Saturday, November 8, 2008

For the Love of Breakfast

        If the stories I write to you are any representation of myself and my appetite, then it's about time we get around to breakfast.  I love breakfast.  I love, love, love breakfast.  Pastries, pancakes, cinnamoned oatmeal and honey-flaked was early in my life that I realized how near breakfast was to dessert and it's been close to my heart ever since.
       I also swoon for the first meal of the day because as a rule, I wake up starving.  I'm with a bagel and coffee no less that 15 minutes out of bed.  Skipping breakfast offensive thought.  I could never do it.  In fact, on sleepy weekends when others rise at noon, it's often my growling stomach that forces my lids up before the sun and moves my feet to swing out from under warm covers.
        Take this morning for example.  A wonderfully grey, rainy Saturday and I'm up by eight o'clock pondering what's good in the kitchen.  Weekend mornings like this one, on the dry side of rain-drizzled windows, these are my favorite for they give you the time to make breakfast an event.  Scones, waffles...a little flour and a dash of elbow grease yield the food you work through the week to get to.
        Thumbing through the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion I scanned for the perfect Saturday starch.  Pancakes?  No buttermilk in the fridge.  Biscuits?  No honey or jam.  Reviewing the options, I could feel my hunger snowballing with every recipe read.  Fifteen minutes down; a decision needed to be made, fast.  I flipped the page.  In the top left corner the heading read "Welsh Cakes."  Welsh cakes?  The thrilling, rare occurrence of a breakfast goodie just discovered!    Described in italics as a cross between a pancake and a biscuit, the deal was sealed and the Welsh cakes were on.

        I should note that my love for breakfast is deepened by the inherent comfort both of making and eating it.  In the quiet hours of an early day there has always been something calming about noiselessly whisking together flour and sugar.  And I know it may be wrong, but facing a white-canvased morning, I've never managed to feel guilty about anything I eat for breakfast.
        So this morning I whisked quietly, stirring flour, sugar, nutmeg and allspice.  Looking for a substitution for currants, I chose very thinly sliced bananas, the fruit that both my mother and Russ will claim a cure all in times of hunger, headaches, heartache, dehydration, sleeplessness and stomach bugs alike.

        Now before I get to the griddle, allow me to bring something to light.  Surely there are many kinds of cooks in the world (some with a love of breakfast, others, bananas).  However, more specifically among the varieties there are those who are patient and methodical no matter the situation, and those who abandon focus and control while cooking when hungry.  Please remember how much time must have passed at this point since I'd risen.  I am not the first kind of cook.
        Thus, there were two results of my nature in the kitchen this morning.  One, I discovered that Welsh cake dough is delicious raw.  Second, was the creation of a new method, much faster yet ultimately producing a cake more...rustic in appearance (below you'll find both approaches so you can personalize your morning cake).  Ditching a process of chilling, rolling out and biscuit cutting perfectly thin, round cakes, I threw the bowl of dough in the freezer for five minutes, hand-patted thick cakes and flattened them on the griddle with a spatula.  My stomach and I are working on patience in the face of sweet dough.

        Whether you choose thin and lovely or thicker and slightly misshapen, I think you will find the result of your Welsh cakes a curl-up-on-the-couch-with-your-coffee classic.  Firm enough to pick up but soft and tender inside, the cakes were warmly spiced, sugary and so pleasantly filling.
        Sprinkle them with powdered sugar, drizzle them with syrup, cover them with jam or butter.  And if you believe in the power of something other than bananas, say blueberries, crushed nuts or dried cranberries, trade out the banana, put in what you love.

        Sneak into the early-morning quiet of your kitchen next weekend, heat up your griddle and try these sweet little breakfast cakes.  And for you late sleepers, a tip from an early weekend riser; if everyone is still sleeping, no one will see you eat the dough.        

Spiced Banana Welsh Cakes
adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
1/8 t salt
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1 banana
1 egg beaten, with enough milk added to equal 3/8 C

Method 1: Oh my god I need to eat RIGHT NOW.

1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice and salt.
2.  Rub in butter with your hands until it is in coarse chunks, evenly distributed in the flour.
3.  Thinly slice the banana, and stir into the dry ingredients.
4.  Stir in egg and milk, creating a wet dough.
5.  Put the dough in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
6.  Heat a griddle or frying pan, coat with butter.
7.  With floured hands form a cake about 3 inches wide and 1/2 and inch thick, dropping it onto the griddle.
8.  Cook until golden brown on one side, pressing down gently to spread as it cooks.  Flip*, and cook until golden brown on the other side.

*it may be hard to flip cleanly, but hey, it will taste the same either way and you are hungry.

Method 2:  I would like to impress my guests and will make these the pretty way.

1-4. See above.
5.  Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes or until not too sticky to roll out.
6.  Working with one half of the dough at a time (reserving the rest in the fridge), roll out the dough to 1/4 inch.
7.  Using a biscuit or circle cookie cutter, cut rounds (the size is up to your taste) from the dough.
8.  Cook on griddle as instructed above.  

approx 10 1/2 inch thick, 4 in wide (once pressed) rustic cakes
approx  20 1/4 inch thick, 4 in wide lovely looking cakes


cia007girl said...

Are you open 24/7? :) I'm not a fan of bananas, but I'd love chocolate chips and fresh strawberries please.

Josh Clayton said...

She doesn't kid around with breakfast. She made me the most delicious pancakes I've ever had. And her cookies are really good. And her cheesecake. I just figured out why I've recently gained weight.