Pancakes de Lisboa

Time saver: like eating soft fluffy delicious clouds.

I’ve posted a recipe for pancakes before, but since then I’ve learned a trick that bears repeating. For really soft fluffy pancakes you have to separate the eggs, beat the whites separately and then fold them into the mixture. The difference is worth the extra effort. The fact that I had to come to Portugal to learn how to make the ultimate American pancake is just one of those things.

Pancakes – serves 3-4 (makes around 9-10 pancakes)

  • 1½ cups white flour
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter (around 30g)
  • butter for frying
  • maple syrup to serve
  1. Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites into a (stainless steel if you have it) bowl ready for beating.
  2. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks ((in Portuguese they say “claras em castelo” or “claras em neve”) and set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, salt and baking flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, and into this pour the egg yolks, milk and butter.
  4. Stir to combine with a fork. Start in the centre and work your way out to the sides, mixing thoroughly to combine and remove any lumps. Don’t overmix the batter. Alternatively you could use the electric beaters again – but only if you do it quickly to avoid overmixing (which results in tough rubbery pancakes).
  5. Using a large metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the batter to combine. You want it well combined but don’t mix it so much that you lose the air in the whites. It’s okay to have little pockets of egg white.
  6. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan and spread evenly over the frying pan’s surface.
  7. Pour a ladle-full of pancake mix (about ½ cup) into the centre of the frying pan (without tilting the pan). Cook on that side until bubbles begin to form on the surface, then flip and cook on the other side until browned (around 15-20 seconds).
  8. Serve with a generous dousing of maple syrup.
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Eggs Benedict

Time saver: poached eggs, smothered in hollandaise sauce, could this be love?

Eggs benedict with baconThis is kind of a cheeky post-one-get-one-free deal, but I couldn’t let my Hollandaise Sauce post go without talking about Eggs Benedict in a bit more detail. I used to think of these as a cafe breakfast, but with a little bit of effort you can match or better what you’ll get at most cafes.

You can mix it up a bit but the key components tend to be: some sort of lightly-toasted bread base, a layer of filling (generally either bacon, ham, smoked salmon, or spinach), a poached egg, and then a generous serving of hollandaise sauce. I think traditionally a split English muffin is used for the base, in the photo I’m using toasted artisan bread, and lots of cafes in Auckland seem to use toasted Turkish bread.

The trickiest part to eggs benedict is probably the timing. You want to serve everything hot, so that means you need everything ready to go at the moment of assembly – eggs perfectly poached, bread lightly toasted, hollandaise rich and creamy, and your filling ready to go (easy if it’s smoked salmon, a bit trickier if doing bacon or spinach). There’s not really a lot you can do expect practice to get a a feel for it. If you prepare the hollandaise sauce beforehand (or, shock horror, use one from a pouch/jar) you can set it aside ready to go. You could also pre-poach the eggs, then just heat them when you’re ready to go (though in some ways this is more work).

For this recipe I’m going to refer you to previous recipes and tie them all together.

Eggs Benedict – serves 2 (makes 4 portions)

  1. Prepare the hollandaise sauce according to the recipe and set aside.
  2. Get bread ready for toasting, but don’t toast it yet.
  3. If using spinach you want it wilted, so I’d recommend steaming it gently, you should set this up now (i.e. heat the water, don’t actually put the spinach in the steamer yet). If using bacon (or ham and you want it heated) you should heat the frying pan now.
  4. Start poaching the eggs.
  5. Put the toast on – you don’t want it too crispy or it’s too hard to cut (but it shouldn’t be bread either).
  6. If using smoked salmon, relax, otherwise, quickly fry bacon/ham (should only take a couple of minutes). If using spinach you want it just wilted – do this in the steamer now.
  7. Remove the eggs from the water, drain and trim away any ragged edges. By this point your toast should be ready and you’re good to go.
  8. Assemble with toasted bread first, then a layer of your filling, then a poached egg, then a good 1-2 Tbsp hollandaise sauce on top (it should make a sort of smooth dome on top of the egg). Crack a little black pepper over the top and enjoy.

Hollandaise Sauce

Time saver: as close as you can get to drinking pure butter without actually drinking pure butter.

I’ve been a bit unsure about this post. Hollandaise sauce can be made in a variety of different ways, some more involved than others, and even the ratios seem to vary a bit. All I can do is tell you how I would go about making it if I was cooking. Your mileage may vary.

You can drizzle it over asparagus if you want to, but my favourite is eggs benedict with hollandaise liberally poured over the top.

Eggs benedict with hollandaiseAs previously mentioned, the recipes vary a bit. Some will have you reduce vinegar before adding it to the egg yolks, others get you to make the entire thing in the blender. I like the zingy flavour of lemons, so use quite a lot of lemon juice, you may prefer to use half as much (1 Tbsp instead of 2). I also like the flavour of vinegar in it, so sometimes add ½-1 tsp just near the end. You can do the same, leave it out, or try reducing it first (which should take some of the sharpness off it, though you’ll need to start with a couple of tablespoons of it). Using less butter will give you a thicker sauce, using more gives you more sauce at the end. For two servings of eggs benedict (for a total of 4 eggs) I’d use around 75g butter just to be sure I had enough.

