A friend from out of town casually mentioned that he had eaten Japanese soufflé pancakes, and then he went on talking as if nothing had changed.
Didn’t he notice that the Earth had stopped turning? Didn’t he see the hole that was burned through the fabric of our existence? Did he not realize that life as we had lived it up to this point had forever changed?
How had I not heard of Japanese soufflé pancakes before? My entire life was a lie, and I did not even realize it.
Obviously, these were something I had to try. And because they do not serve them at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, I knew I was going to have to make them myself.
First, I had to buy a set of ring molds. These are like large napkin rings somewhere along the lines of 3 inches wide and 21/2 inches high. You can get them in many different sizes, but that’s a good one for our purposes, or maybe a bit wider.
I bought mine at a restaurant supply store, but you can order them online. Or here’s a cheaper alternative: Find a can of tuna fish that is about the right size, cut off the top, eat the tuna, cut off the bottom and clean it thoroughly. Voilá — instant ring mold.
Using whipped egg whites and some baking powder, you get pancakes that cook up remarkably tall, fluffy and light. They are absurdly delectable, and maybe just a touch more cake-like than ordinary pancakes. They feel like celebratory pancakes, the kind of thing to bring out on special occasions.
Powdered sugar is highly recommended. Syrup is essential.
JAPANESE SOUFFLÉ PANCAKES
Yield: 8 pancakes
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/4 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt.
Heat the milk and butter together in a saucepan over medium heat just until the butter melts. Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl, and whisk in just a few drops of the milk mixture at a time. Keep whisking and adding the milk mixture, gradually increasing the amount of milk mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
Beat or whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar together in another bowl until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined (it’s OK if there are a few lumps). Stir 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the flour-milk mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined, taking care not to overmix.
Lightly butter the inside of 4 ring molds, or spray with nonstick spray.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Coat with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Place the prepared ring molds in the middle of the skillet, and fill each with 1/2 cup of batter, filling each mold about halfway.
Cover the skillet with the lid, and cook until the batter is golden on the bottom — it should rise to the tops of the ring molds, be covered with bubbles and jiggle only slightly when shaken. Using a spatula and tongs, carefully flip the ring molds. Cover, and cook until golden on the other side.
Serve with butter and maple syrup and maybe some more powdered sugar.
Nutrition information per serving: 211 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 109 mg cholesterol, 8 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 7 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 213 mg sodium, 177 mg calcium.