baking, little house cookbook

Johnny Cake

Back when I was a youthful graduate student, my roommates and I decided to explore the best of Rhode Island. We made it to the Hope Street farmer’s market and a harvest festival before papers, reading, and student teaching took over. Then, in May, we emerged from the cave of school. We realized that we only had a few weeks left to explore the best of Rhode Island before graduation.

My roommate had been talking about jonnycake since we read about them in Edible Rhody that past fall. Jonnycakes are a signature Rhode Island dish. They’re like pancakes that had a steamy affair with cornbread: you fry a cornbread batter on a griddle, then serve the cakes with maple syrup. Yum. So together with my roommate’s science cohort, we arranged a trip to quaint Little Compton, solely so we could try jonnycake at a local restaurant. (But we did visit a lovely beach afterwards.)

The jonnycakes were delicious, and we came away satisfied. It turns out that there’s a bit of controversy surrounding how to cook jonnycake, depending on where you live in the Ocean State. But generally, you want a small, pancake-like patty that will travel well (indeed, the name might have come from “journeycake”).

The Ingalls family, on the other hand, would beg to differ.

Prairie jonnycake, or johnny cake, as they spelled it, is baked in a flat sheet that you cut into squares. It crumbles easily, so it probably wouldn’t travel well. About the only things it has in common with Rhode Island jonnycake are the ingredients: cornmeal, baking soda, some fat and sweetener.

But it does serve as a tasty vehicle for maple syrup! I drizzled my prized syrup on top of several squares of johnny cake, and they were gone in no time. While this prairie version doesn’t have quite as many fond memories attached to it as the Rhode Island variety, it serves as an easy weekend breakfast in the fall.

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