There once was a time, in a galaxy far, far away, when I slept late on Saturday mornings and then lounged around drinking coffee and reading the newspaper for, oh, hours if I felt like it.
Those days are over.
Saturdays begin a wee bit earlier now, and though the quiet and calm has been replaced with the sound of cartoons and squabbling children, my aim is still for a slow start to the busy that overtakes so much of our time these days.
Too much busy isn't good for anyone, and luckily, my little family seems to agree with me on this one small point. Yesterday, after three straight days of non-stop running around, the children and I had nowhere to be, nothing that had to get done, and no reason to look presentable to the rest of the world.
The Boy Wonder, usually game for any adventure, said wearily, "Mom, do we have to go anywhere today?" I shook my head and he brightened up instantly, saying, "Yay. Can I wear my pajamas all day?"
That's my boy.
And so it goes that there are mornings when we don't have to rush, when the cereal boxes get left on top of the refrigerator, and when we can all gather around the table and enjoy a leisurely homemade breakfast. In our pajamas, of course.
Pancakes are always a hit around here, and it is the breakfast I have the most fond childhood memories of myself. We have always been a whole-grain family. My mother raised me on oatmeal pancakes that, if followed with a glass of water, would swell in one's stomach and negate the need for another meal for the rest of the day (and sometimes the day after). These weren't the kind of thing that came from a box, but rather from the dog-eared, cover-held-on-with-a-rubber-band copy of Recipes for a Small Planet that lived on our kitchen counter through my entire childhood.
I love that cookbook. I do not cook from it these days (I am the only vegetarian, child-raised-by-a-hippie in the house, after all), and it has been out of print for many years, but the cover art is enough to send me back 30 years every time I see it.
The title of this silly blog is, naturally, a play on the title of that beloved old cookbook.
I have made variations on whole-wheat pancakes for some time now, tinkering here and there, and sometimes (shocker alert) going so far as to use a whole-wheat baking mix (!) in order to achieve the texture I was aiming for: something a little lighter than the usual brick-like substance that results when using 100% whole-wheat flour.
Actually, it isn't only pancakes that have given me a bit of trouble texture-wise. Bread, pizza dough, pasta, pancakes - anything made with 100% whole-wheat flour has been a bit too heavy for our taste, so I have tended to go with a mix of whole-wheat and unbleached all purpose flour when making any of these items.
It pained me to do so, to use all-purpose flour, and to have store-bought whole-wheat items surpass what I could make at home. A friend told me about vital wheat gluten, and said that it would help lighten the finished product, but I found that to be a rather intimidating prospect, though I cannot explain why.
It was only recently, when consulting Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food for something or another that I came across her recipe for pancakes. The answer to most of my problems was right there, and I felt a bit daft for not having thought of it myself: use 1/2 whole-wheat pastry flour and 1/2 regular whole-wheat flour in order to keep them light.
Whole-wheat pastry flour is ground very, very finely, and is quite lovely to use, as it turns out. I had a bag in the fridge already from a long-forgotten cookie recipe, but was, for some unexplainable reason, storing it for a special occasion I suppose. After reading the tip in The Art of Simple Food though, I pulled out the bag and went straight to work on it. Over the course of a few days, I have now elevated it to the same status as olive oil and kosher salt for items I would take to a desert island. It is crucial stuff, you see, and works magic on whole-grain foods. My pizza dough is now perfect (thin, crispy, and yet 100% whole-wheat) and the pancakes I made using this technique are, in my only slightly humble opinion, the best ones I have yet to eat.
And I've eaten a lot of pancakes.
Texture is key with pancakes, and not just in finding the middle ground between leaden hippie whole wheat pancakes and that spongy, tasteless fluff from a white flour baking mix. Something must break up the monotony of a single-texture meal, and in this case I use both fruit,frozen so it stays whole while mixing, and nuts.
I was a little late coming to the table where putting nuts in pancakes is concerned. As a matter of fact, and this pains me greatly to admit, it was at IHOP of all places that I first had a pancake with nuts. It was a revelation, I tell you, and it took me some experimentation at home, but when at last I got these pancakes right, I felt like I had reached the other side of my vision quest.
Everyone takes pancakes this seriously, right?
BLUEBERRY-PECAN WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKES (serves 4, adapted from The Art of Simple Food)
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup whole-grain flour (any mixture or single choice of: whole wheat, spelt, cornmeal, rye or buckwheat)
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 tsp baking powder (see recipe for homemade baking powder)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 6 Tbs butter, melted
- 1 cup blueberries, frozen
- In a large bowl, mix together both flours, nuts, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
- In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks into the buttermilk.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the buttermilk mixture, and stir until just mixed.
- Stir in the melted butter.
- In a separate small bowl, beat the egg whites until the form soft peaks (this can be done by hand or in a mixer), then fold them into the batter.
- Fold the blueberries into the batter.
- On a preheated, lightly greased griddle (or skillet) over medium heat, drop 1/4-cup of batter and cook until lightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip, and cook until the other side is lightly browned as well.
- Keep warm on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until all pancakes are cooked.
- Serve with butter and pure maple syrup.