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weinoo

Cornmeal Pancakes, Corn Flapjacks, Johnnycakes

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Just last night, I decided I had to have cornmeal pancakes with my dinner...don't ask me why. So I followed the recipe on a freshly opened package of Bob's Red Mill Coarse Grind cornmeal, and using that same coarse ground cornmeal, made a batch. They were okay, good even, but I felt that the coarse ground cornmeal didn't soften enough and created a texture in the pancakes that I didn't love.

Then I started leafing through a few of my cookbooks (which isn't always the greatest idea, cause once I get started...). Most, if not all of the recipes I came across, call for yellow or white cornmeal, but don't specify the grind; they are, however, fairly close to the proportions on the Bob's bag.

So...do you make cornmeal pancakes? Are they called flapjacks? Johnnycakes?

What's your recipe?

And, how do you use them? Breakfast? Sweet or savory? Tell me everything you know, please.

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I've always, even when I lived in Canada, called these things Arepas - in my family, Flapjacks are whole-wheat pancakes the size of the griddle, and Johnnycakes are made of corn but they're baked in molds, so they're actually little loaves (I have recipes for these as well if you're interested.) As far as I'm concerned, Arepas are eat 'em whenever you've got a craving food, so they're what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; they're always savoury.

In terms of your first go, how long did you let your cornmeal soften, and do you know if it was a precooked variety? Non-precooked cornmeal, no matter what the grind, is always going to have that slightly gritty feel unless you're soaking it overnight. Precooked meals, on the other hand, rehydrate fairly quickly. You're in NYC, which means you've got a wide range of Latin groceries available to you: look for yellow or white cormeal labeled as "masarepa" and you'll be just fine.

1 C Masarepa

1 C Warm milk (or water; milk is better)

1 Tsp Butter

pinch of salt

1 Egg

About 1/4 lb queso fresco, ricotta, or drained cottage cheese, crumbled.

* optional * some finely chopped green onions.

--

1. Put the masarepa in a bowl, and slowly, stirring often, add the warm milk. Once it's completely blended, add the butter and salt. Knead until you've got a soft dough. You can't overwork the masa, so don't worry about that.

2. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes (this softens the cornmeal and makes for a better adhesion of the dough; I sometimes leave it as long as 30 minutes.)

3. Add the egg and cheese and knead until well combined. The dough should be soft, but stiff enough to form into shapes.

4. Arepas can be stuffed; traditional fillings include soft cheese (like mozza), chunks of chorizo, ground spiced pork, and flakes of chicken. However, if you're just here for simplicity's sake, they can also be fried without filling them and topped later. In Ecuador, most Arepas are about the size of your palm, and about 1/2 inch thick.

Cook these on a lightly oiled griddle of some sort (very traditionally, a hot unglazed clay tablet). You can also fry them in shallow oil until the masa crisps up and turns an appealing golden colour.

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Those sound nice, Panaderia Canadiense, but they're definitely not the product I'm aiming for, which is much more of a pancake and is not made with masarepa.

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weinoo, have you had corn cakes before that have the texture and flavor you are looking for?

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weinoo, have you had corn cakes before that have the texture and flavor you are looking for?

Yes. I've also had the arepas which Panaderia Canadiense gives a great recipe for above.

Back many years ago, I'm pretty sure I ate at Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe, the eponymous cookbook which I've just pulled off the shelf. Miller's 1989 recipe calls for "coarse cornmeal (polenta)" (and minimal soaking) as well as a/p flour, which is the same as recipes from Joy and The NY Times Cookbook. Also, as in many of the other recipes I've found, both baking powder and baking soda are used.

It's not the holy grail, though.

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Even tho the recipe calls for minimal soaking, it seems to me that in a restaurant kitchen, a vast batch of batter would be prepared early in the morning so that it had experienced considerable soaking time by the end of the shift.

Maybe that's the trick?

I really like the gritty texture so I've never explored trying to minimize it. Be interesting to learn what you end up with.

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I like a bit of grittiness in cornbread but I agree that it can be a bit problematic in corn cakes cooked on a griddle.

I've found that soaking the cornmeal in buttermilk for an hour or so and then adding the remaining ingredients produces a tender "crumb" in the corn cakes.

The cornmeal will swell and if the top looks dry, add a bit more buttermilk or water.

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I think your coarse grind is best for polenta. I will give you here two recipes for authentic jonnycakes--made with quite fine white flint cornmeal--thick and thin. Join the debate.

Thick

Thin

And if you type just "cornmeal" into the search bar of my blog you will find other recipes, from Indian pudding to muffins and Portuguese bread, made with cornmeal that you might be interested in. One is this recipe for corn cakes, which are pretty versatile.

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I have many strong opinions about this subject.

First of all, johnny or jonny cakes are very basic: cornmeal, water, and salt. Growing up around our house (of parents from Nova Scotia and Maine), we all knew the rhyme, "Pea soup and johnny cakes will make a Frenchman's belly ache," and that's all you need to know about that.

As for cornmeal pancakes, they are our house's favorite, and I have been working for years to get the recipe just right. They are not johnny cakes; they are pancakes made with cornmeal. Here's the receipt:

125g AP flour

175g fine cornmeal

4g salt

25g sugar

10g baking soda

Combine those dry ingredients.

