I was recently watching a biography on Nigella Lawson and was surprised to hear about the controversy surrounding the title of her book How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. Though I may be behind the times to discuss an almost six-year-old debate, at the time I had been unaware of the outrage expressed over her title.
Long story short, some reviewers took the title rather literally, believing that it implied a throwback to pre-feminist ideology. Nigella’s proponents jumped to her rescue, declaring the statement to be facetious; a cheeky attempt at irony.
While an admitted Nigella fan, I will not take this opportunity to defend her humour. Instead, casting aside the trappings of gender roles, I pose a question - is it, for a female or male, terrible to wish oneself worshipped for a job well done?
On the field, in the classroom and around the conference table, we are taught to perform to the best of our abilities. And there are goals to which we choose to aspire, without thought of apology. Why should it be any different in the domestic realm? Is it not one of the most basic, and somewhat noble, desires to want to be able to provide delicious food for those you love?
As much as there is art in the culinary world, there is also basic skill. Some behaviours are learned and it is a talent that can be improved. There is effort; frequently resulting in sweat and sometimes dissolving into tears. Anyone who has ever attempted a holiday meal for family and friends can surely attest to that.
It is in light of this struggle that I will proudly show off my collected burns that decorate my hands and forearms, the nicks on my cutting boards or the scorch marks on my pots and pans. I have survived the trial by fire and come out with feast fit for celebration. Truth be told, I would fully expect the display of these war wounds to illicit an appropriate amount of fawning attention from my loved ones.
With imminent adoration in mind, I happily face the Saturday morning request from my dear Sean - pancakes. Quite content, you will most often find me padding about in fuzzy slippers and spatula in hand, lazily flipping cakes and feeling rather pleased with myself.
Over the years I have played with recipes, striving for perfection and finally settling on one which seems to meet the criteria. Most recently, our bundle of boy, Benjamin, has started stealing nibbles (no syrup, of course). Two clean plates, two toothy grins and two rounded bellies is praise enough for my efforts - and I feel blessed enough, indeed.
I would like to dedicate this post to my dear, dear friend Michèle, a goddess in her own right.
Spiced pillow pancakes
With the subtle warmth of spice floating up from the pan, these fluffy cakes offer some wintertime aromatherapy. It hardly needs saying, but these call for nothing less than a drizzle of your best amber maple syrup. One apology - I always hate a recipe where you have an egg yolk left over. If you choose, omit the third egg white and reduce the flour by 1/4 cup. You will, of course, sacrifice a bit of lift.
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons golden or brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (a good pinch) ground cardamom
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons melted clarified butter, plus more for cooking
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a third bowl, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients to combine.
Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just dampened. Some lumps are a good thing here; you are not going for a perfectly smooth batter. Add a dollop of the egg whites to the batter and fold to lighten. Once fully incorporated, fold in the the remaining egg white. Again, I do not mix to fully combine; the batter should be striped with white and tan at this stage.
While the batter rests, preheat a non-stick or cast iron griddle over medium heat. Lightly brush with melted clarified butter if desired. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan. Cook until the edges become dry and bubbles begin to form in the centre, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden and puffed, about another 2 minutes. Remove to a platter and keep warm in a low oven if needed. Continue until all batter is used.
Makes 20 pancakes, serving about 6.
• Vegetable oil can be substituted for the clarified butter.
• Grated apple can be added to this batter. You may need to adjust the flour accordingly.
• If looking for ease of cleanup and perfectly-portioned cakes, use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead of a ladle.