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Recipe: Johnny Cakes
Makes: Approximately 15 small cakes
Coffee: Phocea on Stovetop

Johnny Cakes, America’s oldest pancakes that started out as “journey cakes,” were a staple with early settlers along the Eastern seaboard, particularly in New England where the influence of Native Americans made corn a part of the daily diet. Just don’t tell a Rhode Islander that you’re making Johnny Cakes with anything other than the state’s signature white cornmeal, ground by a process that leaves the particles flat rather than granular. (We suggest using Kenyon Mills, where they’ve been grinding the meal since 1696.) As a result, the cakes are lighter and lacier than your typical flapjack, with a slightly crunchy crust that more than holds its own under a slathering of jam or a puddle of warm maple syrup. The cooking time for the cakes is a bit longer than expected because there is no leavening (such as baking powder as you might find in a conventional pancake) so the cakes don’t as much “cook” as dry out. That takes time.

1 cup corn meal, white Rhode Island style if possible*
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 – 1 ¼ cup boiling water
as needed – vegetable oil
Unsalted butter
Maple syrup
Slices of banana or other fruit

Combine the corn meal, sugar, and salt together in a medium-sized, mixing bowl. Add a cup of the water, and whisk until well combined. Adjust the consistency with as much of the remaining ¼ cup of water is needed to yield a mixture that resembles mashed potatoes. Set the mixture aside for a few minutes, and prepare a cooking surface – a cast iron griddle or non-stick surface works well. The cakes will tend to stick to aluminum. Place over medium heat.

Add enough oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pan or griddle. Once the oil starts to shimmer, use a tablespoon to spoon the batter into the pan or onto the griddle. Let the cakes cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the edges are brown and lacy all the way around the cake. Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes, adding a touch more oil if needed. Serve with butter and maple syrup, and a fruit garnish if desired.

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