February 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Bright lemon pancakes chase the chill away

Lemon ricotta pancakes with apples are light, fluffy and luscious. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

During a recent blast of bitter weather, I was doing my level best not to succumb to cabin fever. I had several new recipes that I wanted to try, so I wasnt suffering from inertia. I did, however, have a mighty struggle keeping my hand out of the cookie jar and for the most part succeeded. I was determined not to fall victim to winter weight, so I exercised at home and stayed on a healthy diet.

But on one bitter Sunday morning, I awoke with a powerful determination to eat pancakes, and because Id had enough of the lousy weather, I decided to give in to the temptation and fix the best batch of pancakes Id had in years.

I still had some leftover fresh ricotta cheese, which Id made earlier in the week, and a big bowl of bright citrus oranges, limes and lemons on the counter, so I knew I could use great ingredients instead of relying on a commercial mix. I also had some Calvados brandy in the cupboard and thought how nice it would be to make a spiked syrup for a topping.

I poached apples in the syrup and set them aside while I whipped up the light and moist batter.

The result was an indulgent and luxurious breakfast served with fresh orange juice, bacon and lots of fresh, hot coffee. I didnt even mind when my husband looked up from his plate and out the window to announce it was snowing yet again.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes With Poached Apples and Brandy Syrup

Recipe adapted from foodandstyle.com

Topping

1 cups maple syrup
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 pounds firm-flesh apples (about 3 large), peeled, cored and cut in -inch slices
cup apple brandy or regular brandy
cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Pancakes

1 cups unbleached all purpose flour
cup sugar (preferably turbinado or raw)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
18 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cups milk
1 13 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional butter to grease the pan

Heat the maple syrup, water and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the apple slices, reduce heat to medium-high and fast simmer for 15 minutes until apples are tender and liquid has reduced by a third. Add the brandy and continue to fast simmer for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Mix well and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add the milk, ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and melted butter and whisk until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk until just incorporated. The batter should be slightly lumpy.

Heat a pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Brush pan with a little melted butter and lower to medium to medium-high heat. Using about 13 cup or more of the batter for each pancake, pour the batter into the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top of pancake has a few bubbles, edges look dry and bottom is golden. Flip the pancake and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until bottom is golden and pancake is cooked through. Brush the pan with a little more butter before cooking the next pancake. Serve with a few apples slices, drizzle with syrup.

Place 2-3 pancakes in the center of each plate. Top with a few apple slices and drizzle with the syrup and sprinkle with walnuts. Makes about 12 pancakes depending on the size.

Per serving: 348 calories; 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 26 percent calories from fat); 55 g carbohydrates; 94 mg cholesterol; 152 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com