Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Treat for My Valentine: Pan de Polvo Pancakes



I feel so fortunate to have grown up in such a culturally rich part of the country; the biggest by product of this being the wonderful food that I grew up eating.  Chicken fried steak, enchiladas, tacos, kolaches and great barbeque were so abundant that I took them for granted as a kid.

It was not until I got a little older that I started to realize that food being great was not a given, even in Texas.  Then as I started to pay for it myself I realized that there were people who couldn’t or wouldn’t cook well and would gladly take your money for it with no apologies.  What a disappointment that was.  It was about this point that I began to really miss and appreciate the wonderful home cooking that I had been eating my entire life. 

Thankfully it wasn't long before I realized I wasn't the only one that felt this way about simple, down home food.  I even worked for a caterer who encouraged his cooks to make their pies and breads far less than perfect to send a message to diners that everything they were eating was lovingly made by human hands.  He was a real challenge to work for, but the man knew what people wanted.

One of the things that was ever present on the tables at his catering events were a selection of little homemade heart shaped bite size cookies and chocolates.  Usually the first things to go were the cookies known as pan de polvo or Mexican wedding cookies.  I have also seen cookies very similar in other cultures with names like Sandies and Danish wedding cookies.  Whatever you want to call them they are good. 

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought that maybe I would start planning what I would treat my Valentine with this year.  I did consider making some of these little cookies but I really want to do something unexpected this year.  That’s when I had a brainstorm.  I decided to make pancakes for my boys with the cinnamon and anise flavors of pan de polvo. 
  
Don’t be put off because Valentine’s Day is on a weekday this year.  This recipe is perfect for a quick breakfast since you can prepare the wet and dry ingredients the night before and store them separately, combining them just before cooking the next morning.   Besides, the longer the milk tea steeps the more flavorful the pancakes.

Pan de Polvo Pancakes

This recipe starts out by making a "tea" with the milk and spices.  If you are making this ahead, make the first step and let the tea steep covered in the refrigerator overnight for a stronger flavor or remove the spices before refrigerating for a milder flavor.

1 ½ cups milk
2 – 2” cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (Mexican vanilla is my favorite)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

Place the milk, cinnamon sticks and star anise in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let steep until the milk is completely cool.  Remove the cinnamon and star anise.  Add the oil, egg and vanilla, stir well; set aside until ready to use.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  While stirring constantly, slowly add enough of the milk “tea” to form a mixture that resembles thick paint.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat.  Wipe pan with an oil soaked paper towel.  When the pan is hot pour enough of the batter to form a 4” pancake.   While watching closely, cook pancakes until bubbles form and begin to pop on the surface of the pancake (approximately 2 minutes).  Swiftly and carefully flip pancakes over to cook the other side for approximately 1 – 2 minutes or until they are golden brown. Transfer to serving plates.

Combine powdered sugar and ground cinnamon in a small bowl.  Transfer to a small screen strainer or shaker and sprinkle over pancakes.  Top with equal amounts of the toasted pecans.  Serve immediately.

*If pancakes are too brown or start to burn before bubbles start to pop, reduce heat in small increments until a golden brown color is reached. 

Serve with warm maple syrup.

Makes 12 – 4” pancakes.

I'm entering this in a Valentine recipe contest over at Very Good Recipes.  If you'd like to enter or take a look at who wins, just visit click on this link http://verygoodrecipes.com/be-my-valentine-challenge.


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