Sunday, January 21, 2007

This Takes the Cake

Over the years, I’ve gone through a number of different kitchen tools, gadgets, and equipment, thinking that the newest thing would make my cooking even better forever!

Ah, but trends come, and trends go, and in moving to a smaller place with a much smaller kitchen, I had to let go of a lot.

Tools? My “magic” drawer (so called because I could always find the perfect tool in it) still has a wide variety of gadgets, but it’s now limited to those items I do actually use, including a pastry wheel, a rotary beater, and other basics.

Appliances? All I have left (besides the obvious refrigerator and stove) is a toaster, a slow cooker, a four-in-one blender, and a coffee grinder.

I pared down my dishes and pots and pans, keeping what I use the most, and I got rid of all those horrendous non-stick skillets that had become scratched and scraped over time.

But the first item I bought specifically for my new place was a solid little cast iron skillet, and let me tell you, I am in love.

Though it’s heavy and hard to handle sometimes, my cast iron skillet (now well seasoned) is a dream to clean and is my best friend for breakfast. I use it to make crispy light hash browns, the occasional cheesy omelet, and, of course, a regular array of homemade pancakes, perfectly browned and fluffy.

Which brings me to this morning’s breakfast. In search of ways to use up the half-gallon jug of local milk before it expires in a couple of days, I unearthed a recipe for skonsur or Icelandic pancakes in my notebook, printed from the King Arthur Baking Circle web site. Billed as something between a pancake and a scone (which you might have guessed), it sounded like the perfect breakfast food for a weekend morning.

So after juicing two fresh oranges, I started whipping up the batter, rich with eggs, milk, and butter. I added small dollops of batter to the hot cast iron skillet to cook, and they remained thick but airy.

Even when flipped and pressed down (to spread out that batter for more even cooking), they stayed impressively substantial, unlike my usual pancakes.

But how do they taste? you may ask. They struck me as a highly pleasing cross between pancakes and baking powder biscuits, substantial but light, and willing to support a number of different flavors, both savory and sweet. For breakfast, of course, I stuck with sweet, adding butter and dollops of homemade strawberry-rose petal jam.

With a large mug of thick, homemade hot chocolate topped with orange-infused whipped cream, the skonsur made for a wonderfully decadent breakfast, perfect for a Sunday morning thick with the promise of snow, and I knew it would keep me warm all morning long.

And as for that cast iron skillet, I’m more in love than ever.

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