The hallway leading to the confessional seemed smaller that day. Stuffy, more narrow. There were a few glowing candles situated on a table at the end of the hall, as if they were intended to show us the way. I folded my fingers under the neckline of my blue woolen sweater, tugging at it and frustrated with my choice of outfit on this most important of days – the day of my first confession. I was the last to go that morning, everyone else in my Sunday school class having already completed theirs. The itchy collar was beginning to irritate me and I wondered if it would be okay if I just took it off, stripping down to the grubby old t-shirt I had on underneath. Probably not. Priests probably don’t like grubby old t-shirts.
The further down the hallway I walked, making my way toward that most nerve-wracking of rooms, the less I could make out the sounds of the pancake social that was going on in the church’s large common area behind me. The smells of maple syrup and buttermilk pancakes gave way to more sterile aromas that I could’t quite identify. Was it baby wipes? Disinfectant cleaners? Paste? I wondered this as I made my way past the darkened Sunday school classrooms that morning.
“Oh hi, Lauren! Looking for the bathrooms? They’re right down the hall to the left.” The friendly teacher motioned down the hall with her hand as she expertly balanced a plate that contained an impressively tall stack of pancakes.
“Thank you. I know where the bathrooms are.” I told her. “I’m going to confession. My first one.” I was supremely nervous and fidgeted in place as I stood there awkwardly, me in my black Mary Jane’s on the shiny linoleum floor, wondering what to do with my hands. No pockets. I’ll just bite my nails then. Wish I had a fork to hold … a plate of pancakes. Those would come after … a reward for my truthfulness. That’s what they promised.
“Confession! Are you old enough to do that already? My how the time flies.” She squeezed my shoulder then. “Well, I guess you’ll be turning right at the end of the hall, not left … just where those candles are.” She waved her fork to the right this time.
“Yes.” I said. “Thank you.” As I walked away, I glanced backward at her pancakes and looked forward to having my own. Those nerves were doing a number on my appetite.
It wasn’t so bad. Not really, anyway. The priest was very warm and friendly and put my aforementioned nerves right at ease as soon as I stepped into the confessional, which really was nothing more than a small classroom that they’d declared as a makeshift confessional for the day, for us newbies. Maybe it was because it was less intimidating this way? Not so showy and, well, intense. I plopped down in my seat, happy to have that long walk over with and I waited; waited for the moment to come when I would have to spill the beans – when I would have to tell Father I-can’t-quite-recall-his-name that I had taken something that wasn’t mine. I’d stolen. A thief! The impending shame made my face redden as I sat there in my chair, butterflies doing a crazy dance in my stomach.
Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
Looking down at my hands in my lap, I confessed to him. I sheepishly informed him of how I’d recently told a whopper of a lie to my parents (the contents of which have escaped me I’m afraid), and how I’d also stolen … gulp … some of my brother’s chewing gum. Father just stared at me, with pursed lips and a slightly crinkled brow … a look of interest on his face. He said nothing.
“Okay! I’m sorry.” I carried on …
“It was the whole pack. I took the whole pack! It was Juicy Fruit and it was on his dresser and I am really, really sorry. I gave up my whole bowl of vanilla ice cream to him last week though, so I though it was fair. But I won’t do it again though. Because I’m really sorry.”
The priest’s look of interest morphed into something else, his pursed lips rising into a smile that reminded me of the Grinch at the end of the movie, when he gets all happy and big-hearted and whatnot. The priest nodded his head in kind understanding and he thanked me for my honesty and my confession. After doling out my penance instructions, he sent me on my merry way to think about my sins … and to find my parents, who were probably waiting for me by then.
On my way out of the classroom (er, confessional), I spotted a paper plate on the edge of a desk that contained what appeared to be the remnants of some recently eaten pancakes. Oh right! Pancakes! I quickened my pace and booked it back down the hallway from whence I came. It didn’t seem so scary this time around, as you might imagine. I enjoyed those pancakes more than I’ve ever enjoyed any others, I think it’s safe to say. I felt as if I’d earned them in a way, that I’d really worked for them. I did’t know when my penance was due, exactly – I’d forgotten to ask – so I just did it right away, over my stack of pancakes right there in the church. I savored every sticky sweet bite, washing it down with a cardboard carton of milk while quietly reciting a string of “Our Father’s” and “Hail Mary’s.”
Classic Dutch Baby Pancake with White Chocolate & Blueberries RECIPE
*adapted from Barbara Hengels
Rather than give you a stack of pancakes to go with my story, I’m choosing instead to share with you one of my favorite ways to both make and eat a pancake – the Dutch Baby. It’s a large pancake that cooks in a single pan in the oven, very similar to a popover, just served in a different way. The pancake puffs up magnificently in the oven and falls slowly as it cools. I like to top mine with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, some good maple syrup, and some white chocolate chips and blueberries (a flavor combo of which I am a huge fan). The chocolate chips melt immediately and sort of mingle with the syrup, creating a fantastically delicious sauce that makes breakfast or brunch feel pretty darn special. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there. Enjoy your weekend, be it filled with pancakes or whatever else your hardworking hearts desire.
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (a couple of tablespoons)
1/4 – 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet inside your oven and preheat it to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the milk and stir. Gradually whisk in flour, nutmeg and salt.
Take the skillet out of the oven and lower the temperature to 425 F (220 C).
Melt the butter in the hot skillet, allowing it to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.
Bake until puffed and lightly golden brown, about 12 minutes. Take the pancake out of the oven and top it right away with white chocolate chips (so they’ll melt), blueberries and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Serve in slices with a side of warmed maple syrup.