"Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris + Orange, Cinnamon & Oat Pancakes

Within the course of three days, I came into a rather large abundance of oranges from two people whose citrus trees were overflowing. As you can imagine, I wasted no time scrounging around for recipes to use every last one before they started going bad. It was quite a weekend, with no less than five orange-infused treats including cake, scones and sorbet.

For those of you who have peeked at my about section, you're aware that the theme of this site is "recipes inspired by poetry (and occasionally, a pinch of prose)." Well, here it is! The first prose-inspired recipe! If I had read Five Quarters of the Orange today, with every turn of the page my mind would be brimming with ways to use the fruit in recipes. But I actually read this book many, many years ago, after reading Chocolat, by the same author, and falling in love with the accompanying film. Unfortunately for one of the characters, oranges bring on extreme headaches, complicating her love of cooking. Within the first few pages, we are given a glimpse of the mother's relationship with food through the eyes of her daughter:

"Food was her nostalgia, her celebration, its nurture and preparation the sole outlet for her creativity"

There's a lot more to the book that takes place in a small European village where the grown daughter returns decades later, after her mother's death, recipe book in hand. It's certainly worth reading if you haven't done so already. But this sentence sums up how many of us feel, doesn't it? No matter how we come to cooking, at what time of day, with what ingredients, it is more than just cooking to put food on the table. It is an expression, unique to each of us, and I love that the more we do it, the more we become ourselves through it. I hope this makes a bit of sense. It's just that when I first started cooking, I knew so little except that it seemed like fun and I liked to eat. A good place to begin, I think. But I didn't know to add starchy pasta water to make a luxurious sauce, or to always roast more cauliflower than I need because I'll eat it like popcorn off the roasting pan. I've learned these, and many other lessons, over the course of many years. And like this recipe I have to share with you today, it began as a way to use up some pantry ingredients and morphed into my own obsession.

Of all the treats I made for myself celebrating orange, these pancakes are one of my favorites. I'm a little obsessed, though it started innocently enough, as these things often do. I had a pancake craving and wanted to use whole grains. I also had a bag of oats in the pantry, thought the two would go well together, and I came across a recipe from Epicurious for whole wheat oatmeal pancakes. I made them, enjoyed them, and moved on with my day. Then I wanted to make them again, but this time I was out of buttermilk and used soy milk instead. The next time I forgot to add the brown sugar and decided that with the sweetness of the syrup, I didn't mind the omission. Then I changed the measurements because I wanted more batter. Then I memorized the recipe and started making them for dessert and weekday morning breakfasts even when I was running late. Then I came into the oranges and played around with orange butter, as well as this version of adding juice and zest to the batter. Phew. So there you have it. Crisp around the edges, soft in the middle, cirtus-scented pancakes. Enjoy!


I love the crisp exterior of these pancakes. Be sure to let them cook long enough for the edges to brown before turning them over.

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups soy milk (plus more as needed)
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 teaspoons
1 egg
Butter, for the pan and serving
Maple syrup, for serving

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Pour the milk into a glass mixing cup and add the orange juice, zest, and oats. Stir to combine and let sit for a few minutes until the oats soften. (This would be a good time to have a latte and catch up on some email.) Whisk in the egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly to combine. You want the batter to be the perfect consistency of not too thick and not too thin. If it needs to be looser, add more milk until it's right.

Melt some butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Swirl it in the pan to coat the entire base,  then add three, 1/4 cup spoonfuls of batter. Don't turn them until bubbles dot the surface and the edges begin to turn golden brown. Turn and cook for a couple of minutes more on the other side. Serve with butter and maple syrup.