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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

July 10, 2012

“What is your favorite thing to cook?”

That is a question that I have fielded for 25 years.

Last night, while cooking for a woman’s 50th birthday in Demopolis, Ala., I was asked the question again. While visiting the host table between courses the guest of honor inquired, “What’s your favorite thing to cook?”

“Usually, when I am asked that question,” I replied, “the typical answer is, ‘Anything with fresh fish or crabmeat, even better, fresh fish using crabmeat.’” That has been my stock answer for over 25 years. “But tonight— this Sunday evening— if you ask me that question,” I continued, “My answer is an entirely different one. Tonight my answer to the what-is-your-favorite-thing-to-cook question is: Chocolate chip pancakes.”

Nothing fancy, Nothing complicated. No exotic ingredients. No complex methods or procedures, just pancakes— my grandmother’s recipe— with chocolate chips added.

It’s not because chocolate chip pancakes are fun to cook. It’s not because the recipe for chocolate chip pancakes is difficult. It’s not even because I like to eat chocolate chip pancakes— I don’t. I actually think that chocolate chips ruin pancakes.

Chocolate chip pancakes are my favorite things to cook at this moment because of a text message I received during a recent sleepover.

My 15-year old daughter had several of her friends over to spend the night at our home. I was in bed and asleep before midnight. My wife was up and about keeping an eye on the teenagers. My son had a friend over, too. When I woke early the next morning and checked my telephone there was a message from my daughter. It was received at 2:51 a.m. The text was simple: “Will you make chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, please.”

I have always told them that the answer to the question, “Dad, will you take me to the bookstore to buy a new book?” is eternally, “yes.” Now I will tell them that the answer to the question, “Dad, will you make breakfast for my friends and me?” is always, “Absolutely, yes.”

A few days earlier my son had asked for pancakes for breakfast. While cooking them he asked if I would add chocolate chips. I did, though I wasn’t happy about it because I like my pancakes unadorned, just butter and syrup. In the middle of breakfast his sister came downstairs and ate some of his chocolate chip pancakes. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Nothing was said. I washed the dishes and went on my way.

Obviously adding the chocolate chips had been a hit. But that is not what excited me when I received the text. I think it’s the fact that she wanted me to make them for her friends.

My teenager is at the stage in the father-daughter dynamic where almost everything I do embarrasses her. This is not a good thing for the teenager, because I am at the stage in my life where I take that as a challenge and try to invent new and creative ways to embarrass her.

The last thing she thought of before putting her head on the pillow to go to sleep— hopefully at 2:51 a.m. she was going to sleep— was that she wanted me to make pancakes for her friends. What an honor. It warmed my heart.

The day after I made the pancakes, I received this message from a woman via Facebook: “… it reminds me to make pancakes for my boys. The article you wrote years ago with the recipe for Muz’s (my grandmother) pancakes was taped to the inside cupboard door in my kitchen by the previous homeowner. In the picture you have a full head of hair and a very big mustache. I figured (the recipe) must be pretty good if it was still there so I tried them on a Sunday. It is still the favorite pancake recipe in our house. I added chocolate chips to the recipe though.

Ah, another chocolate chipper.

Pancakes are love.

It’s true. I’ve never had anyone— outside of a commercial dining establishment— hand me a plate full of pancakes that didn’t love me. Conversely, I have never cooked pancakes for anyone in my home that I didn’t love.

I’ll take that request for chocolate chip pancakes any way you want to deliver it— with hair, or without, giant moustache, or not, voice appeal, formal invitation, or text message at two in the morning.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Pastry flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbl Sugar
1 Egg
1 cup Whole Buttermilk
1 /4 cup Melted Butter
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips

more melted butter for finished pancakes

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix liquid ingredients in a separate bowl. Gently add liquid ingredients including 1 /2 cup of butter, and stir until just incorporated. Do not overwork the batter.

Cook pancakes on a lightly greased non-stick griddle. Pancakes should be turned only once. They are ready to be turned when bubbles form in the middle and the edges appear cooked. Sprinkle six to eight chocolate chips in each pancake before turning.

Just before plating, use a pastry brush to spread the additional melted butter on top of the pancakes. Top with real maple syrup.

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