One of my favorite things in the world are the Lemon Ricotta pancakes at Sarabeth’s Kitchen. Unfortunately the closest Sarabeth’s to me is the one on the Upper West Side and it’s a 12 hour and 45 minute drive. So I have been meaning to try to recreate them at home for years. And lo and behold, there’s a recipe in The Food Lab. Kenji was, briefly, my hero.
Until I made them.
First, the good part: you get to make ricotta from scratch. Saying you make your own cheese will impress the hell out of people; they will look at you as if you said you spun hay into gold while watching Downton Abbey last night. But it’s actually quite simple: just heat milk with a little acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and drain. That’s it.
And so ends the successful, rewarding, non-frustrating part of this recipe.
Because I can only conclude, after making the recipe twice, that it contains an error, specifically in the amount of liquid.
During my first attempt I knew something was wrong when the “batter” was more like dough and the pancakes were more like biscuits:
Obviously, too dry. So I added more buttermilk to the remaining batter and got something that looked much more familiar:
Because Kenji is a trained chef and experienced cook and I grew up on Bisquick I assumed that the fault was mine. Perhaps it was my homemade ricotta as it only yielded 3/4 of a cup and the recipe calls for a full cup? That might explain the stubborn clumpiness of my panballs.
So I made the recipe again, using a full cup of purchased ricotta. And guess what? Same thing. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup buttermilk so I kept adding more, 1/4 cup at a time, until I got something that acted like pancake batter (that is, it spread into a vaguely round shape when it hit the pan). In the end I used 1-1/4 cup buttermilk vs. 1/2 cup.
Admittedly, my experiment was not up to the scientific rigor of The Food Lab but what do these people want from me???
The good news is that when you finally get it right they are amazingly good, just like I remember from New York. Light, fluffy, with a hint of lemon to add interest and dimension and a little bit of tang from the ricotta. So, so, so good.
I tweeted the Food Lab to see if there was, perhaps, a typo, but they never replied. I found another helpful guy on Twitter who did make them and seemed to have no problem. I Googled errata for the book and it’s not there either.
If you’re willing to give it a try and either support my suspicion of a sinister and far-reaching cover up or, basically ruin my life by confirming that I can’t even make a damn pancake, the nice people at Minnesota Public Radio have the recipe right here for you.