Giant Spelt Pancake with Squash Blossoms
This recipe is featured in The Appeal of Ancient Wheat: Why Spelt, Emmer, Einkorn, and Kamut® Return to Our Table
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.
- Servings Makes 2 large pancakes, to serve 4 to 6
- 120 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)* whole grain spelt or Kamut flour
- 3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 118 ml (½ cup) whole milk
- 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) fine sea salt
- 1.3 ml (¼ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
- 16 squash blossoms
- 237 ml (1 cup) loosely packed chopped mixed herbs such as mint, parsley, and dill
- 237 ml (1 cup) finely grated Manchego cheese or Parmesan, plus extra for serving
- 20 ml (4 teaspoons) extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling
- Good-quality balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
HOW TO STORE SQUASH BLOSSOMS AND FRESH HERBS
Ideally you should cook squash blossoms the day you buy them. But life happens. I had good success storing the delicate blossoms for a day or two in the fridge, upright, in a glass of water like flowers, and loosely covered — a plastic bag works. But I much prefer perforated and reusable produce bags I found at Crate and Barrel. I use the same method to store bunches of fresh parsley, dill, and mint — they will last for many days. No need to buy special contraptions. I also take these washable bags with me to go shopping for fruit and vegetables. I leave most produce right in the bags when I return and store them in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator.
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 473 ml (2-cup) liquid measuring cup. Add the milk, 118 ml (1/2 cup) 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.)
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 30 ml (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 25 cm (10-inch) cast-iron or other heatproof skillet for 2 minutes over medium heat. Swirl in 10 ml (2 teaspoons) of the olive oil and wait until it shimmers. Scoop with a 237 ml (1 cup) measure deeply into the batter and put a scant 354 ml (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 59 ml (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 crispier 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.
You can top the pancakes with halved grape or cherry tomatoes — a scant 237 ml (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 710 ml (3 cups) and sauté in 15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil over medium heat, with a bit of salt, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes.
*Conversions by The Cook’s Cook