I generally only don a cowboy hat once a year: for the Calgary Stampede. In what is a ten-day whirlwind of rodeos, country music, amusement park-style rides and drinking, there is one thing a person can always rely on: a tasty pancake breakfast. Throughout the Stampede, there are literally hundreds of free pancake breakfasts offered across the city.
So what’s the deal with these free breakfasts exactly? Rumour has it, it all started back in 1923 when a chuck wagon driver offered to share his breakfast with some folks. Granted, he probably was not flipping flapjacks with a jug of syrup in-hand. Rather, I envision some fried eggs and a flask of whiskey being passed around. Nonetheless, a traditional was born.
Okay, back to the future. This past week, my friend Mealan asked if I would help her out with a pancake breakfast her business was cooking. It was the 4th St Pancake Showdown, a free breakfast and competition where businesses along the street come up with creative variations of a classic hot cake for the attendees to judge. She owns a popular women’s clothing store and would be competing against mostly restaurants along the street. She thought it would be essential to have some ‘food blogger back-up’. So, of course I said: “Hell yeah!”
I’ve got to say, I don’t think Mealan really needed any foodie assistance, as she came up with a killer ‘Chai Latte Pancake’ topped with whipped cream, pistachios, and chai spice-infused maple syrup. The result was very impressive. With her doing the majority of the prep, we were called to arms mainly to help dish out pancakes as fast as possible.
At first, I was in charge of flipping the pancakes, while others poured the batter onto the grill. After flipping the first 20 pancakes unsuccessfully, I was relieved and given the duty of pistachio garnishing (a.k.a. the simplest task). People seemed to be coming out of nowhere, so our assembly line had to work efficiently. Pour batter, flip pancake, plate, whipped cream, pistachio, syrup. Over and over and over…
When our massive 10-litre container of batter was running low, I was sent into the clothing store to refill. It was a mildly stressful situation, as I was vigorously mixing a giant vat of sticky mixture on the counter while being surrounded by expensive women’s accessories. Luckily, I did not damage anything, besides coating my pants. (And yes, that is a bowl of panties in the photo of me mixing batter.)
When there was a spare moment in between groups of hungry hot cake monsters, I brought a couple chai latte pancake samples to some of our stiffest competition. I stopped by the restaurant Tilted Grill, last year’s winners with their red velvet pancakes. I could tell they were shaking in their boots after trying ours!
We also got a ‘thumbs up’ from Vin Room’s executive chef, Claire Cameron. She sent me back to my station with a batch of her banana pancakes topped with dulche de leche, which were delicious! So delicious, in fact, that Vin Room ended up taking the title of ‘best pancakes’. Our Chai Latte Pancake earned a commendable third place, but still…damn you Claire, damn you…
All in all, it was a great morning. It was my first time ever being involved in preparing a pancake breakfast, so I truly enjoyed the experience. As long as you promise to keep it a secret, I will share our Chai Latte Pancake recipe here. Try them for yourself and see what you think!
Chai Latte Pancakes with Chai Infused Maple Syrup
What you’ll need:
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 TBSP baking powder
• 2 TSP cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• 2/3 cup whole milk
• 2/3 cup chai concentrate (available at most grocery stores, in the tea section)
• 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cups whipped cream (for garnish)
• 1/3 cup crushed pistachios (for garnish)
• 2 cups good quality maple syrup
• 2 spiced chai tea bags (available at most coffeehouses or tea specialty shops)
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 2 TSP orange zest
In a large bowl, whisk together the first 3 ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl and whisk until a batter forms. If mixture is too thick, add a bit more milk. If it is runny, add some more flour. Finish with a pinch of salt and give the batter a final stir.
Heat some butter or oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot ladle some of the batter into the pan, making the pancakes as large or small as you’d like. Cook until the batter starts to form many bubbles around its edges. Flip and continue to cook for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to plate to serve right away, or keep warm in a baking dish in the oven on a low setting of 225 degrees.
Place all ingredients in a small pot on low heat. Let mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain, discard tea, cinnamon and zest and let cool slightly before pouring on pancakes. Enjoy!
Total cooking time:25 min
Posted: Wed, Jul 11 2012
by Dan Clapson