I can't remember the first time that J and I had the sourdough pancakes at Campanile, but I do remember being completely blown away by them. J, particularly, fell hard and fast for the thin, light and slightly tangy discs of pure delight, and has ordered them on every single brunch outing to Campanile in the years since. We've looked long and hard for other restaurants that serve these beauties but have never found another place in Los Angeles that featured them on the menu. Not that it'd be easy to top Campanile's version- they truly are moutwateringly sour and absolutely delicious. The tanginess combined with creamy butter and sweet maple syrup is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
I knew, one day, that I'd want to attempt to make my own sourdough pancakes, but first I would need a starter. Call it laziness, fear of the unknown or both, but I never got around to creating the mix of flour and water that would grow into an active starter. Yes, it's been on my cooking list-of-things-to-make for awhile now, but I got distracted by shiny photos in Food & Wine or Gourmet of other foods that just cried out for my attention.
Then, one day, as I was perusing one of my favorite food blogs, I noticed one sentence within the post about sourdough pancakes. The post itself wasn't even about the pancakes, but when I read that the Raven-haired Goddess of Seattle Food Blogging had a recipe courtesy of her brilliant fiancée, I didn't waste any time asking her for some advice. I was unrealistically hoping that the recipe didn't involve a starter, but of course it did. Then, Ms M came to the rescue by actually offering to mail me some of her own starter! "How on earth was this possible?" I thought, but let Ms M take charge. Sure enough, a couple of short weeks later, a jiffy pack arrived on my door containing a Ziploc filled with broken pieces of dried starter and instructions on how to reanimate it. How brilliant!!
Dried, crumbled starter arrives!
I quickly got to work and by the next day, I had a bubbling caldron (ok, Pyrex bowl) of live, active sourdough starter!! In my house!! On my counter!!! I carefully followed Ms M's instructions and fed it daily for about a week, after which time I had enough to make a batch of pancakes. I looked up a recipe online and the batter came together so easily. Although Ms M mentioned that baking soda or powder may cancel out the sourness, the pancakes did retain a good deal of tang.
Crumbled starter soaking in water....
Close up of active bubbles....
It just so happens that I work with Campanile owner/chef Mark Peel's wife Daphne, and he was kind enough to give me some advice on how to make the pancakes without the baking powder and soda. He suggested separating the eggs, mixing in the yolks and then whipping the whites to form soft peaks, then folding them into the batter. I will definitely try it that way and see if I get tangier sourdough pancakes. Thanks Daphne and Mark!!
Pancakes getting ready to flip out!
And thank you, Ms. M, for sending me a little piece of your starter which will hopefully live a long and glorious life in my refrigerator for years to come. I hope that you don't get flooded with requests for starter (please don't, dear reader!)- I simply had to give a shout out for giving me something I've wanted for so long.
Beautiful, airy, light and delicious....