Johnny Cakes with Rhubarb and Sour Cherries by Sarah Copeland

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Episode 50: Sarah Copeland

Johnny cakes are an addictive southern specialty, set apart from regular pancakes for their texture and taste. Their corn flavor is hard to mistake, making them a perfect backdrop for butter and maple syrup. My family especially loves them with a bit of tangy, juicy summer fruit on top: rhubarb, lightly steeped in maple syrup and tossed with sour cherries or raspberries.

These aren’t textbook Johnny cakes, but this recipe makes utterly gorgeous pancakes and is still easy enough to make on repeat every weekend.

SERVES 4 (or makes 8 large pancakes)

PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME: 20 MINUTES

TOPPING

  • 2 thick stalks ruby red rhubarb, sliced on the bias (about 2 cups/200 g)

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup, plus more for serving

  • One 24-oz (680-g) jar pitted sour cherries, in syrup or juices

PANCAKES

  • 1 cup (140 g) fine to medium cornmeal

  • 1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour or (155 g) gluten-free flour

  • 1 Tbsp sugar

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1 1⁄3 cups (320 ml) buttermilk

  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking

  • Plain yogurt, for serving

DIRECTIONS

  1. TO MAKE THE TOPPING: Combine the rhubarb and maple syrup in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium-low heat until the syrup bubbles just slightly and the rhubarb is steaming, but not breaking down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the rhubarb sit in the syrup until it softens but is still holding its shape and bright red in color. Toss with the cherries and just enough of the cherry juices to turn the syrup red, but still leave it thick enough to drizzle with a spoon (½ to ¾ cup [120 to 180 ml] of the cherry syrup); set aside.

  2. TO MAKE THE PANCAKES: Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and mix together until the batter resembles a loose muffin batter, being careful not to overmix; you want to keep these pancakes light and airy.

  3. Preheat a cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium heat until evenly warm. Add a knob (about 2 Tbsp) of butter to coat the surface. (Cooking in butter makes golden, gorgeous pancakes.) When the butter sizzles, drop batter in 1⁄3 cupfuls (80 ml) onto the skillet, leav¬ing 2 inches (5 cm) between them, and cook until just starting to bubble around the edges. Flip (it should release easily from the griddle) and cook until just done, usually 1 to 2 minutes. You don’t want these to cook fully through, which can make them taste dry. Pull them a second before you think they are ready; the batter will continue to steam and set inside on their way to the plate. Repeat until all the batter is used.

  4. Serve the pancakes warm, topped with yogurt and the rhubarb and cherries, and drizzled with any extra juices.

Reprinted from Every Day Is Saturday by Sarah Copeland with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019