Lemon Souffle Pancakes

Every once in awhile, my thoughts wander, contemplating owning a B&B or little country inn. I’m enough of a realist, that the first “B” part of the fantasy, as in “bed”, means mountains of linen laundry and endless changing of sheets, not my idea of a good time. It’s the second “B”, the breakfast part, that keeps me dreaming. Whenever one of my latest experiments is approved by happy, contented faces gathered around my breakfast table, I find myself contemplating, “what if” and “if only”.

The irony is, I’d never have expected any of my dreams to have included the word “breakfast”, unless it had something to do with travel, Paris and croissants. For most of my life, breakfast was something to be avoided, having an aversion to boxed cereals and pancake mixes, frozen waffles, and grocery-store eggs, all of which left me feeling queasy and light-headed. A simple piece of dry toast, accompanied by a cup of hot tea, satisfied me for decades. It was when my husband and I stayed at a quaint and historic Maine B&B, that I was inspired to expand my breakfast horizon.

I watched, mesmerized, as an enthusiastic husband and wife, proprietors (chief cooks, bottle washers and sheet changers) – standing in sharp contrast to a roomful of sleepy-eyed, coffee-sipping guests, seated at beautifully appointed English garden conservatory breakfast tables – enthusiastically described our forthcoming breakfast feast. Their adventure began at 4 a.m., with the making of sourdough bread crafted from 8th generation sourdough cultures. When the bread was safely tucked into the oven, their passage into the 6th generation herb garden, to gather dew-kissed sage and thyme, was perfectly timed with dawn’s first light. Tendrils of food scents wafted from the kitchen, tugging at my rumbling, empty stomach. I realized, shocked, that for the first time in decades, no piece of dry toast or cup of Earl Grey would satisfy me.

Unlike a woman seated at the table next to us, stage-whispering “Pretentious!”, to her newspaper-reading husband, I was enchanted, albeit ravenous, whispering to my husband, “I’ve never been this excited to eat breakfast!” Our tastebuds could easily have over-anticipated the meal, but one taste of the farm-fresh egg-dipped French Toast, served with hot maple syrup, pork patty sausage and perfectly sauteed apple rings left us happy and content.

What I’ve since learned, from our continued travels to small inns and bed & breakfast establishments, is that a really, really good breakfast demands a fair amount of preplanning, preparation, fresh, home-made ingredients, as much as possible, and an adventurous spirit.

One of our favorite breakfasts, eye-rolling, moan-inducing – Lemon Souffle’ Pancakes with Lemon Curd – exemplifies the process. Several basic ingredients are key to their success – whole-milk ricotta, freshly made lemon curd, and egg whites whisked to the stage they’re firm enough to hold a soft peak, but yet soft enough to be incorporated, gently folded into the egg-yolk-rich ricotta batter.

While good-quality store-bought ricotta may be used (select only whole-milk, with as few additives as possible), there’s a great deal to be said for creating your own ricotta from whole-fat Jersey or Guernsey grass-fed milk, guaranteeing a mouth-watering satisfying meal. Texture and density can vary from batch-to-batch, so a touch of cream may be needed to lighten the ricotta to a softened cream-cheese texture as opposed to a more solid farmer cheese.

While we’ve enjoyed some amazing food during our travels, such as Eggs Houssard or Bananas Foster from Brennan’s in New Orleans, or , creekside Eggs Benedict from L’Auberge, Sadonna, Arizona, our favorite recipes, like the following Lemon Souffle Pancakes continue to delight and surprise our tastebuds every single time we make them.

Lemon Souffle’ Pancakes
(adapted from James McNair Favorites, Chronicle Books, 1999)

The batter is partially assembled at least 12 hours before using, allowed to “ferment” in the refrigeratorj, into a quick-style sourdough.

  • 6 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 2 cups whole-fat ricotta cheese (or small-curd cottage cheese)
  • 1/4 cup rice, coconut, or sunflower oil
  • 1 T evaporated light-color raw sugar (Rapadura or Muscovado are too dark and strong flavored)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (reduce to 1/4 tsp if using salty cottage cheese)
  • 4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer variety is wonderful if you have it!)
  • 1 tsp grated or minced fresh lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose non-bromated flour
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature, ghee or coconut oil for frying
  1. In food processor or blender, combine egg yolks, ricotta cheese, oil, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest, baking powder and flour. Blend until smooth – no more than 5 5-second pulses of a food processor.
  2. Transfer to a large, glass bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Refrigerate unused egg whites, which will be beaten into egg whites, folded into the egg/ricotta/flour batter just before frying on the griddle.
  3. When ready to make, beat egg whites to medium peak – stiff enough to stand up, but soft enough to easily be folded into the egg, ricotta, flour batter. Fold beaten egg whites into batter.
  4. Griddle, brushed with butter, ghee or coconut oil, medium heat. I find that 1/4-cup batter, gently smoothed into shape, is an ideal pancake size.
  5. Cook until tops are bubbly, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 1 minute. Serve hot with a dollop (1 tsp goes a long way!) of lemon curd, and if desired, fresh organic strawberry slices.

Lemon Curd

May be made up to 3 weeks ahead of time. Keep refrigerated in a tightly-covered container.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 T grated or minced fresh organic lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. In a heavy non-reactive pan, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and butter until light yellow and well blended.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and zest, cooking over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly until the mixture is thick and covers the back of a wooden spoon – 5 to 10 mins. (To test: quickly run a finger down the back of the wooden spoon; if your finger leaves a trail that doesn’t fill in, running back together, the mixture is done.)
  3. Some people suggest straining the mixture, to remove any bits of egg, but if you’ve properly stirred the mixture the entire time, you won’t need to bother with this step.
  4. Curd may be placed in a serving bowl, cooling while the pancakes recipe is created, or it may be made the day before, stored in a plastic-covered bowl (do not allow plastic to touch the surface of the curd) in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature when serving on pancakes
  5. Curd may be stored, covered tightly in the refrigerator, for up to 3 weeks.