They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and when Jan Barrett, co-owner of the Ware Street Inn in Lewiston, adds her creative flair to it, it’s the most delicious as well. Today, we’re talking (and eating) pancakes, but first some background.
Jan and her husband, Mike, opened the Ware Street Inn in July of 1999. They bought a house she always admired growing up as a local, the former Wellehan home on the corner of Ware and College streets, and transformed it into an airy and bright bed & breakfast catering to Bates College parents, area visitors and local legends. Their attention to detail and affable nature lures in guests, but her breakfasts pack the “wow” factor that keeps them all coming back.
In her newly remodeled kitchen, Barrett reigns as queen. She’s a practitioner of “mise en place” (French for “everything in its place”), making sure she is fully prepared with all ingredients and utensils before beginning a dish, and that she puts each item away after it has been used. This helps cut down on cleanup and avoid finding out that a key ingredient is missing right in the middle of cooking.
Presentation is of the upmost importance to Barrett. On the inn’s 1.25 acres, she has both an herb garden and edible flowers that she uses to dress up her dishes. “It’s the little accents,” she explains, “that bring the food up a notch.”
Most of her recipes originally come from magazines, but she takes them a step further by giving them her own twist. She isn’t afraid to experiment and often invites friends to be her sampling guinea pigs. If it wins them over, it’s a go for the inn.
“I don’t do the ordinary. It’s always something a little different,” says Barrett. A big win with her friends recently was lobster-stuffed chicken breasts with shallots and baby spinach, a welcome addition to her recipe repertoire as she begins her newly formed small party catering service.
For breakfast, Barrett uses versatile recipes that can be served with different accompaniments and sauces. There’s a plethora of combinations, including orange-marmalade sauce, peach-apple, fig-orange and, this day’s specialty, apple cider syrup, which complement her heart-healthy oatmeal pancakes with diced green apple.
“The pancakes are awesome,” says Barrett. “You make a batch of the dry ingredients, keep them in a container and just dish out the cups and add the wet ingredients. It’s easy and very, very tasty — it’s kind of a staple here.”
They’re also good for you. Barrett aims to create delectable dishes without the use of high-calorie or artery-clogging ingredients. Hearty artisan breads, whole grains and fresh fruit are in her arsenal of ingredients that she uses regularly. And whether it’s stuffed French toast or croissants, she tends to have a tasty modification or two up her sleeve so guests never have the same thing twice—unless, of course, requested.
The dry mix:
4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cinnamon
5 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons cream of tartar
Mix all ingredients together well. Store in a gallon-sized plastic storage bag or air-tight container. Yield: 10 cups of pancake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups pancake mix
1 cup water
Beat eggs in large bowl. Gradually beat in oil. Alternately add pancake mix and water to mixture. Blend well. Preheat to about 400 degrees (medium high) and oil griddle. Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto hot griddle. Cook until bubbles form around edges. Turn and continue to cook until done.
Yield: 10 pancakes.
Apple Cider Syrup
(Best with oatmeal pancakes with apple pieces)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking mix*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup butter (or margarine)
Stir together sugar, baking mix and cinnamon in a 2-quart sauce pan. Stir in cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter.
*Bisquick works well
Syrup keeps well in the fridge for several weeks.
Barrett recommends adding fruit to the pancakes such as cup up apples, bananas, berries, craisins, raisins, chocolate chips and anything else you fancy. Toss in a handful until you feel there is enough. Serve with maple syrup.
The trick to the perfect pancake is easy: Make sure the griddle is heated thoroughly and doused with cooking spray before adding the batter, and wait until the pancake reveals air bubbles along the edges to flip it. Once flipped, it takes just a few moments to turn a golden hue, so not letting it sit too long on the other side is just as important.
When experimenting in the kitchen, smell the item you are cooking and then smell the item you want to add to it; if they smell good together, chances are they’ll taste great too.