Femme Brûlée: Buttermilk Pancakes

The month of August has not been kind to me and many others in the United States.

I had a conversation with my grandmother today during which we talked about what happened in Charlottesville. Listening to her struggle to express her feelings about seeing image after image on the news of an occurrence she thought was left behind in her childhood happening again, now, in her home state, and hearing the pain in her voice match the fear in my own, it pulverized my already shattered heart. She ended the conversation saying she wished she could wrap her arms around me and hold me close to her for as long as I needed, and I’ve never wanted anything more.

My grandmother’s arms are the safest most comforting place to be, but they are thousands of miles away from me in Virginia along with most of my family. Times like these make my decision to live far from them an immense struggle. I have to find ways to comfort and remind myself that I’m still connected to the same roots although they stretch farther now when homesickness settles in. Usually, I do a pretty good job. I have photos of my family around my apartment, I’ve incorporated their favorite colors into each room, I burn candles that smell like the east coast seasons. My apartment feels like it could be just down the block from my loved ones and it gets me through. However, part of the reason this month has been especially hard on me is that along with being fearful and homesick cause of everything going on in the world, I’m housesitting for a friend and even further from my comfort zone.

The house is amazing, but it is in no way a reflection of me and where I come from so not only have I been feeling scared and isolated from my family this month, I’m also isolated from the safe space I’ve made myself in Los Angeles and it has been incredibly hard to find comfort. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could ground myself and make this foreign space feel more like home, and I finally realized the answer was comfort food. I may not have pictures of my family with me here but I have an entire file of recipes in my head that I learned from them and/or are beloved by them, so where there’s me in a kitchen, there’s a link to comfort and love and home. That’s where these pancakes come into play.

My mom used to be the pancake queen of our family, then she taught my cousin and I how to make them when we were younger and we got way better at it than she was. My cousin’s pancakes are still amazing, but I’m the one who gets asked when I’m planning to make them for everyone the minute I set foot on Virginian soil. They were exactly what I needed, so I ran to the store, grabbed some buttermilk (plus blueberries to make compote ’cause it’s my favorite) and thought of every happy memory I have of eating pancakes with my family while I made them here alone. I feel so much better, and so full of love. Plus this recipe serves four so I’ve got happy family memory breakfast for days. If you could use a comfort food lift, or a recipe to make your own memories with, or you just love delicious breakfast carbs I hope you’ll give these a try.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

For the Compote:

2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
6 Tbs Maple Syrup
1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
1 Tsp lemon zest

For the Pancakes:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted plus more for the griddle/pan

1. Make the compote: Combine blueberries, water, lemon juice and zest, maple syrup, and ginger in a small sauce pan. Place on stove over medium heat and leave to simmer while you make the pancakes, stirring occasionally.

2. Preheat your pan or griddle on medium low heat (300° F) one of the keys to making these pancakes amazing is cooking them slowly. You may be tempted to crank up the heat but they won’t rise as well in the middle and you’ll have heavy/wet pancakes. Just trust me.

3. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter then pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

3. Stir the batter just until it comes together. It will be VERY thick and lumpy, that is perfect. Don’t you dare stir out those lumps!

4. Butter your heated griddle or pan then scoop out the batter. You may have to nudge the batter a little to shape the pancakes into circles. I use a 1/4 cup measure or a ladle filled a bout a third of the way. You should get 8 large or 10 medium pancakes. Now be patient, you want to see the butter start to softly bubble around the edges.

You’ll know the pancakes are ready to flip when you see small bubbles rising to the surface of the pancake and popping. It should take about 7 minutes.

When they’re ready to go, flip them and let cook about three minutes on the second side.

5. Check on your compote! By this point (15-20 minutes) it should have reduced by half and thickened up to the point that you can drag your spoon through the pot and leave a clean trail behind without the juices immediately covering it up. When it’s ready spoon it on top of your warm tower of pancakes, think happy thoughts, know that I’m sending love and light to all who need it, and enjoy.

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Reneice Charles

Reneice Charles is a just another queer, liberal, woman of color using the Internet to escape from reality and failing miserably. She received her MSW from New York University and is an Entrepreneur and Vocalist living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time wishing she didn't have to use her spare time convincing people that everyone deserves the same basic human rights.

Reneice has written 104 articles for us.


  1. I hope you are back in your safe space soon! I housesit occasionally and it can be really hard to live in a home space that is doesn’t completely fit you and was shaped for different people. Even more so when the world in general is making you feel that way as well.

    It does amaze me how the smell and taste of certain foods can just bring back memories so intensely. I have lots of good pancake memories too but I am going to make some more tomorrow by making your pancakes for my mom and I!

    • So I made these this morning and they are SO GOOD. I had a few extra and am hoping they will freeze well for future breakfasts. I immediately added this recipe to my personal cookbook and I’m excited to make the compote at a later time when blueberries aren’t ridiculously expensive at the grocery store near my job.

  2. I now know what I am having for dinner tonight!!
    With fresh blueberries and my own maple syrup…

    Sometime I will lay an over easy egg or two on top of the stack with fruit but tonight I am going full Blueberry compote..

  3. Your writing is so beautiful Reneice! I really feel there should be a header “Even if you don’t care about/ can’t eat these pancakes, click on this and read it!!”
    Thank you for sharing so much, and especially during this awful time. I hope your baking/cooking continues to bring you some comfort, and a sense of your own connection-space.

  4. Thank You Reneice, this is so beautifully expressed and you’re so right about food memories. Food has always equaled love in my house, both growing up and for all of the years my darling girl and I have had in our own home.
    I hope you get to return to your home soon and in the meantime know too that your recipe will be shared and enjoyed many thousands of kilometres away south of the equator.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m from the South as well and there’s nothing like the smell and taste of the foods that bring back happy, warm memories. My family has a red velvet cake recipe that has been passed down for generations that is a favorite for us. I hope your recipes help you heal and thank you for sharing your wonderful dishes for all of us to enjoy.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story and your recipe. I hope that you find comfort.
    I made these pancakes this morning and they are the best pancakes I’ve ever made :) I used plain yogurt because I didn’t have buttermilk but they still came out delicious.

  7. First of all, thank you for ALL of this article! But one quick question, we must understand that I can not bake, and I can barely cook. My one question is…do I need to do anything different to make this into a waffle recipe, because I make a horrible pancake, but my waffle iron is always hot! :)

  8. Usually I prefer waffles, but I really enjoyed these pancakes! Thanks for sharing the recipe, and the reminder to be nice to ourselves.

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