HEAVENLY WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKES
Can any meal rival the sight of a slab of butter melting into a hot stack of whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup pouring down the sides until a warm moat forms between pancakes and the edge of the plate? Sometimes I wonder if pancakes are just an excuse to sop up that delicious tree sap.
Yes, I said meal. Don’t let convention limit pancakes to the sweet breakfast. Pancakes can be savory and eaten at any time of the day. Stay tuned for more ideas on that.
Needing only four ingredients: flour, baking powder, eggs and milk, pancakes are an easy meal to whip up. I like to start with whole wheat pastry flour, being a softer grain it makes for a lighter whole-grain taste sensation. Baking with whole wheat gives everything a slightly nutty flavor while adding fiber and nutrients to your diet. It is nutritious, readily available, and fairly inexpensive. Let’s give it a try.
STANDARD PANCAKE RECIPE
This will feed a family of four and easily doubles for a bigger crowd.
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 whole egg
- ¾-1 cup buttermilk or kefir (liquid yogurt)
Mix the dry ingredients until well blended. Make a well in the center and crack the egg into it. Pour in the kefir – using a fork, pop the egg yolk and mix with the kefir. Gently fold the flour into the egg-kefir. Do not overmix, it is what makes muffins and pancakes tough and dense.
The batter in your mixing bowl will have little lumps but don’t worry they will cook right out. It will also bubble up and get thicker as you cook the pancakes – it’s normal, it just means the baking powder is doing its job.
Place a small amount of butter onto your hot griddle and pour batter onto your griddle, making each pancake the size you want. My kids loved them as little 2” disks in a great tall stack.
Flip over when the pancake starts to set around the edges and bubbles appear in the center. Gently cook until pancake turns golden brown. Turn onto a serving platter.
Once you have enough pancakes, call everyone to the table to start eating while the cakes are still hot. As your guests eat, continue to cook and flip pancakes until the batter is all gone.
LOOKING FOR A WHEAT-FREE CHOICE?
“I have tried many recipes in the past but this one allowed me to make substitutions one-to-one. It turned out so good!” –Alyssa Jordan Frank
Alyssa tried the recipe while adapting it to her families specific food allergies. Here are her suggestions.
- Instead of egg I mashed up one banana
- Instead of cow-based buttermilk or kefir, I used almond blueberry yogurt and a little bit of almond milk
- Instead of butter I used coconut oil to heat the pan
- Gluten-free grains tend to absorb liquids more readily, so I find it best to add a bit more liquid than the stated recipe.
Once you have mastered the simple whole wheat pancake, you might want to try your hand at scones, which are nothing more than a glorified biscuit.
WHOLE WHEAT SCONES
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (use ½ unbleached flour, if you like)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Mix the dry ingredients until well blended.
ADD: 4 Tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, diced
Using your fingers roll the butter dices into the flour mixture until it is well incorporated. The mixture will look lumpy -this is the secret to fluffy scones.
ADD 2/3 to ¾ cups of plain kefir or buttermilk. With a fork lightly toss the liquid until the mixture is moist.
Turn it onto a lightly floured counter, turn and fold until the mass becomes cohesive. The more you turn and fold the dough the flakier the scones become. Each turn folds the butter into the flour making tiny ‘layers.’ As the scones bake the butter melts, forming little air pockets -and that’s how the flakes get made.
Do not overwork or knead your dough, you are simply folding it into itself to create multiple layers. Once you have a silky feeling dough, roughly shape into a circle and pushing from the center out. When the circle is about 1/2 inch thick cut in a sawing motion into 8 triangles and arrange on a cookie sheet leaving space in between.
Preheat oven to 400 F and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden.
TIPS FOR BAKING WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR and Other Ideas
- Do not overmix or beat the mixture. Beating activates the gluten which makes for a great yeast bread but dense pancakes, muffins, and quick-breads.
You want to mix all ingredients until the wet and dry are incorporated.
For all quick-breads, muffins and pancakes, overmixing will make the dense ‘brick’ pastries we associate with using whole grain flours. A light hand makes for bakery-light muffins, scones, pancakes, and quick-breads.
- Soft/spring/pastry whole wheat flour makes lighter pastries than hard/red/winter wheat flour.
Spring/pastry wheat has less protein and gluten. Protein and glutens are dense and make for heavy baked goods. Spring is light, winter is hard.
- Specific amounts of liquid depending on the weather. The amount of moisture in the air determines how much liquid you add. The higher the humidity the less liquid you add, the drier the air the more you add. Before long you will get the hang of it.
- No other brand beats Rumford’s Baking Powder for quality without added aluminum. Studies show that aluminum sticks to your brain cells, contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.
- If you are transitioning from white flour try blending equal measures of UNBLEACHED (really, why add bleach to your diet?) with PASTRY flour. The end result will be a lighter and more nutritious baked good than if you used white flour alone.
- Whole grain means the intact seed head is ground between two stones or sheets of steel until it turns into the powder we call flour. This flour has the ‘germ’ intact, the germ lives in the heart of the grain/seed and is rich in Vitamin E.
- Whole grains and flours need to be stored in the refrigerator (or freezer) to keep the oils in the germ from becoming rancid and spoiled.
- For the milk component, I like using kefir -for the probiotics. Both buttermilk and kefir break down the proteins in the flour and add a lightness and flavor that is hard to beat.
- Kefir, sometimes known as liquid yogurt, is full of probiotics and is found with the yogurts.
- Strive for Whole Milk. Without the milk-fat, our bodies do not absorb the natural calcium that you drink the milk for.
- Trying to eat-cage free eggs? The folks at Takepart have made an excellent app to help inform your choices. Read more about cage-free eggs and find their graphics
- Sliced fresh soft fruits – like bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, or even jellies and jams between each ‘cake’, with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup turns the humble pancake into dessert.
- Try adding corn, cheese and diced roasted peppers for a savory pancake sensation.
- Experiment with the almond or coconut flours that are popping up on the market shelves for added nutrients, fiber, and subtle flavors.
Happy Baking with Whole Grains and don’t forget, pancakes are great any time of day!