whole milk
120 ml (1⁄2 cup) water
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 squash blossoms
240 ml (1 cup) loosely packed chopped mixed herbs such as mint, parsley, and dill
240 ml (1 cup) finely grated Manchego cheese or Parmesan, plus extra for serving
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling
Good-quality balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
My German dad was a competitive pancake gobbler — to call him a pancake eater would do the term injustice. But he certainly loved pancakes, and the ones he made for us children were always huge, the size of a skillet. As is traditional, he used no chemical leaveners, just the power of eggs to give them a lift. This recipe, almost a cross between pancakes and omelets, is inspired by German-style pancakes to which I add lots of fresh herbs and tender squash blossoms.
I often serve them for brunch, but add a simple salad of spinach leaves or bitter greens, and it is just as good for dinner.
Step one: Prepare the batter the night before, or at least 30 minutes ahead: Add the flour to a medium bowl. Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add the milk, water, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the flour, starting from the center, until smooth. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes, covered. Place the egg whites in a bowl in which you can whisk them later. (If making the night before, cover the egg whites as well and chill both bowls, up to 24 hours.)
Step two: When you are ready to make the pancakes, remove both bowls from the fridge about 30 minutes ahead (up to 1 hour for the egg whites for best volume). Briefly swish the squash blossoms in a bowl of cold water, then place on a clean dish cloth to drain and gently pat dry. Trim the stems to a length of about 1 inch. Very gently pry each blossom open and remove the stamen in the center, using tweezers. Don’t worry if the petals tear a bit; just twist them gently to close at the top.
Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them with a hand blender or with a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Stir the batter briefly to blend with a fork. If it has become thick, add a little water by the tablespoon — it should have the consistency of buttermilk (or heavy cream if you’re using Kamut® flour). Set aside 2 tablespoons of the herbs for garnish. Stir the remaining herbs and half of the cheese into the batter. Gently fold in the egg whites, in three additions.
Place a rack 4 inches away from the broiler and preheat on high. Set a large platter or plate next to the stove and have a piece of aluminum foil handy to cover it.
Heat a 10-inch cast-iron or other heatproof skillet for 2 minutes over medium heat. Swirl in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and wait until it shimmers. Scoop with a 1-cup measure deeply into the batter and put a scant 1 1⁄2 cups into the center of the pan.
Quickly but gently spread the batter outward, using the back of the measuring cup, until it almost reaches the sides. Cook for 1 minute, until slightly puffy. Gently press 8 squash blossoms in a star pattern into the center of the pancake, with the stem facing inward. Continue cooking until a few small bubbles appear on top, the edges just start to brown, and the bottom turns golden brown (lift with a spatula), about 2 minutes more.
Sprinkle with 1⁄4 cup of the remaining cheese and place the skillet under the broiler. Cook, watching closely, until puffy and golden brown, about 3 minutes or 1 to 2 minutes more for a crisper pancake. Remove the pancake and slide it onto the platter. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels and repeat with the second pancake.
To serve, sprinkle each pancake with a bit more cheese and some of the remaining herbs. Crush some sea salt flakes on top, cut into quarters or halves, and serve at once, passing balsamic vinegar around for drizzling.
Fine points: Look for squash blossoms at farmers’ markets during the summer months. Whole grain Kamut® flour makes a sturdier pancake with a golden hue and a subtle sweetness. White whole wheat flour can be substituted. VARIATIONS: You can top the pancakes with halved grape or cherry tomatoes — a scant 1 cup per pancake. Toss a few olives on too if you like.
In the winter, make use of the dark green parts of leeks, so often discarded. Slice thinly to amount to 3 cups and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, with a bit of salt, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes.