Fluffy pancakes with sugared cherries show the love on Mother’s Day

I was thinking about Mother’s Day when I came up with today’s recipe. Since many mothers probably aren’t doing much cooking on Sunday, this column is more for whoever is going to be cooking for mom this holiday. Thus, I ended up thinking of my dad because he was the one doing the cooking when celebrating mom.

We talk almost every day, and often I ask him what he’s cooking for himself. He’s a handsome divorcee (any eligible Tucson, Ariz.-area readers out there?), and when I was growing up he’d make the most pillowy, yet crisp, buttery pancakes that were strangely offset by somewhat bland steamed broccoli. That plate was a balance of indulgence and nourishment, a couple things I find myself seeking when I cook. It’s also, loosely (without broccoli), the inspiration for this week’s recipe.

I’ve said in the past that I don’t care for sweet pancakes, and these tangy pancakes with brown-sugared cherries are definitely a bit sweet. I’m allowed to change my pancake party though, and I think these are my new favorites because they strike a balance of not too sweet, a little savory, crispy and light.

It’s all in the yogurt. Instead of adding milk, I add a mixture of whole-fat Greek yogurt, egg and a splash of vanilla. The yogurt, while being thicker than milk, reacts with the baking soda and baking powder almost immediately. When I mix the dry ingredients into the yogurt base, it gets frothy and bubbly. It looks kind of like that really beautiful, active sourdough starter that I never had.

When it comes to cooking these pancakes (and pancakes in general), I find them to be a little needy. I cook them over low to medium-low heat so the batter sizzles as I pour it into the hot pan — but not too hot so it doesn’t brown too quickly. Like I’m bird-watching (I’ve never bird-watched), I zero in and look for bubbly movement and the optimal time to turn them so the bottom is golden brown and the batter on top has set — just enough so it doesn’t splatter when turned. I say “turn” because “flipping” conjures a scene with the pancake high-flying in the air with some inevitable splatter that breaks all the airy bubbles you want to keep. That’s less likely to happen if you turn them over gently. You’ll notice, too, that after you turn these pancakes, they fluff up a bit and you’ll be tempted to just eat the first one.

Let’s talk about the right kind of pan for a second. A cast iron or carbon steel pan works best because you’ll end up with a pancake top that’s more evenly crispy than you would with a nonstick pan. If your mom doesn’t have a cast iron pan, maybe this is the year to get her one?

Building on this finicky pancake theme (this is a dash of hyperbole because pancakes are fun!) I think they turn out best when cooked one by one. If you have a larger burner and larger pan, you can double or maybe (maybe!) triple up in the pan. Regardless, you’re going to end up with some pancakes that have sat around while you finish cooking the rest. I don’t believe in some people (even moms, sorry) getting to eat their pancakes first before the rest are cooked, so I lay my pancakes flat on a cooling rack so their crisp parts don’t soften. If you need the pancakes to be hot, just reheat them all at once in your oven on that cooling rack.

A little yogurt and the brown-sugared cherries — which I make by quickly stewing the cherries until they become soft but plump with a ruby-hued sauce — and breakfast is ready. Local cherries, which are just showing up at the market, were one of my mother’s favorite fruits. We’d always have a bag of them in the fridge to snack on during the season. They make a much more appropriately saucy side rather than steamed broccoli, too.

Christian Reynoso is a chef, recipe developer and writer. Originally from Sonoma, he lives in San Francisco. Email: food@sfchronicle.com Instagram: @christianreynoso Twitter: @xtianreynoso

Tangy Yogurt Pancakes With Brown-Sugared Cherries

Serves 2-4 (makes about 8 medium pancakes)

Yogurt certainly makes a tangy pancake here, but it also makes them fluffy — this is a very active, bubbly batter. Also, low to medium-low heat is best for cooking the pancakes through, so be patient! Once all the pancakes are made, you can always reheat them in the oven, but you don’t need to.

30 cherries, stemmed, halved and pitted

¼ cup brown sugar

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

vegetable oil

¾ cup whole-fat yogurt, preferably Greek style, plus more for serving

2 eggs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Grapeseed or canola oil

Instructions: Add the cherries, brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons water to a small pot over medium heat. Stir the cherries while they heat up and the sugar melts until the sugar turns into a ruby-colored syrupy sauce and the cherries are softened, but plump, not falling apart, about 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.

Heat a skillet (preferably cast iron) over low heat and add just enough oil to fully coat the bottom, about 1 to 2 tablespoons depending on the size of your pan. In a medium bowl whisk the yogurt, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla. Set aside. In another bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and ¼ teaspoon salt.

With a fork, slowly fold the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture until all the dry ingredients are added. Don’t feel the need to have a smooth batter; some small caper-size lumps are OK. The batter should start to look frothy and bubbly pretty quickly.

Scoop ¼ cup (best to use a measuring cup) worth of batter at a time and gently place into the hot, oiled pan. Guide the batter with your measuring cup (or whatever you use to scoop the batter) to make a flattened circle. If you have a pan large enough to cook multiple pancakes at a time, go for it; just make sure there is about 1 inch of space between the pancakes as they cook. Once small bubbles start to form around the edges and then in the center of the pancake, check the bottom with a metal (preferably fish) spatula. The bottom should be golden brown, about 2 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and gently turn over the pancake versus doing a high-flying flip (to avoid splatter and breaking all the air bubbles). Cook for about 1 minute longer, then transfer to a cooling rack set into a sheet pan. Repeat with more oil in between batches with the remaining batter.

Serve the pancakes on individual plates with a spoonful of more yogurt on top and the brown-sugared cherries over everything. However, a simple pat of butter works, too.

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