If there’s one definitive food of my childhood, it’s semolina porridge. I have these really distinct memories of eating it topped with strawberry jam — sometimes I’d mix in the jam thoroughly to make a uniformly pink breakfast, sometimes I’d create intricate swirl patterns with it, and sometimes I’d eat from the center inward toward the jewel-red dollop, like I was saving it for dessert.
The definitive accessories of my childhood: rather large head bows and a stern expression. But this is not a blog about that… So let’s move on.
These pancakes hail from Aland, which is a piece of Finnish autonomous region hotness in the Baltic Sea. Naturally, the cuisine of this little bunch of islands rings close to home. Semolina is very similar to farina, which is basically Cream of Wheat. Farina is just a little softer, but the slightly nutty flavor and bit of crunch is the same. The method of making “pancakes” in the oven, meanwhile, resembles the internet-famous (and rightly so) Dutch Baby. Both puff up nicely, then deflate, leaving a pleasant, dense chewiness to the crust that forms on the bottom and sides.
You can’t really find semolina around these parts unless it’s semolina flour, which is too fine for this recipe. I settled for Cream of Wheat instead. The grocery store clerk saw the bright red package, smiled broadly, and said, “Oh man, I grew up with this stuff!” Not feeling too talkative at the time, I didn’t get into my Lithuanian semolina-filled childhood of the early 1990s and “Dude, isn’t it amazing how similar cultures are when you really think about it” tangents. I just smiled back and said, “Me, too.”
The original recipe comes from the Everything Nordic Cookbook, which was one of those late-night online purchases I forgot about until it showed up on my doorstep. I love those. It’s a good thing I like cookbooks instead of Canadian pharmaceuticals. True story!
The recommended topping is prune cream, which is another Aland recipe for what is essentially a pureed, spiced prune butter of sorts. There is, alas, no cream involved. Still, it’s one of those things I would absolutely make, eat, and most likely really enjoy, but a bloggin’ sister needs them clicks, and that’s just the cold hard truth. You don’t make friends with prune cream — plus it probably photographs like a face only a mother could love.
I went simple with a topping of pears sautéed in a little sugar, lemon juice, a pinch of cardamom, and butter. There is no butter (or any kind of non-egg and non-milk fat, actually) in the recipe, so I had to sneak something in there. I am American too, you know.
It’s never too early to think about Christmas breakfast, so if you’re looking for a change of pace from cinnamon rolls, French toast, or sneaky “lemme just have a preview” ham (been there myself; not judging), this is an A+ alternative. Easy, comforting, spiced, and hands-off enough to let you get chatty with your favorite people over Bailey’s coffee. That’s festive stuff right there.
This holiday season is just rolling right along, and as far as I can tell, we are all doing a really, really good job. NICE.
- 2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup Cream of Wheat (or semolina, if you can find it)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups sliced pears
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tablespoon sugar (more or less depending on how sweet your pears are)
- Pinch of cardamom
- Whipped cream, for serving
- Bring milk to simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly stir in the Cream of Wheat or semolina, whisking constantly. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until you have a thick porridge. This will take 15 minutes if you're using real semolina, but just a couple of minutes for Cream of Wheat. Remove porridge from heat and let it cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and generously butter an 8x8 baking pan (a circular pie plate would work well, too).
- Using a handheld mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, and vanilla until frothy, then beat in the flour, cardamom, salt, and cooled porridge until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading it to the edges. Bake until puffed, firm, and golden brown, about 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make pear topping, combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and soft, 5-10 minutes.
- When pancake is baked, cool it slightly and slice into individual servings. Serve topped with pears and whipped cream.