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Sour-Milk Griddle Cakes – 50 Women Game Changers – Edna Lewis #36

Posted Feb 23 2012 7:12pm
Sour-milk whole wheat pancakes with stewed blueberries

Sour-milk griddle cakes with stewed blueberries


My grandmother grew up on a chicken farm in Kansas, far away from where I grew up on a California beach. She enjoyed being in the kitchen baking cookies. She used a lot of funny words like skillet, and griddle cakes, or flapjacks—where I used words like pan, and pancakes. She was a good baker. My love of baking came from grandma early on when she let me help roll out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets. I thought of her today because we are profiling Edna Lewis from Gourmet Online’s “ 50 Women Game Changers .” Like Grandma, Edna also used funny words like griddle cakes, and skillet—and she was a county girl, but from the South. I hope you follow along with Mary Berger at One Perfect Bite and other bloggers as we pay tribute to Edna Lewis, #36.

Edna Lewis, one of eight children, grew up on a Virginia farm. She was the grand-daughter of a freed slave living a town called Freetown, established by three emancipated slaves. Edna learned to cook from her Aunt Jenny cooking on a wood-fired stove. Brett Moore , book author and writer says: “[Edna’s family] didn’t have measuring spoons or scales, so instead they used coins, piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels.”

At the age of 16, after her father’s death, she and two sisters moved to New York. There she joined the communist party and came to know a group of intellectuals. She opened a restaurant with John Nickolson in 1948 called Café Nickolson. He had been a designer and knew many people from the upper crust of society, and the restaurant quickly became a hot spot visited by famous people like Truman Capote, Marlon Brando, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Marlene Dietrich. Edna left the restaurant in 1954.

She taught cooking classes and wrote cookbooks: The Taste of Country Cooking and The gift of Southern Cooking (Co-authored with Atlanta chef, Scott Peacock. In the mid-1990’s she and a group of people started the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food. She’s won many honors over her lifetime: Lifetime Achievement Award IACP (International Assoc. of Culinary Professionals), and Named Grande Dame by Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of female culinary professionals, among others. Edna died on February 13, 2009 at the age of 89. You may be interested in watching this wonderful documentary about her directed by Bailey Barash.


Prep Time: 15 minutes (This includes the 10 minute rest time)

Yield: 12 pancakes

Servings: 4 to 6

*NoteI modified the recipe for sour-milk griddle cakes by using less salt and increasing the amount of whole wheat. Since griddle cakes are the same as pancakes, we could call them whole wheat pancakes. For the berries, I used coconut palm sugar, or you can use organic cane sugar. I also reduced amount of sugar from 1/3 cup to ¼ cup. You can see the original recipe at the The Wednesday Chef . * Cooking Tips: The two tips below will help prevent your pancakes from becoming rubbery.

1) Mix the batter just until it comes together. It’s OK if there are still some clumps of flour.

2) Let the batter rest 10 minutes before cooking.

Ingredients for the Sour-Milk Griddle Cakes
1 cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder (see below)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups sour milk, or buttermilk (For sour milk, stir 1 teaspoon vinegar into the milk)


Griddle Cakes aka Pancakes

Griddle Cakes aka Pancakes

1) Sift flours, salt, soda, and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add beaten egg and melted butter. Mix well by stirring. Add milk and stir well. Do not over-mix or the cakes will be tough. The batter will be quite thick.

2) Pour on sizzling-hot greased griddle in largish spoonfuls. When the cakes become quite puffed and show tiny bubbles, turn and cook a few minutes more. Serve with stewed berries and maple syrup.

Ingredients for the Stewed Berries
2 cups berries, fresh or frozen (blueberries are what Edna Lewis recommends)
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, or natural cane sugar
1/4 cup water


1. Place the berries, sugar, and water into a quart saucepan. Set the pan over a medium flame and bring to a boil. Turn the flame down, leaving the berries at a quiet, rather gentle boil for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Turn the heat off until the pancakes are ready to serve. Then reheat the berries so they will be hot (do not let them boil) and spoon them onto the cakes. Leftover berry sauce keeps in the fridge and can be used to stir into yogurt or drizzle on ice cream.

Royal Baking Powder

Mix 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking soda (for example, 4 teaspoons cream of tartar with 2 teaspoons baking soda). Use quantity as directed in the recipe above. Store the remaining mixture in an airtight container indefinitely.

*Note – this is an interesting kitchen trick Edna had. Cream of tartar is alkaline, so it neutralizes the baking soda in the recipe; you really don’t taste the baking soda in these pancakes as you would in most recipes.

Please check out these other great blogs to see what these fantastic cooks have cooked up:
Val – More Than Burnt Toast , Joanne – Eats Well With Others , Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather - Girlichef , Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney , Jeanette – Healthy Living ,  Mary – One Perfect Bite , Kathleen - Bake Away with Me   Sue – The View from Great Island , Barbara – Movable Feasts , Kathleen – Gonna Want Seconds,    Linda A - There and Back Again   Nancy – Picadillo , Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits ,  Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen ,  Annie - Most Lovely Things , Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook ,  Amrit Beetles Kitchen Escapades , Alyce – More Time at the Table

This recipe is also posted at  Frugal Food Thursday and Full Plate Thursday

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