I spent a year and a half of my twenties living in Chicago and working in musical theatre (some show based on a book and movie about a chic from Kansas, and a magical dream world). But more importantly, this afforded me the opportunity to discover The Bongo Room, and dine there as often as possible for weekend brunch.
The lines are always out the door, down the street and around the corner (for good reason). They literally bathe at least one version of their extravagant pancakes in warm vanilla cream. I don’t mean just a drizzle, Bongo Room pancakes are basically sitting in a pool of sauce. And then there are the fancy butters, like the one with crushed up Butterfingers, or with brown sugar (above). Happy, happy, joy, joy on a Saturday morning. The Bongo Room’s savory offerings aren’t so bad either.
I’m sure you can tell by the gargantuan-sized portions that this is not an “everyday” type eating situation, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a breakfast like The Bongo Room’s, say once a week. And in an effort to feel less guilty, I came up with an accessible whole wheat pancake recipe. For kicks I threw in some caramelized apples, you know for more fiber, and less guilt. Trust me, you’ll want that. Especially when you float your pancakes on, you guessed it, warm vanilla bean sauce.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pinch of ground allspice
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup whole or 2% milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg white (reserve egg yolks for sauce)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Caramelized Apples
- 1 Gala apple, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices, tossed in lemon juice
- Fresh-squeezed lemon juice as needed
- Ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- Vanilla Bean Sauce
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks (save whites for breakfast the next morning)
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract)
- Whipped Cream (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbs granulated sugar
For sauce, if using fresh vanilla bean, bring heavy cream and milk just to a boil and remove from heat. Gently scrape out seeds of vanilla bean and add to pot with bean, let steep for 15 minutes (vanilla bean paste and extract are added at the end). Strain and return infused liquid to pot with half of the granulated sugar.
In a heat-proof bowl, stir together egg yolks and second half of sugar. Bring milk, cream and sugar to a boil. Add half of it to the egg yolks, stirring constantly to combine. Immediately pour the egg mixture back into the pot, and over low heat, stir constantly until the sauce coats the back of the wooden spoon. Strain once more to remove any curdled egg yolk, and add vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, if using. Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat gently over low heat.
For pancakes, combine first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining pancake ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon just until the batter comes together.
For apples, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter until foamy. Sprinkle sugar over apples, and cook until well-browned, flipping once. Sprinkle with cinnamon and set aside.
In a non-stick skillet, melt a small amount of butter and allot half a cup of batter per pancake desired (it may be necessary to do one at a time). Cook on first side until bubbles pop at the surface, flip, and finish. Keep cooked pancakes in a warm oven until ready to serve.
For whipped cream, beat cold cream and sugar on high speed until medium peaks form (it thickens but is not stiff).