Pancakes Demystified

Some tirades: spelt flour, pancakes, pancake toppings, and pancakes-made-doable.

I love spelt flour. I may have already said it before, but I just do. Now, I know that spelt flour is not the cheapest flour that you come across, if you come across it at all. But let me just tell you, whole grain spelt flour has a non-obtrusive, sweet nuttiness to it that makes it ideal for any sweet baking (from cupcakes to cakes, pie crusts, muffins, whatever). It is not nearly as overpowering as whole grain wheat flour and has a more tender crumb. It is, in a word, awesome. As for the cost: it’s easy for me to forget spelt flour costs a lot because I have found a supplier near Durham where I can buy bulk spelt flour on the cheap. Perhaps you could look around, too? Or just use it as an occasional flour. You should be able to find some Bob’s Red Mill or Whole Foods spelt flour for a decent price, even if you order it online. (Otherwise, use whole wheat or all purpose flour in these recipes. That would work, too. And yes, I much prefer that you go with the whole grain, at least in part.) (Oh, and by the way, spelt is NOT gluten free. Just to be clear.)

And now for the main attraction of this blog entry. Pancakes.

Honestly, I could do without pancakes. I am on an ongoing quest for non-sweet, easy, breakfast foods. I hate breakfast, as it is. But I eat it, dutifully, at least most days. My family (and the rest of America) feels quite different about everything I just said. My family is hungry when they wake. They love sweet things in the morning. And they would prefer, above all else (except maybe crepes and waffles), pancakes.

I don’t think pancakes are too far out of reach. I mostly make a batch on a Saturday or Sunday, where there’s a little time to linger in the kitchen, but there are wonderful ways that pancakes can become a breakfast-on-the-go for all of us. And no, this plan does not include a box mix. I hate the box mix. Throw away the box mix. It’s so unnecessary, and what’s worse, it’s an unnecessary expense. All you are buying in a mix is about 1 minute of your time and a whole lotta additives. Blech. Let’s put it this way: if you’re really so enamored with a box mix, just take heaping amounts of three ingredients from your cupboard (8 cups spelt flour, 4 tablespoons baking powder, and 3 teaspoons salt) and put them in a box. Or a bag. Sharpie “Pancake Mix” on the front, and rest easy.

Beyond that, making pancakes is one of those simple things that becomes simpler the more you do it. Brainless, to a point. And once you get comphy with cooking them on your stove in a certain pan (or griddle), really brainless. And then there’s even better news: make a double (or triple) batch. Let them cool. Seal them up and do one (or both) of two things: refrigerate them for out-of-hand snacks; or freeze them (between layers of wax paper) for speedy toaster pancakes. Seriously. It’s that easy.

MY FAVORITE STRAIGHTFORWARD PANCAKES

This makes a double batch. Always make a double batch.

  1. In a large enough mixing bowl, whisk togetherĀ  3 1/2 cups milk, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 scant tablespoon vanilla extract.
  2. On top of the wet mixture, dump 2 cups whole spelt flour and 2 cups all purpose flour (or 4 cups spelt). Make a divet in the center of the mound and add 3-4 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  3. Gently combine the dry ingredients together before whisking everything together, just until universally moist.
  4. Preheat a griddle to somewhere between 375F and 390F. (If you are doing this on the stove top, you are going to have to play with it. Medium? Medium-high? Somewhere in there.) Once mixture sits a few minutes, if it is too thin add a little flour and if it is too thick add a little milk.
  5. Drop batter by 1/4 cup-fulls on the hot griddle. Allow to sit until bubbles begin popping through the pancake. Flip. Cook a few more minutes until bottom is golden brown and pancake is cooked through. Adjust heat as needed for next batch.

And guess what? There’s even more good news about taking an old standard and re-claiming it for health. And what would that be? Fillings and toppings. Feel free to do any of the following:

  • Stir in a cup or two thawed and drained berries, in step 3.
  • Stir in a cup or so of dark chocolate chips, in step 3.
  • Stir in chopped banana and a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts, in step 3.
  • (If you must) top with unsalted, conscientious butter and a drizzle of REAL maple syrup.
  • Top with honey or honey butter and a sprinkling of chopped nuts.
  • Spread with all fruit spread (or even make into a peanut butter and jelly mess).
  • Top with chopped, fresh fruit or berries and homemade whipped cream (as in 1 cup cold cream in a clean bowl with a drizzle of maple syrup, whipped until firm peaks form)
  • Top with chopped, fresh berries and a drizzle of good, old-fashioned cream.
  • Top with diced apple and cinnamon, maybe a little maple syrup or butter.
  • Top with Maple-Berry Syrup: In a blender, combine 1/4 cup real maple syrup and 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries and 2 teaspoons flaxseed oil.
  • Top with Peanut Whip: In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons apple butter with 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter until smooth. (This is also awesome on cinnamon-raisin bagels.)

Oh, and if you want to manage those lovely leafy pancakes featured in my pics, it’s too simple, provided you have the right tools. Just spoon some of the batter into a frosting bag/gun with a smallish opening. Shoot out batter into leaf outlines complete with stems and veins. Hold it. Hold it. And then fill in the rest of the leaf with a spoon and more batter. Finish as you would any other pancake and enjoy as your family thinks you are a kitchen genius.

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