Hollandaise sauce

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50-100g butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
  • white wine vinegar (to taste)
  1. Cut the butter into small cubes and leave to soften (if in a hurry you can soften in the microwave).
  2. Set up a double-boiler (put a couple of cms of water in the bottom of a saucepan, then sit a stainless steel bowl on top, big enough that the bottom of it is above the water level) and set over a low heat.
  3. Put the egg yolk and lemon juice in the top of the double-boiler and whisk together. Continue whisking as the double-boiler continues to heat. (Watch it closely and be careful not to completely cook the egg yolk or you’ll have to start again.)
  4. Eventually the mixture should start to thicken, at this point remove the double-boiler from the heat, and start adding the cubes of butter, whisking to combine. Continue until all the butter has been added.
  5. Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice or a little white wine vinegar for flavour. Then serve. (You could add cracked black pepper to the sauce, I normally just crack it over the sauce once served.)
  6. EMERGENCIES ONLY: hollandaise sauce is an emulsion, and emulsions sometimes separate. The key to getting it back together is simple: if the sauce is hot, add cold water a drop at a time and whisk thoroughly until recombined. If the sauce is cold, add hot water a drop at a time and whisk thoroughly until recombined.

Making hollandaise sauce

Mini Apricot Danishes

Time saver: mini apricot danishes, just like regular apricot danishes, only smaller.

mini apricot danishHere’s a treat you can put together pretty quickly. Tasty little parcels of pastry and apricot with a sweet glaze to finish it off. Good for a light breakfast/brunch, or just whenever you feel like it.

Mini Apricot Danishes – makes around 18

  • 400g tin apricot halves (drained, but reserve syrup, you should hopefully get around 18 halves)
  • 2 sheets flaky puff pastry
  • 8 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 Tbsp apricot syrup
  • (optional) 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water for egg wash
  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C on fan-bake.
  2. Cut each pastry sheet into 9 even sized squares (i.e. 3 x 3 grid).
  3. Place an apricot half (cut-side down) into middle of each square.
  4. Fold up two of the corners of each square so they wrap around the apricot and overlap in the middle. Use a little apricot syrup to wet the pastry where it joins, then press down firmly.
  5. Place danishes on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.
  6. For a good finish to the pastry, prepare an egg wash by beating together an egg with a tablespoon of water and brushing lightly over the pastry on each danish.
  7. Bake danishes in oven for around 15 minutes, until pastry is golden brown, then remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack.
  8. In a small jug mix together the icing sugar with 2 Tbsp apricot syrup (or just plain water). Using a piping bag or teaspoon, drizzle glaze over danishes in a zig-zag pattern. (Note: if the danishes are warm the glaze will melt and run, if you’re serving immediately that won’t matter so much, but otherwise you should wait until they’re cool before glazing.)

mini apricot danishes

Uncle Phil’s American-Style Pancakes (with berries)

Time saver: with the berries baked right into the pancake, you’ll forget that I’m not American, and that I’ve never cooked these for anyone who calls me “Uncle”. (One day my nieces and nephew, one day…)

blueberry pancakeAlthough I grew up on crêpes, I still like the fatter American-style pancakes from time to time. And when you include berries baked right into the pancake, they’re downright irresistible. I usually make these with strawberries grown on the deck, but you can use blueberries, raspberries, basically any berry you can get your hands on will probably be great. (The photos show blueberry pancakes.)

You can also make these without including the berries. In that case, serve with maple or vanilla syrup, or stack with fried bacon and bananas and a light drizzling of maple syrup.

Uncle Phil’s American-Style Pancakes – serves 2 (makes around 5 pancakes)

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-2 eggs (1 is fine, but you can use 2)
  • ¾-1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter (around 30g)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (this is around 125g – if berries are large, chop to size of raspberries)
  • butter for frying
  • maple syrup OR vanilla syrup OR icing sugar to serve
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, and into this crack the egg.
  2. Also pour in the melted butter and milk, then stir to combine with a fork. Start in the centre and work your way out to the sides, mixing thoroughly to combine and remove any lumps. (There’s a balance here – the less you mix, the lighter the pancakes will be, but you don’t want lumps of flour from undermixing either.)
  3. Add the berries and stir through the batter.
  4. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I use the 4 of the 1-6 heat-range of my element) . Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan and spread evenly over the frying pan’s surface. A small non-stick frying pan works really well and will help you get a round pancake. (They’ll work fine without it, but you may end up with irregular sides.)
  5. Pour a ladle-full of pancake mix (about ½ cup) into the centre of the frying pan (without tilting the pan). If necessary, push the berries around to distribute a bit more evenly. Cook on that side until bubbles begin to form on the surface, then flip and cook on the other side. (Flipping can be a little difficult at times – you don’t want the bottom to burn, but if the top isn’t cooked sometimes the mixture runs or splashes. If you’re really struggling, maybe try cooking on a lower temperature, which should give you more time before the bottom burns.)
  6. Serve with maple or vanilla syrup, or a light dusting of icing sugar.

blueberry pancake closeup