Blurring the lines at breakfast
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but I am the father of two young necessities. That is why, in the foggy hours of a recent morning, I invented pancake French toast.
They wanted French toast for breakfast, but we were out of bread. I wondered if we had any other bread-like materials in the house that could be soaked in egg and fried in butter. I decided on pancakes.
Making French toast out of pancakes involved an extra step of making blueberry pancakes first, but disaster was averted. After the school bus left, I got back to work. Though I rarely eat breakfast, I was curious about those golden-brown disks of French toast pancakes. I’m not a sweet breakfast person; I like my eggs salty and spicy. I saw no reason why pancake French toast couldn’t be savory.
After all, crepes – those beloved French pancakes – come with both sweet and savory fillings. So savory French toast pancakes made sense, at least on paper. I began my experiments. A mushroom and garlic version was lovely, as was the tofu scallion. My favorite so far, which I will tell you how to make, is ham and cheese.
One thing they all have in common so far is their supple, spongy-yet-toothy texture. A brown, crispy, French toast-like exterior guards an eggy batter below the surface, and a dry puffy pancake in the middle. At the table, they are formidable adversaries: fat, rounded and heavy. Unlike most pancakes, which leave you hungry a few minutes later, these won’t abandon your belly.
I don’t have a waffle iron, so I haven’t explored French Toasted Waffles. I suck at making gravy, so I haven’t smothered a pancake with it. Surely there are more winning variations to discover.
They will all taste great with coffee, I’m quite certain, which is my definition of a truly great breakfast, regardless of the time of day it is served.
In my recipe for Ham and Cheese French Toast Pan-
cakes, pancakes are dipped in beaten eggs, as if they were slices of bread. For lovers of sweet breakfast, the same technique can be used to make sweet pancake French toast, with berries in the mix, and cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in the French toast batter.
I hate to sound like a shill, but the best pancakes I’ve ever made have been with Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix. I first tried it in Alaska as a breading for deep-fried halibut, mixed with beer instead of water. It’s magical stuff.
Ham and Cheese French Toast Pancakes
Makes 3 large pancakes, serves 2 (with one extra to fight over)
1 cup prepared pancake batter, preferably Krusteaz, in a medium bowl
1 slice ham (or mortadella, prosciutto or bacon), cut into half-inch shards
2 tablespoons Swiss cheese (or other melting cheese, like asiago fresco), in quarter-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter, divided + more for serving
2 tablespoons milk or cream
Black pepper, chile flakes, hot sauce or other hot and spicy materials, if you wish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Let the pancake batter sit for at least 10 minutes. Stir the ham and cheese into the pancake batter.
Heat a stovetop griddle to medium high. Coat with 1 tablespoon butter, and pour in three pancakes. Don’t worry about any protruding chunks. They will fall in line when you flip the pancakes. Cook for about two minutes per side; don’t overcook, which would create an impermeable skin that won’t soak up the French toast batter.
Remove the cooked pancakes and let them cool on a plate, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, crack the egg into the unwashed vessel in which you mixed the pancake batter. Add the milk and optional spices and beat. You want to incorporate as much of the leftover pancake mix as possible, which gives body to the French toast batter, and helps further blur the line between pancake and French toast.
One at a time, dip them into the French toast batter. The art is to let them soak for just the right amount of time. Too quick, and the pancakes don’t absorb enough French toast batter. Too long and they can disintegrate. About 30 seconds should do it.
Turn the pan down to medium heat, add a tablespoon of butter to coat, and fry the battered pancakes. Pour any remaining batter on top of the pancakes. It may run down the sides and start cooking into scrambled eggs on the sides. That’s fine, because those sputtering puddles of egg are your indicator of when you need to turn the toast. When the egg around the sides looks cooked (about two minutes) flip the pancake and cook for two minutes on the other side, like a normal piece of French toast,
Serve with salsa, mayo or gravy. And coffee, of course.
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