Chef’s notes: “The recipe itself was inspired by Danish ebelskivers, which incorporate whipped egg whites to make a fluffy pancake. The airy cake with the nutty benne seeds is both decadent and light—just like we like our brunch. We love highlighting the seasons with a house-made jam and fresh fruit on top, drizzling honey to pull everything together.”
Benne Seed Pancakes
Yield: 18 (5-inch) pancakes
Spotlight your favorite seasonal fruit with Vern’s popular brunch plate
photo: JOHNNY AUTRY
For the apple butter
5 large Honeycrisp apples, cored and chopped
2 tbsp. Water
1½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
For the whipped ricotta
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. local honey
1 tsp. powdered sugar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
For the pancakes
8 large eggs, separated
1½ cups plus 3 tbsp. water
1⅓ cups whole-fat Greek yogurt
10 tbsp. Unsalted butter, melted
2 cups plus 4 tsp. all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. benne seeds, toasted
2 pints blackberries
½ cup wildflower honey
Make the apple butter: Combine apples and water in a medium saucepan and cook, covered, over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is soft and has a rich, dark amber color, about 2 to 3 hours. Remove from stove and cool slightly. Blend on low speed with an immersion blender. Cool to room temperature, then stir in apple cider vinegar. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before using.
Make the whipped ricotta: Combine ricotta, honey, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until cheese is smooth and fluffy, about 30 seconds. With the processor running, drizzle in olive oil until completely combined. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Make and assemble pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, water, yogurt, and melted butter until completely combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, ¼ cup sugar, salt, and baking powder, and mix thoroughly. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, whisk the reserved egg whites on low speed until just combined. With the mixer running on medium-high, slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and whip the egg whites just until they hold stiff peaks when you lift out the whisk attachment but are still glossy. Set aside while you begin mixing the batter.
Add the combined dry ingredients into the egg-yolk mixture, stirring until just combined. Add ⅓ of the whipped egg whites to the batter and gently stir in. Add ½ of the remaining egg whites and gently fold in to combine. Repeat with the remaining egg whites.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1 to 2 tbsp. grape-seed oil. Add ⅓ cup of batter to the skillet for each pancake, lightly smoothing out the surface. Cook as many at a time as your skillet will hold, allowing ½ inch of space between pancakes and adding another tbsp. or 2 of oil in between batches as needed. Sprinkle ½ tsp. of toasted benne seeds onto each pancake. When you start to see bubbling on the surface, about 3 minutes, flip each pancake and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer pancakes to a plate and lightly cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm until you’re finished cooking.
To serve, assemble pancakes in stacks of 2, adding a spoonful of whipped ricotta and a dollop of apple butter between layers. Top each stack with a dollop of whipped ricotta, making an indentation with the back of the spoon, and fill with more apple butter. Add a few fresh blackberries and drizzle with honey.
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