If you really press me, I'd be forced to admit that I am a waffle person, through and through. But recently, a new pancake came into my life-one unlike any pancake I've tried before-and I can't stop thinking about it. The recipe comes from chef Alan Delgado at Xilonen in Brooklyn, New York. Delgado's secret? There's masa whipped right into the pancake batter.
To make these pancakes, Delgado combines fresh masa with a few familiar batter ingredients: melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and sugar. He then stirs in gluten-free flour, leavening, salt, and a touch of cornmeal, which fortifies the masa flavor. But, be advised, this is not a corn cake. Corn cakes-good as they may be-are usually a little more dense, a little more dry. No, this is a full-on pancake: fluffy, light, and aching for a swipe of butter and drizzle of maple syrup. Delgado developed the recipe as part of the menu for Xilonen last year, during the height of COVID-19-related lockdowns. "I wanted to try and incorporate masa into as many dishes as we could," he told me recently by Zoom.
At the restaurant, which is named for an Aztec corn goddess, the cooks make giant, dinner plate-size masa pancakes that are quartered and then shingled in an overlapping row. When Xilonen opened in December 2020, it was takeout only, and cutting the pancakes in this way meant they looked cute in a box. But the plating has stuck. If you're able to partake in the restaurant's current outdoor seating setup, you'll get a bright orange (or possibly chartreuse) plate topped with a fallen domino of pancake triangles-an ideal scenario if you're the type of person (hello, it's me) who opts to get an order of pancakes for the table at brunch. (But listen, don't sleep on the tacos, tamales, and/or tostadas either; they're all good.)
We've adapted Delgado's recipe to be more manageable four-inchers so that they're easy to flip and stack at home-we recommend starting with three per person, but feel free to go as high as you want.
Delgado says using masa gives the pancakes a floral note that he loves. It also gives them an earthy sweetness and an interior that tastes almost creamy. Use whatever kind of masa you can get your hands on, but know that yellow masa produced the fluffiest results in our tests. And if fresh masa isn't available to you, don't worry: We've also included an option for using masa harina in its place.
Delgado also uses a 1:1-type gluten-free flour in this recipe-that's not the same thing as gluten-free all-purpose flour. The former-which may be called cup-for-cup or measure-for-measure, depending on brand-usually contains xanthan gum. "The xanthan gum helps to bind the batter," he says, "and makes everything come together a little nicer." And, while you could, technically, make these pancakes using plain all-purpose flour instead, we don't recommend it. The truth is, when we tried to make them with AP flour in the test kitchen, the pancakes just weren't as good: a little more tough and certainly not as light. Delgado uses King Arthur's Gluten-Free Measure-for-Measure Flour, but there are several brands readily available in most supermarkets.
Once they are toasty, golden, and stacked as high as you dare, the toppings are up to you. Butter and syrup (or honey) works well, but summer is here and that means great berries are ripe for the picking (literally). Blueberry and corn make a classic combo. Strawberries or cherries would be great too. More of a savory breakfast eater? I made a batch and topped them with black beans, queso fresco, and a heap of greens, and they were just as good as the sweet version-and, incidentally, just as good at dinnertime.
One other thing to consider: My favorite waffle recipe requires an overnight rest. The masa pancakes come together in less than an hour. Looks like my favorite breakfast has finally met some worthy competition.