Weekend breakfast: buttermilk pancakes

Buttermilk is one of those things you get in every Irish supermarket but I usually find it difficult to track down here – that’s to say, my local supermarket doesn’t have it.  Odd, as  approximately a tenth of their floor space is given over to Home Baking, bless whoever their buyer is.  When I do find it, there are two recipes I want to make, and this is one of them: buttermilk pancakes.

I use Scott Jenson‘s recipe, though scaled back as below for two people – you’ll still be stuffed – and to use a single standard container of buttermilk.

The Wets
285ml buttermilk
1 egg
40g melted butter
1.5 Teaspoons Vanilla

The Drys
100g white flour
30g sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp  salt

I think it’s probably the vanilla that lifts these, but leaving the batter for five minutes to allow the bicarbonate to react also makes a difference.  You mix the wets, mix the drys, mix them together without overbeating, then cook a quarter cup at a time on a medium heat.  Get your pan ready and prepare to sacrifice the first pancake – my mother always says it’s ‘one for the pan’.


When crater-like bubbles start to appear, it’s time to add your toppings and flip, particularly for fruit like blueberries, sliced bananas or chopped strawberries. We experimented with chocolate chunks (squares of 80% Green & Blacks, because that was all that was lurking in the cupboard, butchered with a mezza luna) but it was a little too sickly even for me. Adding a small amount of flour-dusted milk chocolate chips shortly after you first pour the batter and it’s lightly set would probably work, allowing the chips to sink into the middle of the pancake and not just make a sticky mess when you turn it.

Plain ones work brilliantly with thin crispy rashers of smoked bacon, and maple syrup. A bottle of Prosecco, and nothing to do for the rest of the day is also recommended.  Best weekend breakfast ever.

Hummingbird Bakery: Coconut Meringue Cake

When I realised I’d need a hammer to make the Hummingbird Coconut Meringue Cake, I instinctively developed reservations about it.  ‘Fresh coconut tastes better’, declared the author. I’m sure it does, in much the same way that basking under the sun on a private beach on Necker warms your bones more gratifyingly than a sunbed in the local tanning salon.

Note to self: sometimes you can ignore the author.

Note 2 to self: no, no you can’t. Other people can. Get the hammer.

Welcome to a cake tragedy.  It started poorly – when you can’t get butter and sugar to cream, it doesn’t bode well for a light fluffy cake. I wondered if the butter had been too cold, so I consulted the cakey gurus. Yup, I phoned my mother and father. Baker of birthday cakes for many years, and former commercial bakery owner/manager respectively. Maybe it could have been softer was the consensus, but sure keep beating it and see what happens.  You can’t make it any worse.

No better either, it seems. The ratio of sugar:butter at 370g:70g just didn’t seem right to me.  It had the consistency of grainy melted marzipan. I chucked it and started over.  It didn’t improve much. I persevered. Someone wrote, tested, proofread this book, right? It must be correct. Note 3 to self – errata do occur.

I looked up the errata. They were no help, but you now have the Brooklyn Blackout Cake recipe should you be brave enough to try it.

I baulked slightly at the seven eggs required for the meringue frosting but started separating. You know the sage advice about separating the eggs into a cup and then putting the whites in a bowl? Of course I wasn’t doing that. On the seventh egg I sliced neatly through the yolk and the yellow plummeted into the Sea of Albumen. I know I should have chucked it all out but I removed as much as I could instead and made up the meringue frosting. With a lot of extra sugar. It was still runny as all hell, so I mixed in some of grated coconut for texture and to bind it. A bit like mixing mud and straw as building materials. Just really sweet mud. On the plus side, if I ever want to recreate Tunnocks Snowballs at home, I’ve got the filling cracked.

Oh, why did I need the hammer? To pierce the eyes of the coconut and drain the milk, then to smash open the shell later. My neighbours looove me now.

Stars: *****

It was better the next day. It could really do with being two tiers rather than three, it’s simply too much cake and the sugar rush from the amount of frosting required to cement it together could put you into a coma. The texture was so dense it reminded me of breeze blocks.  I’m a fan of the book but won’t be making this again.