This cook’s secrets to granola pancakes are simple but take practice. The idea is to melt the butter in a medium-size skillet that determines the size of the pancake. Then he adds granola, letting it sit in the hot pan a few minutes before pouring on the batter.
I must have gone to the wrong Jersey Shore. The one I saw didn’t look anything like the one on MTV. I saw docks lined with commercial fishing vessels and casual seafood eateries. And neighborhoods where quaint shops and fresh vegetable stands nestle against one another, and row upon row of restored oversize Victorians. And, yes, there are dance clubs — but I saw them only in the quiet of sunlight, no sign of hair poofs, steroid-enhanced abs or spray-on tans.
Most of The Shore — and its residents confirm that the area is called precisely that, without the “Jersey” prefix — seems to consist of cul-de-sacs of clapboard-covered houses inhabited by extended families. Multiple generations — mothers and fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents, teens and tweens, newlyweds and small children meet on weekends to swim, sun, fish and grill in the backyard. At night, neighbors’ laughter drifts from the houses and mingles in the spaces between as families play board games and tune in to baseball games foreign to Boston visitors.
Stephen, a happy father-to-be, grew up there. He and his wife, Sarah, are busy these days with careers and a new house, having settled in another state. They visit on summer weekends. Stephen makes sure to connect with both Grandpas, taking time for long conversations, a bit of golf and granola pancakes, his culinary specialty, on Sunday mornings.
Word spreads quickly when he commands the stove. Young adults schedule their morning run soon after dawn, and normally late-sleeping teenagers arrive, pajama-clad, to the table to find him expertly flipping a hot pan.
This cook’s secrets are simple but take practice. The idea is to melt the butter in a medium-size skillet that determines the size of the pancake. Then he adds granola, letting it sit in the hot pan a few minutes before pouring on the batter. Each pancake is made individually. He doesn’t apologize for using granola from a box or prepared pancake mix, although he buys premium brands of both. (The pancake mix is gluten-free.)
The uniqueness comes from allowing the granola time to caramelize before adding batter. And from that practiced flick of the wrist that ensures an even tan to both sides of the pancake.
Topped with fresh fruit, syrup, or butter — or a mixture or all three — the pancakes make a memorable breakfast.
Makes about 6 pancakes
Although the batter here is from scratch, the cooking method works for store-bought pancake mix as well. Some cooks use a griddle rather than a skillet, making several pancakes at once. In that case, use about 2 tablespoons of granola and 3 tablespoons of pancake mix for each pancake.
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granola
1. Whisk the eggs together in a mixing bowl. Warm butter and milk together in a small saucepan until butter melts. Set aside to cool; stir into the eggs. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir egg mixture to flour mixture until just blended.
2. Heat a 6- or 8-inch skillet. Add butter and melt. Add enough granola to loosely cover bottom of skillet. Warm gently, then add about 1/2 cup pancake batter. Cook until the surface bubbles slightly; lift edge slightly to check if it has turned lightly golden. Turn or flip the pancake, depending on your confidence, cooking another 30 seconds, again lifting and checking the bottom to see if it is lightly golden.
3. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep hot in a 200-degree oven. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked. Serve hot.
MY OWN GRANOLA
Makes about 5 cups
I use generic rice puffs when making this granola. It’s an easy recipe to play with, adding or subtracting ingredients according to the family’s taste buds.
I usually make this in large batches and store it, tightly covered, in the refrigerator if I use butter. However, if using the canola oil option, the granola doesn’t need refrigeration.
3 cups uncooked oatmeal
1 cup rice puffs
1 cup chopped walnuts
salt, to taste
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 stick butter, melted or 1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons granulated brown sugar
1 cup dried cranberries
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Toss together oatmeal, rice puffs, wheat germ and walnuts in a large bowl. Add salt to taste.
3. In a smaller bowl, stir together maple syrup, melted butter or canola oil, granulated sugar. Pour into the larger bowl and toss to coat.
4. Spread the mixture out in a layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Check the oven every 10 minutes to be sure it isn’t burning and turn the mixture once or twice so that it browns all over. Remove from oven and let cool at least one hour. The mixture will be sticky, but becomes crisp as it cools.
5. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cranberries and toss gently. Store in a plastic refrigerator bag or tightly covered in a glass or plastic container for up to three weeks.
VARIATION: DELUXE GRANOLA
Add 1 cup cornflakes, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1/2 cup almond slivers, 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the baking mix above. Bake; cool. Stir in 1/2 cup flaked coconut and 1 cup mixed dried fruits, any combination of white raisins, chopped apricots and pineapple to the mixture. (Note: if making this for someone with gluten allergies, do not add the wheat germ.)
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com.