For the gringos, “Tia” means “aunt” in Spanish.
There’s pancakes, there’s bacon, there’s sausage and hash browns, but what do you do when you need to go to the next level? How can you go a step above the standard fare and make a birthday breakfast really special?
You make a breakfast pizza.
The breakfast pizza is not merely breakfast in the shape of a pizza or a pizza that you eat for breakfast, it is a collision of two worlds and an apotheosis of morning flavor. Your family will ask for breakfast pizza for every birthday.
First make the crust. I use a gluten free mix. I use coconut milk instead of cow milk to have it lactose free. The crust mix calls for cheese, and I use all extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar from the deli section of the grocery store. This cheese goes on the top as well.
You can make your own pizza sauce, too.
Toppings are the fun part – all breakfast meats are on the table. For safety, I recommend cooking them separately first, even if you don’t make sure they’re cooked all the way through. Generally you should be fine letting them finish cooking in the oven. Bacon is an iconic breakfast food, and I’ve seen slices of potato as well, but we used maple blueberry sausage and honey ham.
We beat some eggs and poured splotches of them raw throughout, and added one sunny-side-up for decoration. It looks like it didn’t cook, but it’s actually solid all through. A sprinkle of oregano on top provides the finishing touch.
Once upon a time, I ate a cereal called “Puffed Kamut.” It was an unsweetened grain that had the most delightful taste and texture. It was mostly air and came in plastic bags about the same size as a cereal box. Breakfast each morning would consist of pulling a metal mixing bowl from the cupboard, emptying one bag of puffed kamut, pouring in milk until the grains floated, and eating it all over the course of a few minutes. It was heaven.
Breakfast is an unusual meal. For one thing, it’s purportedly the most important meal of the day, for another, it’s also the one that I tend to have the least time to make (or I did back when commuting was a thing people did in the real world). To measure puffed Kamut on my chart of breakfasts, I would recommend it for convenience and pleasantness but not for affordability and health. As I finally admitted sometime in my mid-twenties, even cereal that is not infused with sugar is mostly just carbs.
So, I switched to eggs. Eggs are not as high as a cereal on convenience, but they’re high on pleasantness, nutrition and affordability. Serve them on top of sliced sweet potatoes you baked in the oven the night before. That’s good eating!
One problem – my wife is sort of a little bit egg intolerant . She can only eat so many. Not every day for breakfast on slices of baked sweet potatoes! What to do? Enter oatmeal. I was sure oatmeal would be just as bad as any other grain, but my explorations online have suggested that’s not the case. It consistently ranks at the top of healthful grains to have for breakfast. The number one warning is not to add sugar or salt. That’s the worst thing that comes up when I try to find the downsides of oatmeal. I happen to love grains of all kinds, so I don’t need to dress up oatmeal in sugar and salt. I just toss on some fresh fruit and chia seeds, add sunflower seeds for protein and I’m happy. This places oatmeal high on every category. It’s good for convenience, pleasantness, nutrition, and affordability. At least before my professor of public health mother comments and informs me I’ve been living a lie.
I really should have photodocumented all the ways that I tried to make sourdough pancakes. When I started, I was still on my cornmeal kick and insisting on using exclusively cornmeal, which led to grainy pancakes. Then there was the time that somebody hid the baking powder and I accidentally reversed the conversion ratio to baking soda. That was one of my rare concoctions that I actually did throw in the trash (after extensive stomach pain and consultations with my wife and sister in law). Then I followed a recipe that did not include any baking soda or powder and served my family chewy sourdough pancake strips. Then I stopped for a while, and I was just about ready to throw out the rest of the starter when I opted to give it one more go.
Using up all of the last of the sourdough starter, a bomber recipe, and a trick I learned from making coconut pudding, I made the fluffiest, most delicious pancakes I have ever tasted. I’ll start with the recipe and then tell you the tweaks to recreate my breakout success.
The recipe is a little article on “Vanilla and Bean” for gluten free sourdough pancakes. The first thing I saw was that they just took the butter I’d been cooking my pancakes in and threw it right into the batter. Next, they recommended maple syrup directly added to the batter as well. I grabbed a block of butter (my butter is sold in blocks, not sticks) that was roughly 1.5x what the recipe called for, and threw it in. So, the first lesson is “Don’t cut the sugar and fat.”
Next lesson: sugar comes in many forms. The day before some neighbors visited for a socially distant lunch and they left a container of ginger ale. My sourdough bread recipe called for ginger ale, and I couldn’t find the maple syrup, so I went for it. The ginger ale fizzed up the baking soda the moment it went on, and might be related to my next problem.
My batter was too runny. I added two more eggs to fix the problem, and, drawing on some success thickening coconut-chocolate pudding, I added a teaspoon of xantham gum. Xantham gum is such an effective thickening agent that you have to put it in while you’re blending the food or it clumps together with itself and makes a useless little blob.
With these two together I still felt it was a little runny, but I cooked in a small pan so it would only have so much space to run. The third lesson is Xantham gum is an effective thickener with no flavor that you can add to anything.
Finally, I used 100% almond flour instead of the recipe’s recommended half almond half oat. I also used almond milk. I can’t say if that made any difference, but the outcome you have to taste to believe. I’ve done my best to convey the fluffiness of this pancake in a picture.
After a day in the fridge, the pancake batter grew and pushed out of its container.
It was even fluffier than before!
If you have your own sourdough pancake recipe you stand by or you try this recipe, let me know in the comments!
We have not yet had any issues with food supplies running low. In fact, we have branched out beyond pizza and pasta. We unpacked our gifts, including some cool new kitchen appliances. I’ve already gotten some use out of our new air fryer. I had some asparagus laying around, and I started with a lime-parmesan asparagus dish. After that was a big success, I tried making up a recipe with orange juice and zest, sesame oil, and fresh ground peanuts. I called it “Pad Thai Asparagus.”
It turned out well.
On the left is my sweet potato hash. On the right is my pad thai asparagus. I tried air frying the sweet potato hash, and it got a little burnt, but it was nice and crispy and I still liked it.
I have three big bushes of basil in my backyard. The product of a donation of seedlings from my mom plus a whole lot of watering and protection from anyone who wanted to harvest them too soon. Mom also helped me know the best way to harvest them. When they grow little “towers” with lots of small leaves clustered together in a pole formation that means it’s about to flower. You get more leaves if the plant doesn’t spend resources on flowers, so cut it right then below the regular leaves underneath the tower.
I left it for a while, and now I have a bit of a bumper crop. On that place is all leaves. The stems and towers are in the bowl. You’ll see some flowers because I don’t trim regularly enough. This is what I kept for myself after filling a takeout chinese container with basil to give to my neighbor. Yes, it’s all from trimming.Now I have the basil in my fridge, soaking in water to kill any insects that may be lurking.
Believe it or not, my freezer is full of frozen pesto from a time I bought basil at the Durham farmer’s market. Nevertheless, I think that fresh pesto will be welcome while it’s in season. We can enjoy frozen pesto in winter.
Over the weekend I have not had a moment to offer an update. I have been out and about in Connecticut and New York City packing my days with activities. Now I’m in Bermuda and things have slowed down to the point that I can take a little time to report. I have marked statements not meant to be taken as literal fact with “*”.
A visit to NYC is not complete without a stop in Ridgefield Connecticut to visit my old college roommate, Greg. COVER ART: A somewhat menacing woven tapestry of swans in the Aldrige Museum of Modern Art in Ridgefield.
Carl Jung’s “The Red Book” gives readers a friendly introduction to the realms of madness of which men do not speak*.
New York City
In NYC we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Next week: Bermuda!