By Marcia Friedman
When you make pancakes with ricotta cheese and a hint of lemon, they become surprisingly sophisticated and luscious. Furthermore, cheese pancakes nicely combine Hanukkah’s dairy and oil traditions and hearken back to the original latkes, which were made of cheese. Another bonus of this particular recipe? You can—and indeed should—make the pancakes ahead. Reheating them in the oven mellows the cheese and lemon flavor and perfects the texture so that a slightly crispy exterior gives way to a creamy interior. I love serving them as a “sandwich” with cream spiked with limoncello, a lemon-flavored liqueur originating from the Amalfi Coast and Sicily.
Makes approx. 20-22 small pancakes, or 10-11 pancake sandwiches (1 to 2 sandwiches per serving).
For the pancakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
Cooking spray or extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the griddle or pan
For the Limoncello cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Limoncello
1½ tablespoons sugar
Fresh blueberries or other berries (optional)
Lightly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, buttermilk, ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold stiff peaks, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the ricotta mixture and stir until just incorporated (will still be a bit lumpy). Fold in the egg whites until just a few stray streaks of white remain. The batter will be fluffy and lumpy.
Heat a griddle to medium-high and brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Drop ¼ cupfuls of batter onto griddle; spread gently with the back of a spoon to make an approximate 3½-inch circle. Cook until golden brown on both sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
When pancakes are completely cool, wrap and freeze.
To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets, placing an ovenproof wire rack on each one. Place frozen pancakes in a single layer on the wire racks and bake until warmed and slightly crispy, rotating pans and turning pancakes halfway through, 16 to 22 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream, vanilla, and limoncello. Beat on high speed. As the cream gains a little volume, sprinkle sugar over, and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.
When pancakes are done, place a generous dollop of whipped cream between 2 pancakes and top with another spoonful of cream. Scatter fresh berries over top and sides. The cream will start to melt, which is lovely. Serve right away.
Recipe excerpted from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life by Marcia Friedman.