Friday, April 24, 2015

The Great Search for the Perfect Multigrain, Fruit-Filled Pancake

Blah blah blah, just skip to the recipe

When I was a kid, I liked any old pancake, just as long as it was swimming in syrup. But as an adult, I began to find those standard, starchy, white flour pancakes a little revolting. Then one day I had these great multi-grain pancakes somewhere, and decided I needed to learn how to make those.

Sometimes it takes a lot of experimentation to get just the recipe you want, and it took me years to find the perfect pancake recipe. I’m not saying I was searching diligently – it probably would have taken me weeks in that case – I’m just saying it was something I had to figure out.

I tried one of these whole-grain mixes in a health food store, but I was unimpressed. I bought a whole wheat mix in the grocery store (the one you have to add eggs and milk to; I figure that’s better than a batter that’s just powder and water), but that was too whole grain. So for a long time I would buy one box of whole wheat pancake mix, one of standard, and combine them. That wasn’t too bad.

I used to always eat my pancakes with a side of sausage, but when I became a vegetarian I discovered that a breakfast of nothing but carbohydrates and maple syrup left me spacey, which is when I started slicing a banana into my batter.

One day it occurred to me that pancakes were probably a pretty simple thing that I could just make from scratch, and the Internet proved me right. I started mixing white and wheat flour with eggs and milk and the like, and that worked pretty well.

One day I wanted pancakes and I was out of white flour, but I did have some chapatti flour I’d bought at an Indian grocery store, so I tried that instead. And it was perfect. I’ve tried other combinations – during my gluten-free experiment I was mixing rice and buckwheat flours – but whole wheat and chapatti is still my favorite.

Time: 20, 25 minutes.

Flour (half whole wheat and half chapatti flour is good. Two thirds rice flour and 1 third buckwheat isn’t too bad. Feel free to try any flours you like and let me know how it works).
Baking powder
1 egg
Oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
Fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all quite good. Cherries or kiwi are also kind of interesting.)

Put the flour in a mixing bowl (flour is one of the few things I don’t eyeball; I use about a half-cup per person). Add around a teaspoon of baking soda per half cup of flour. Mix it together (I just hold the bowl and flip the powder inside the bowl, which looks cool, but stirring it with a spoon is fine).

Toss in an egg (1 egg per cup or less of flour) and maybe a tablespoon’s worth of oil. Scramble the egg a bit in there and stir it all in. Now add milk and stir again. I just keep adding milk and stirring until I get something the consistency of pancake batter.

Now stir in some fruit. If it’s bananas I use moderately thin slices, if it’s strawberries I cut each one into four to six pieces. I read an interview with some chef on making the perfect pancake who said you shouldn’t put in too much fruit because it will negatively effect the constitution of your pancake in some way. I think he’s nuts. My pancakes are essentially a delivery system for fruit; I want fruit in every forkful. As a guide; with bananas you want at least half of one per person.

Some people claim you should let the batter sit for 15 minutes (or even an hour!) because it will make the pancakes fluffier, but I haven’t tried that.

Put some oil in a large, flat frying pan (unless you have a griddle, in which case I envy you). Heat up the oil; you’ll want to cook the pancakes on a medium or medium-high heat (I vary).

Pour in the batter. My pancakes are three or four inches in diameter, I would guess.

The ideal is to cook the pancakes until they start bubbling on top and then flip them over. Often I get nervous and turn them over before they start bubbling. Sometimes I wait for them to bubble and they never really do and they get a bit burnt.  You’ll figure it out.

Cook them on the other side for about as long as you cooked them on the first side.  Put them on a plate, butter them a little, then pour maple syrup on. Don’t use so-called “pancake syrup” unless your taste buds are dead. If maple syrup is too pricey, try combining it with agave syrup, an idea I got at Trader Joe’s).

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