Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunday morning pancakes

So, this is one of those posts that's really been a long time coming. Among my friends, I've become pretty well known for my pancakes. It all started with a sourdough pancake recipe that I found, that was simply amazing. Then the word got out, and people started coming by for breakfast on Sundays. And by the way, for those of you with dating lives, I can testify for the record that when guests wake up to the smell of pancakes cooking, it makes a good impression.

But, as with all things, there was a hitch.

Ariel is hypo-glycemic. Not radically so, but it's a periodic concern. And it's a family thing, too. All of her siblings' significant others have stories about the day they were introduced to Hulk-Smash Persing. When the blood sugars drop below a certain threshold, things can take a turn. And so, it's wise to keep too much processed sugar and white flour out of the mix. This goes for pancakes, too. As her brother Eli put it, "Pancakes for me usually involve a temper tantrum and a nap." So, sourdough pancakes, lovely as they are, were out. So, I decided to experiment a bit.

I'll probably play around with other recipes as I find them, but the version I've settled on for now is, in essence, the basic pancake recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but I substitute different whole-grain flours to fill in some of the white flour content. I also use natural maple syrup instead of sugar. The sugars in maple syrup are different, and more balanced somehow, in a way that I don't understand. I think it has something to do with the fact that maple syrup is just boiled down, and not refined like white sugar.

The first time I made this particular recipe, they were fantastic. And Ariel looked up at me later in the day, smiled, and said "Wow... I still haven't crashed from your pancakes!"

'nuf said.

Ingredient List
Dry Ingredients:
1/2 Cup white flour
1/2 Cup rye flour
1/2 Cup oat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Small handfuls of things like chocolate chips, craisins, finely chopped apple, oatmeal, wheat bran, etc. I've been using oatmeal, chocolate chips and craisins for a while, and I like the flavor.

Wet ingredients:
1 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
2 tbsp light oil (canola, corn, or something else with little or no flavor)
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
Splash of Vanilla or Kahlua

This is for a batch of pancakes that will feed either 4 adults or 2 teenagers.  For just us 2, I've been making half-batches.

Start preparing by pre-heating the griddle or frying pan you plan to use. If the pan isn't fully heated when you pour the batter into the pan, the batter won't crisp as well, and will gradually heat up with the pan, instead of being heated quickly by the pan. There's a noticeable difference in texture otherwise.

Mix dry ingredients together, separately from wet ingredients. I do this because it's easier to get everything consistently mixed this way, and because it fluffs up the flour, which helps prevent clumps.

I fry pancakes in butter. I see no reason not to, as people who are so health conscious as to avoid butter, should also avoid pancakes, or frying pans in general. Also, the butter gives me a good indication that the pan is hot enough. If the heat is right, the butter will sizzle on the surface of the pan. If it's too cold, it will melt but not sizzle. If it's too hot, the butter will sizzle and then turn brown. I'm sure this still gives a very approximate temperature range. I'm also sure that pancakes are forgiving enough to still work out just fine. On my current electric stove, this is around medium heat. I've made pancakes on 4 or 5 different stoves in memorable pancake history, and medium is a good place to start experimenting, but every stove is different. That's why I rely on the butter to tell me what's going on.

Ladle the batter into the pan. When the edges start to lift, flip the pancakes. If I'm cooking for a crowd, I'll keep the oven on at 220, and flip finished pancakes onto a cookie sheet in the oven to keep them warm... if the kitchen isn't being overrun.

I pour pancakes 4 at a time in the griddle I have. If I'm down to the point where it's not going to be an even 4, I pour whatever batter remains into the griddle into one big pancake. I then announce to any interested parties that the harbinger of breakfast is upon us, and that they should get ready to eat.

Typically, they're already ready.

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