2 large eggs

260g milk

113g butter (4 oz, or a stick), melted

If you're feeling fancy, you can separate the eggs, beat the white to soft peaks, and dump the yolks into the milk & butter with your stick blender running.

Fold wet into dry until just combined, then fold in the whites if you've saved 'em.

I think that the keys to cornbread pancakes are:

1. As Mitch says, getting the right cornmeal grind. The bulk cornmeal at Whole Foods is, as it turns out, perfect, right in the middle of the Bob's Red Mill thick grind and corn flour. There are probably other acceptable options, but this is our go-to.

2. Letting the cornmeal in the batter hydrate a bit. Do all the batter prep and then get out your griddle, heat it, etc.

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Wow, Chris and Jane, awesome stuff.

Chris - I will try these as soon as I get to WF and pick up some of the recommended cornmeal. Have you experimented with buttermilk and/or the addition of baking powder?

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We often make cornmeal pancakes loosely based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe. Except that we often sub in whole wheat flour for the AP, skip all the lemon business, and use buttermilk. Sometimes we beat the egg white, sometimes we don't--I don't think it makes much of a difference. We use Indian Head cornmeal and King Arthur WW flour--the resulting cakes have the slightest bit of grit, but only very very slight.

Oh and do they ever go well with maple syrup. We could singlehandedly support a sugar house, I think.


Edited by emannths (log)

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I have been hooked on Hoecakes for the past few years. I like the individual ones , and I make them with Indian Head white stoneground cornmeal. This has a relatively fine grind and I love the taste. I will sub in some of it into the overnight fermented waffle recipe I use occasionally for a nice change.


Edited by Ashen (log)

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Buttermilk: not so good. Baking powder: egad, that's a typo. You are right, sir!!

So your recipe should be baking powder instead of soda?

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OK, I think I grasp that what you're looking for is a poured-batter griddlecake - my misunderstanding! This is my go-to; provided that you use fine-ground cornmeal, there's no gritty texture to be had. I often add dry herbs to them when making the savoury variation (oregano, basil, sage).

.75 C fine-ground cornmeal (white or yellow, your choice)

1.5 C thin sour yogurt (or cut .75 C thick yogurt with .75 C milk)

a pinch of salt (to taste; one figures this out as one goes along)

1 C flour (I use .5 white and .5 quinua)

.5 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

4 tbsp oil

--

1. Soak the cornmeal in the yogurt for at least 30 minutes.

2. Beat in the eggs (whole) and oil

3. Sift in the flour and soda and beat until just combined.

4. Drop by tablespoons full onto a hot griddle; turn when the bubbles on top cease to fill in.

These can be made sweet by the use of vanilla yogurt in place of sour, and the addition of 5 tbsp of panela or raw sugar to the cornmeal at the soaking stage.

Edited to fix leavening proportions.


Edited by Panaderia Canadiense (log)

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Buttermilk: not so good. Baking powder: egad, that's a typo. You are right, sir!!

So your recipe should be baking powder instead of soda?

Yes.

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Another question, because, you know, I just like to annoy people with questions:

What turns you off about the buttermilk? Too tart? Bad consistency?

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Another question, because, you know, I just like to annoy people with questions:

What turns you off about the buttermilk? Too tart? Bad consistency?

I would like to know also. I've always made all my cornmeal based breads with buttermilk, soured milk, clabber, etc., with good results. I even make a cornmeal pudding with buttermilk.

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I just went to the bob's red mill site to see if I could figure out which recipe you used that you didn't like. Was it this one?

Seems like soaking your cornmeal in your dairy would work, but there are a couple of other recipes on the bob's red mill site ( here and here) that involve soaking the cornmeal in boiling water which would probably speed up the process.

The only cornmeal pancakes I ever make are a recipe I got from my mom. I will have to check it out when I get home, but I think it might be from the NY times. Anyway, the recipe involves cooking the cornmeal like polenta in water first, then cooling that mixture down and adding your egg yolks and other ingredients. Beat egg whites and fold in. They are very good and they don't have any gritty texture.

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The recipe I used is on the bag of the coarse grind cornmeal. It's the same as the 3rd recipe you link to above, except for the grind of the cornmeal...

IMG_3852.jpg

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Not pancakes, but the Joy of Cooking recipe for corn meal waffles with bacon baked in is really something. Especially with real maple syrup.

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This could get into a whole 'nother discussion, but since buttermilk has been brought up: there is a fundamental question of whether you like your pancakes fluffy (NO) or not. I like to make my regular pancakes with buttermilk or sour milk and let them AGE for a day to give a very tender, tangy, relatively thin cake. And when summer comes, be sure to throw in some fresh corn kernels into that cornmeal pancake batter.

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This morning's much better results...

Mixed up the same recipe as listed on the Bob's Red Mill bag, except using this...

IMG_3902.jpg

My semi-trusty Chinese All-Clad non-stick griddle pan...

IMG_3900.jpg

And...

IMG_3901.jpg

Pretty tasty, though I'd like to bump up the corniness. I guess some fresh kernels wouldn't hurt.

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Pretty tasty, though I'd like to bump up the corniness. I guess some fresh kernels wouldn't hurt.

When you add the corn kernels, scrape the corn milk from the cob with the the back of a knife into your batter.

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