Pumpkin Pancakes with Cajeta de Leche is my Southwest spin on this fall favorite comfort food.
There is something about fall that just says, “Pancakes!” I know it can’t be just the cold weather, we don’t have any of that around here. No, it must be the pumpkins that spill out of the grocery stores and spring up on the street corners to announce that fall is coming.
Pumpkin pancakes are my family’s favorite pancake recipe and this one dates back to the early days; the days when they were very, very small. As a young, married couple with two small children, we were always looking for fun ways to make ends meet. So, “Pancake Night” was born. Every Monday night, for more years than I care to admit, became the funnest dinnertime of the week. The kids looked forward to the weekly meal not only because they loved pancakes, but because they got to “help.” Standing on chairs and kneeling on barstools, they mixed up the batter and gave directions on what shape it should be when I spooned it into the frying pan.
As they grew, the pancakes changed shapes from zoo animals to dinosaurs to sports heros (picture stick figures with blobs of batter for baseball hats or basketballs. Hey! I’m a cook, not an artist). The recipes changed, as well. We got a little tired of the same ol’ buttermilk pancakes and started experimenting with all kinds of fruits and flavors and even vegetables to throw into the batter. Pumpkin was the winner, of course, and well… broccoli was not.
We also started switching up the toppings for the pancakes. Cajeta became a real favorite. Cajeta de Leche is a traditional Latin sauce that is smooth and carmel-y but, not too sweet. It is made by reducing milk and sugar to the thickness of regular syrup. And yes, it is traditionally made with goat’s milk. BUT, it doesn’t have to be! You can use regular (full fat) milk, if you must. Or, you can use a mixture of the two milks to get your family used to the idea. But, as Julia Child said, you are alone in the kitchen. No one needs to know but you… and me. It will be our little secret.
You can tell them that cajeta is much healthier than syrup. It is made from real milk and not just straight sugar. Cajeta is great for people with allergies to cow’s milk. And (this is a good one) you don’t really need to use butter when you use cajeta. The sauce is creamy enough on it’s own. If they still don’t fall for it, just tell them to close their eyes and taste it.
Of course, you can always tell them to get out of the kitchen. You know… in a good way.
- 2 quarts goat’s milk or cow’s milk or a mixture of both milks
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cinnamon stick or Mexican canela (optional)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup chopped pecans or almonds, toasted
- 2½ cups prepared pancake batter from your favorite mix without the eggs
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (if using fresh pumpkin puree, withhold 1 to 2 tablespoons of the required liquid and readjust before cooking)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of mace or ground ginger
- vegetable oil for cooking
- Cajeta may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
- To make the cajeta, poor the milk into a large pot or dutch oven. Add the sugar and cinnamon stick.
- Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar in dissolve and the milk has come to a simmer.
- Once the milk is simmering, dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of water. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and stir in the baking soda and water mixture. The milk will foam up a bit from the acidity in the milk. Please don’t skip this step.
- When the foaming stops, return the pot to the heat and return the mixture to a simmer. Adjust the heat to keep the milk at a consistent simmer but, not a boil.
- Simmer for about 1 hour and stir regularly to insure even cooking and keep the sugar from burning on the bottom.
- When the mixture becomes golden in color, stir more frequently until the cajeta develops a carmel brown color and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup.
- Continue stirring and test the cajeta on a cool plate. The cajeta should be the thickness of a medium thick carmel sauce when cool. If the cajeta over reduces and becomes too thick, just add a little water to the mixture and test again. If the cajeta is too runny, continue simmering to the desired temperature.
- Strain the cajeta through a sieve to remove any lumps that may have developed. Pour into a clean jar with a tight lid and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
- When ready to serve, heat in microwave or over double boiler.
- Prepare enough of your favorite pancake mix to equal two cups but, do not add any eggs. Set the batter aside to “rest.”
- In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, egg yolks, vanilla extract, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace or ground ginger. Stir into pancake batter.
- Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. If you prepare this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, keep the eggs whites in a separate bowl and fold into the batter right before cooking the pancakes.
- Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Watch the heat carefully, it should be high enough to “souffle” the egg whites in the batter but, not so hot that the pancakes burn on the outside and stay raw on the inside.
- Lay the finished pancakes out on a parchment covered baking sheet and keep warm in the oven, if necessary. Try not to stack too many pancakes on top of each other until ready to plate. The weight of the pancakes will flatten the pancakes.
- Serve with warm cajeta and toasted pecans or almonds.
Some of my other friends have posted their spin on pancakes. Check them out or come up with some ideas that your family might like.
Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Pancakes by Barbara Bakes
Carmel and Sea Salt Pear Pancakes by Cookin’ Canuck
Low-Carb Whole Wheat Protein Pancakes by Kalyn’s Kitchen
Blueberries in Vanilla Bean Syrup by Mountain Mama Cooks
What ever pancakes you choose, bring your family and friends into the kitchen with you. Pancakes may turn out to be a favorite memory for you, too.
—posted by Sandy