Pizza Pancakes Make So Much Sense When You Think About It
Pizza is pretty close to a perfect food. Carbs, protein, fat, salt, soft and crisp, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, what could be better? It is at once celebratory and conciliatory, the food you want to eat when you’ve kicked butt at work or when you dropped the ball. It can be as elegant as a cracker-thin flatbread anointed with truffle oil and prosciutto and figs or as down and dirty as a thick crust piled with five different meats and extra cheese stuffed in the crust. As the old joke goes, even bad pizza is still pretty good.
Pizza for breakfast is beyond delightful. Cold straight from the fridge, stiff and chewy, the toppings encased in the solidified cheese like the strata of ancient stone, little fossils of sausage chunks and slices of pepperoni uncovered like delicious artifacts. Reheated in a cast iron skillet to a near-perfect return to original crispy meltedness, with or without an egg baked on top. Those great Dad-food English muffin pizzas for breakfast with the tomato paste right out of the jar, that classic “I’m letting Mom sleep in” weekend indulgence.
But one of my favorite new ways to celebrate the magic of pizza at breakfast is my pizza pancakes. Not, as you might imagine, little pizzas made out of pancakes with pizza toppings baked on, which I am quite certain would be delicious in their own perfect way. Nope, these are pancakes with all the flavors and goodness cooked right in.
Tomato powder (a spectacular ingredient for getting tomato oomph into baked goods without adding liquid), Italian spices, and olive oil (instead of butter) all make for a great base. Some crisp-fried pieces of pepperoni are awesome, but so are little nuggets of pre-cooked Italian sausage. But the over the top genius is in the tiny pearl-sized balls of fresh mozzarella that melt into little stretchy pockets throughout the cakes. I went there. And I promise you, you are gonna want to go there too.
Once you have the basics, make them your own. You like yours with vegetables? Swap out the meat for chopped sautéed onions, mushrooms or peppers. Stir in some sliced olives. Go anchovy if that is your jam. Add red pepper flakes if you want some heat. Eat them hot with butter, and the gilding of your choice, whether that is a sprinkle of Parmesan to up the cheese factor or a drizzle of syrup to embrace the breakfast end. However you like your pizza, you can pancake it. It goes without saying that your kids will think you are a genius. Especially if they are of-age, and hungover.
Makes 9 large or 18 small pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons tomato powder (available at spice markets or online)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning mix
4 oz pepperoni slices, cut into quarters and cooked crisp (or 4 oz cooked crumbled Italian Sausage)
4 oz fresh mozzarella perline (little balls the size of pearls) or a larger mozzarella diced into ¼ inch dice
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons olive oil
More olive oil for cooking
In a large bowl whisk the flour, tomato powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Add the seasonings and whisk again so that they are well distributed. Throw in the little mozzarella balls and pepperoni and toss together so that they are well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk and oil until well blended. Pour the buttermilk mix into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside the batter to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 200°F.
Heat your griddle or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot enough for a drop of water to skitter across the surface and evaporate, brush a thin layer of olive oil on the surface. Drop 1/2 cup scoops for large cakes or 1/4 cup scoops for small on the skillet, leaving plenty of room for them to spread. I usually coax them along with the back of the scoop, since the thick batter will only spread so far on its own. Cook on the first side until bubbles appear on the tops of the pancakes, and the edges look dry, about 2 minutes. Flip over. DON’T PRESS DOWN! I mean it. I know you want to, but resist. These are extra fluffy cakes, and if you press on them they get rubbery. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Cook on the second side about 1-2 minutes till golden brown and cooked through.
Transfer cooked cakes to a rack over a sheet pan and hold in the oven while you make the rest.
Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, hot sauce, or even grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes.