First, we talk breakfast
I spent a year and a half of my twenties living in Chicago and working in musical theatre. And let me tell you, Chicago isn’t just a great place to live, it’s an amazing place to eat. Enter The Bongo Room, one of the city’s hottest spots for weekend breakfast and brunch. The café’s caramelized apple pancakes are INSANE. And so were these on my most recent visit:
Worth the wait
The lines are always out the door, down the street and around the corner – for good reason. They literally bathe their extravagant pancakes in warm vanilla cream AKA crème anglaise. And 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 or twice a month.
Minimizing the guilt
My time living in Chicago was short-lived – nature of the theatre business. So I developed this caramelized apple pancakes recipe using whole wheat flour to get my Bongo Room fix, with a little less guilt. Trust me, you’ll want that. Especially when you float your pancakes on, you guessed it, warm vanilla bean sauce.
Leftover vanilla sauce? Turn it into ice cream!Print
These decadent and delicious caramelized apple pancakes sing of the fall season, and can be topped with whipped cream, homemade or canned. For homemade whipped cream, beat a cup of heavy cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar. To spice it up, add a splash of orange liquor or brandy!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Ground spices: 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of cloves + allspice
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup whole or 2% milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg whites (reserve egg yolks for sauce)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 apple, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices, tossed in lemon juice
- fresh-squeezed lemon juice as needed
- ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
Crème anglaise (vanilla 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)
Make vanilla 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.
- 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.
Mix + cook 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.
- In a non-stick skillet, melt a small amount of butter and allot half a cup of batter per pancake.
- Cook on first side until bubbles pop at the surface, flip, and finish. Keep cooked pancakes in a warm oven until ready to serve.
- 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.