Friday, February 27, 2015

Without pictures, and from memory... The big pancake recipe.

I have become known in our household for pancakes.

Actually, and probably more accurately, our household is known by other households for my pancakes.

Sunday morning pancakes are actually mentioned in our wedding contract. 

The silly thing is, it's a pretty basic recipe, and it's not original at all. It's straight up Joy of Cooking pancakes.

1.5 C flour
1.5 C milk
2 eggs
3 Tpsp oil
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 dash of salt

(That's from memory, so I might be off on a few things.)

Well, that's the start of it anyway.

At home, things go more or less like this...

(Dry ingredients, blended together with a whisk) 
1/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 C white whole wheat flour
1/4 C rye flour
A good shake (1 Tbsp?) of almond meal
(slightly less than) 1 Tbsp baking powder
dash of salt
(Wet ingredients)
3/4 C milk
1 egg
splash of vanilla
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
<1 Tbsp black strap molasses

OK, fine. The recipes are different. I see things this way...

First off, quantity-wise, my recipe is a half-batch of the JOC recipe.

Second, one of the ways I remember what's what is that the volume of milk, and the volume of flour and the volume of milk is always the same. So whether I'm piling in 3 different kinds of flour to make multi-grain pancakes, or just dumping King Arthur, it's all the same to me.

Maple syrup, sugar... what's the difference. And black strap molasses is as much for nutrition as it is for flavor. Yum. And high in zinc and magnesium, so it's also good for recovering from a workout.

Other notes on bastardization of improvisation on the original...

- If you start by throwing a dollop of sour cream into the measuring cup, and then fill with milk to the 3/4 C mark, it still counts as 3/4 C of milk-derived content. Ditto for Greek yogurt. Or even goat cheese, though it's harder to blend well by hand... or without an immersion blender, anyway. (Don't bother with the immersion blender until you are combining wet and dry ingredients, if you go that route.)

-Any nut meal is a worthwhile addition. Protein and fat are good for you. And since they're not absorbent, like flour, there's no need to adjust the liquid portion to compensate. Chopped nuts stay crunchy, so not always a great idea. Nut butters add oil to the mix, and the flavor can be incredibly dominating, so that takes some finesse. But nut meal hasn't failed me yet.

-Re: oil... it doesn't really matter. EVOO works as well as canola, or corn oil, or whatever, and there's enough going on in these pancakes that any difference in flavor won't be noticeable.

-Any kind of flour works, just make sure the final volume of flour and milk are the same. But multi-grain tastes better, and you don't get that hour-later sugar crash. This is something I figured out to help my wife (then girlfriend) keep her blood-sugar levels from nose-diving. It's a trait she shares with her family... To quote my brother-in-law: "For me, pancakes usually involve a temper-tantrum and a nap." Whole grains and other things like nut meal can help tame this particular breed of beast... and the end result tastes so much better.

-If you decide to throw in things like rolled oats, add extra milk. Rolled oats are absorbent.

-If you use oat flour, it's very absorbent, so use a little more milk. I'll say 1 Tbsp-ish. Pancake batter is more sensitive to added fluid than you'd think. If it seems too thick, add milk in tsp increments. You'd be surprised at how large a difference small adjustments can make.

-Add other stuff. Like chocolate chips and craisins. Or chocolate and strawberry. Or regular raisins. Or apples, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, brown sugar, oatmeal (see above), multigrain oatmeal. (Trader Joe's has an oat/ rye/ wheat/ ? variant that's great)  chopped up dried apricots... whatever. Chocolate and Banana is great. Well... let's be clear, chocolate and just about anything is great.

OK, ok... the process:

Turn on the pan first. A hot pan is important. I prefer to make pancakes in my cast iron skillet. It's as much due to habit at this point as anything else. I have a pair of square, stainless steel griddles that I pull out if I have company coming. 2 pans are better than one, and I can fit 4 on a griddle, vs 3 in the skillet. But in any event, it takes a good pan a while to heat up.

At this point, I've been making pancakes almost weekly for over a decade. It feels very weird to realize that, but it's true. For a while, I would use butter, both to fry the pancakes in, and to use as a gauge to see how hot the pan was. When the end of the stick sizzles fast enough, the pan is at the right temperature. This is important... if the pan isn't hot enough, the pancake batter will wet the surface of the pan, stick, and then not flip so easily. Now I use oil, but I have the process pretty well dialed in.

Whish together the dry ingredients, minus whatever chunky awesomeness will be added in. Blend the wet ingredients separately with a fork, add to the dry ingredients, and use that fork to continue blending everything. I typically mix the dry stuff in a work bowl, and mix the wet in a 2 C pyrex measuring pitcher. (Starting with the milk... or sour cream and milk... or whatever.) Then add in the lumpy stuff. Mix, dollop into the pan, and go from there.


One final note on the pancake thing... I've been feeding pancakes to the 2 year old for lunch for a while now, because I realized a clever thing. Leaving out the baking powder, (the leavening agent) my recipe makes just over 1.5 C of batter. 1 Tbsp of baking powder divides neatly into 3 tsp. So, I can make the batter ahead of time, and when he's waking up from his nap, I'll start heating the pan, and pour out 1/2 C of batter to be used for lunch pancakes. 1/2 C of pre-prepared batter will require 1 tsp of baking powder, which can be thrown in while the pan heats up. The genius in this is that I can make pancakes on Wednesday from batter that was made on Monday, without worrying that it's gone 'flat,' from baking powder that's already finished reacting with the batter.

Oh, right... the relevant point of that... I'll re-phrase. The last-minute baking powder trick means I can have my overly-customized pancake recipe pre-prepared, and ready to go in the pan in under a minute, instead of in 10 minutes. In toddler-time, that's the difference between "Yes, I'm still hungry and interested in eating," and "It's been too long, my fire truck is over there, and I'm still hungry, but I'm distracted now, and it's all your fault, so you get to pay the piper."

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Big Reboot

A lot can happen in 21 months. We have a kid now. We moved into a new apartment. (The kitchen is still small, but there's room for 2 people to work in there now... sort of. My wood shop imploded. And I'm a stay at home Dad for now, while I work my way towards a Master's program in prosthetics.

This blog is going to reflect more of my life as it is now. I'm a Dad... but I don't really feel like writing a parenting blog. That's way too much blackmail material to put into a public forum. That said, I'm sure some of those stories will find their way into the narrative here. But one of my primary duties is to see to it that the youngster puts food into his face, and swallows it. Anyone with a toddler knows that the easiest way to lose a fight with a toddler is to pick a fight with a toddler, so some of the more successful recipes will make their way here.

I'm also the primary cook in the household. Sometimes that means a bit of experimenting, sometimes it means sticking with things that work. And sometimes, Boston gets buried in snow, the whole thing sucks, and I end up throwing leftover taco meat into a pot of store-bought mac and cheese for comfort food.

Don't judge me. It could be worse.