Cinnamon Oat Griddle Cakes
The socks are off, my loins are girded, and I think it is officially time to wade into the whole “griddle cake vs pancake” debate. Or, rather, to at least dip in a small toe by skipping through the family album and passing over Flapjack, Oatcake, and Dropped Scone on my way to the breakfast table.
It may be easier to start with the commonalities between “pancakes” and “griddle cakes”. For example, they are both cooked on a flat top or griddle, they are both included in leavened and carborific breakfast fare, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, my opinion is that a pancake and griddle cake are only as similar as a sweet potato and a yam; they’re from the same family, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the same.
Griddle cakes first started to appear in gastronomy and historical cookery texts as far back as the late 17th century. They were peasant fare, which is always my favorite, and designed to be thick and hearty, nourishing and dense; the kind of breakfast that would keep you plowing the fields from dawn until dinner. A pancake, on the other hand, is lighter, fluffier, thinner and more refined…or at least, the flour is more refined. If you think of the evolution of food, a griddle cake would be the next predecessor after the ubiquitous medieval oatcake, and a pancake would be further along the line when refined flour was more readily available to the masses.
Regardless of title, whether you summon people to the table with the lure of pancakes or griddle cakes, really you can call them whatever you want. The important thing is just that you call them breakfast.
I often make a heartier griddle cake with a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour, handfuls of nuts and seeds or dried fruit, and sometimes a dollop of yogurt or buttermilk in the batter for tang and protein. Those are the ones which are virtuous enough to be served with a generous knob of melting butter, drenched in saccharine maple syrup, and with nary a guilty thought because it is all about balance. However, when I made these lighter cakes for our guests last weekend, with the natural sweetness of oats and cinnamon they needed nothing more than some chunky homemade apple chutney, spiked through with dried currents, and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt on top. I don’t make breakfast very often, but when I do, this is the kind of meal that ties body and soul together even before the coffee kicks in.
Cinnamon Oat Griddle Cakes
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp butter, melted, PLUS more for brushing griddle
- 1.5 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
(Not the best picture in the world, but that’s what you get from the first light of day)
In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter and the milk. If your butter is too hot, this will bring down the temperature before you whisk in the egg so that you don’t end up with a scramble. Therefore, as you can imagine, the next step is to whisk in the egg.
Measure in the oats, sifted flour (ha! Like I ever sift if I don’t have to. Don’t feel compelled if that’s not your style), baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
Gently stir everything together until it is just combined, and then set the mixture aside at room temperature for an hour. This will allow the oats to soften and soak up most of the excess liquid in the bowl. After sitting, the texture of the mixture should be similar to a moderately thick cake batter. If it is too thick (more like muffin batter), which can happen if your oats are old or you have low humidity in your house, thin it down slightly with a few extra tablespoons of milk.
While the oatmeal batter rests, you have plenty of time to mix up a homemade apple chutney if you happen to be feeling ambitious, and you don’t need a recipe for this one. Simply peel and core about a pound of apples (3-4 large ones) and chop them into bite sized bits. Put the apples in a pot set over medium-low heat, and add a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of vanilla, a pinch of salt and a spoonful or two of brown sugar. Let this simmer, covered, until the apples break down. Don’t forget to stir regularly so that the pot doesn’t scorch. If you like, throw in a handful of raisins or dried currants as the apples simmer away. In about half an hour, you have a deliciously sweet and simple apple chutney, ready to be scooped on top of your delicious homemade oatmeal griddle cakes. So…yeah. Yum.
If you have a griddle, now is the time to crack it out and set it over medium heat. I use an electric griddle set to 325ºF, because sadly my stove isn’t fancy enough to have a flat top insert in the center, but I DO have an affection for gadgets. On the other hand, a plain old fashioned frying pan would work just as well if you have the patience to do the griddle cakes in smaller batches.
Brush the griddle with a thin layer of melted butter and dollop out about 1/4 cup of batter, patting and spreading it down into a round(ish) shape of relatively equal thickness. Fry the griddle cakes for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are nicely golden brown. You may want to try a test cake to ensure that your griddle is at the right temperature. If it is too cold, the griddle cake will not rise properly and it will end up dense and dry. If it is too hot, the griddle cake will brown or burn on the outside while the inside is still squishy and raw. However, one test cake is probably all that it takes to get it right.
(Left are cooked griddle cakes; Right are griddle cakes waiting to be flipped)
Serve the griddle cakes immediately as they’re cooked, or keep them warm in a 200ºF oven until they’re all done if everyone wants to eat together.
Wholesome and hearty without being barefoot hippy food, these cinnamon oat griddle cakes have what it takes to get your day started right.
So eat up! After all, breakfast is the most important meal of a (Sun)day!