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.
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!
It’s a ham and cheese sandwich made on french toast. The Challah bread was thickly cut, so I didn’t cook it all together. I just cooked the ham and french-toasted the bread, then put it all together with some smoked gouda. One of the breakfasters worried she was losing her mind because the combination tasted like alcohol, but I put her at ease when I divulged I had added a capful of whiskey to each slice of bread.
Two nights before, we were visited by a raccoon. We were in the second floor bedroom and we heard a scratching at the window.
The home’s previous guest was also visited by this enterprising vertically-gifted procyonid. It is in the account written by her where he earns his name “Philipe.”
Raccoons are a good omen, so we welcomed this auspicious visitor!
As I write this entry, I am sitting in a breakfast joint, possibly the only one in Bar Harbor, Maine (as the locals call it, “Bah Hahbah”). It is 6:15 AM, and the establishment is packed. A woman in a shirt depicting welsh corgies floating through space emitting comically bastardized dog sounds (e.g. “bork bork.”). Her accent seems out of place. Mostly Eastern European, although not without a flair of upper New England. I have ordered the wild blueberry pancakes, which I am told are the best in Bar Harbor.
The waiter stops by with my food. She is from Kiev. The pancakes are thick and goopy, soaking the chunky wild blueberry sauce that came with them. Butter, served as a scoop in a plastic cup, melts and sinks into the surface of the pastries until they become saturated with the purple sauce, at which point it sits on top in a white and purple swirl.
As a savvy reader may have guessed, food has been one of the main attractions of my trip to the harbor so far. My first experience with the area was a Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed rather standard Americanized Japanese fare in an atmosphere juxtaposing faux traditional affectations with color-shifting neon lighting. Our waters were served with what were described as “hand-twirled” drinking straws, and the tea included traditional style cups, except that they were four times the size. The water had a subtle spicy taste, and my aunts, with whom I was traveling, assured me that this was due to high heavy metal content.
When we arrived at our rental house, supper was salad with grilled cheese in a much more literal form than one might expect. Halloumi is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that holds up under heat, and thus can be sautéed in a pan, giving it a beautiful browned appearance and a taste that lives up to what one might imagine if you fried cheese in a pan.
Dessert was s’mores. On the theory that every dessert can be improved with judicious application of alcohol, I tried drizzling whiskey on my s’more. The first bite, I only added a drop and couldn’t taste it. The second one, I poured on half a capful, and the s’more burned my mouth and throat. Thus I have eliminated “pour straight whisky on top” from the list of ways alcohol could improve s’mores.