The Washington Times Wake up with pancake batter ready TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES By Jenn Garbee April 9, 2008 The pancake station at the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach in California offers a tempting array of toppings. The sound of sizzling butter, the telltale tiny bubbles dotting the batter's surface, a warm plate at the ready soon to be filled with a piping hot stack of pancakes. These are the makings of my ideal leisurely weekend breakfast. In reality, the only thing piled high on my kitchen table most Saturday mornings is slightly burnt toast smeared with last week's bread-crumb-crusted butter. When faced with the choice between waking up early to whip up pancake batter or hitting the snooze button for a coveted extra hour of sleep, I'll begrudgingly settle for cold toast. Recently, however, a friend told me she made a pancake batter that can sit in the fridge overnight. The flavor also improves after a few days, she boasted, so the pancakes are even better on Sunday morning. Back-to-back mornings of fork-tender pancakes ready before the coffee finishes percolating? It's too good to be true, I quipped, all the while taking mental notes as she rattled off the recipe. In my mind, the idea of overnight pancake batter had one insurmountable problem. The key to making a tender pancake is mixing the wet and dry ingredients just prior to cooking. Let the batter sit on the counter for too long, and you'll end up with dense, heavy pancakes best suited for an afternoon of fetch with Fifi. The secret, said my friend, is adding yeast to the batter. It's the same concept as allowing baguette dough to rest overnight in the fridge so it can rise more slowly. By morning, you've got a premade pancake mix with extra lift from the yeast and a pleasant tang. Not to mention that a batter made on Friday night will last throughout the weekend — even until Monday, should you suddenly feel an urgent need to call in sick and taste your way through Grades AA, A and B of maple syrup. (Don't mistake B for the underdog — it's complex with dark caramel notes.) This whole overnight batter idea necessitated immediate action. I bought pounds of sweet- cream butter and maple syrup by the jug to prepare for what would surely be countless weekends spent in front of the hot griddle perfecting the recipe, but the recipe didn't need a bit of tweaking. The batter took minutes to prepare (the night prior, no less). The pancakes were delicious, a cross between a fluffy modern day pancake and a more rustic classic griddlecake. I called my friend between syrup-soaked bites to extol the virtues of her recipe (and atone for doubting her prowess behind the griddle). Now that I didn't need to get up early to make great pancakes, I found myself using the extra time to experiment with classic mix-ins like toasted nuts and fresh berries. Add mix-ins just before cooking, not the previous night, to prevent them from becoming soggy or watering down the batter. Once I got the hang of it, I began to think of the batter as an anything-goes blank canvas to be splattered with my favorite fruits and nuts — even chocolate candies (it's the weekend, after all) — a la Jackson Pollock. That's exactly how Frederic Castan, executive chef of the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach south of Los Angeles, approaches his pancake station every weekend. It's a towering double- wide buffet table stacked with glass bowls six deep (at varying heights, all the better to see the peanut butter cups amid the prunes). The usual suspects, including dozens of toasted nuts and fresh and dried fruits, are here. However, you'll also find a treasure trove of exotic fruits such as gooseberries and golden kiwi, homemade sauces and jams, and a dizzying array of chopped candy bars and treats, including chocolate chip cookie dough and crumbled brownies. The spirited can add a shot of liquor to the batter, such as tequila, with a fresh honeycomb chaser. Add a pinch of lime zest and Grand Marnier syrup, and you've got an edible breakfast margarita. For dessert, there's lemon chiffon cake, pumpkin pie and s'mores, all in flapjack form. Somehow I doubt that Mr. Castan and his staff are hitting the snooze button on the weekends. All-weekend buttermilk pancakes 1 teaspoon (about ½ package) active dry yeast 2 tablespoons lukewarm water 2 cups flour 1½ teaspoons baking powder 1½ teaspoons baking soda ½ teaspoon kosher salt 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk 3 eggs, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 teaspoons tablespoon honey Butter, as needed Dissolve the yeast in the water. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil and honey. Add the yeast and buttermilk mixtures into the flour mixture and whisk to combine (the batter will not be completely smooth). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To cook pancakes, heat a griddle or nonstick skilled over medium heat. Lightly butter the griddle and let melt. Stir the batter and pour 1/3 cup into the skillet, lightly spreading out the batter into a circle, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the bottom is lightly golden and pancakes are springy to the touch. Keep warm in a low oven and repeat with remaining batter, buttering the griddle each time. Makes 10 to 12 large (6-inch) pancakes. Note: Pancake batter will keep for 3 days, refrigerated. Little black dots may form on the batter's surface on days 2 and 3 — they're a harmless result of oxygenation. Just stir to combine. Add mix-ins such as nuts, fresh or dried fruit, or chocolate chips to the batter just before cooking. Overnight s'mores pancakes This recipe is adapted from chef Frederic Castan. 1 teaspoon (about 1/2 package) active dry yeast 2 tablespoons lukewarm water 2½ cups well-shaken buttermilk 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour ½ teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 tablespoons butter; melted ½ cup graham cracker crumbs 1 cup chocolate chips 1 cup mini marshmallows 1 cup chocolate syrup, warmed Dissolve the yeast in the water. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oil, vanilla and eggs. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the yeast and buttermilk mixtures into the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To cook the pancakes, heat a griddle or nonstick skilled over medium heat. Lightly butter the griddle and let melt. Pour 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet, lightly spreading the batter into a circle, and sprinkle with a few marshmallows and chocolate chips and cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the bottom is lightly golden and pancakes are springy to the touch. Keep warm in a low oven and repeat with remaining batter, buttering the griddle each time. To serve, top each serving of pancakes with a few marshmallows and chocolate chips and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Makes 8 to 10 large (6-inch) pancakes.