I have a head cold, so my brain is spacing out on anything useful today. Forget web tips, you’re getting a pancake photo essay!
Saturday is Pancake Day here at Casa Cholbi. We’ve had this tradition for several years, ever since my daughter was young enough to giggle as we read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs aloud to her.
At the beginning of that book, the tall tale starts on Saturday, which is Pancake Day (we still haven’t seen the movie, even though now they’re making a Part 2 in 3D, so I still think of the illustrations in the book as The Official Version).
So we started having Pancake Day every Saturday (in related breakfast news, Sunday has become Egg Day, but that’s another post for another day).
Pancakes: A Lifelong Journey
Making perfect pancakes used to be a pipe dream for me. I’m pretty handy in the kitchen, and even for things I’m not an expert in, I can follow a recipe just fine. But for years, I was never happy with my homemade pancakes — they were too thin, or too flabby, or just kind of tasted weird, so I stuck to store-bought mixes.
Krusteaz had a couple of varieties that were tasty. Both varieties of Trader Joe’s pancake mix (Buttermilk and Multi-Grain) were also pretty good. I became particularly fond of Bob’s Red Mill buttermilk pancake mix after I fell in love with whole grains.
Then I started combining mixes — my favorite combo was Trader Joe’s buttermilk mix for flavor, mixed half-and-half with Bob’s Red Mill for heartiness and whole grains.
The evolution of a recipe
After awhile, I started to get annoyed. Why couldn’t I make my own pancake mix, dammit?
Alton Brown, the Good Eats guy, gave me the idea. And his pancake mix worked pretty well. It just didn’t have whole grains, and I already knew that trying to make pancakes with 100% whole wheat flour made them taste not-very-pancake-y.
So I looked at the ingredients on the Bob’s Red Mill package. In addition to wheat flour, it had oat flour and millet flour.
I always have whole oats around, in the form of oatmeal. And I’m fond of millet as a basic eating grain, so I had that too. And I already knew it was easy to grind up whole grains in the old coffee grinder (the one we don’t use for coffee anymore, just spices and grains). So making “oat flour” and “millet flour” was easy.
Millet maven strikes again
Millet flour turned out to be the key, actually. Because millet is a very mild grain, things made with whole millet flour don’t scream THIS IS WHOLE-GRAIN DAMMIT the way (some) whole-wheat things do. It also has a beautiful yellow color in the mixing bowl (which doesn’t affect the final color of the pancakes — that’s all about the high heat of the pan browning the butter in the batter).
So I ended up with a pancake mix made with equal parts millet flour, oat flour, whole wheat flour, and unbleached all-purpose (wheat) flour. Three-quarters whole grain is pretty good for a fluffy breakfast treat, in my opinion.
Plus, this is the only way the Professor will eat millet (what I call “mild” my husband scorns as “bland and flavorless”). It’s kind of like sneaking finely-chopped veggies into kids’ food, except that he’s perfectly aware it’s there and puts up with my occasional taunts of “ha ha, you ate millet!” with good humor. As long as he has his coffee. Which is another post entirely. The pancake breakfast is simply incomplete without a good strong cup of coffee, am I right? You know I’m right.
Custom pancakes, please
By now, my recipe has fully evolved, and I can tweak according to personal whims or the availability of various grains (in case anyone is wondering, grinding up steel-cut oats into flour works just fine when the big cardboard cylinder of rolled oats is mysteriously empty and no one put oatmeal on the shopping list…).
For instance, if I’m in the mood for a slightly sweeter, more diner-ish pancake, I’ll ad an extra tablespoon or so of sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Or I’ll substitute fine-ground cornmeal for one of the flours for a different kind of earthy sweetness. Or if we’re out of buttermilk, regular milk mixed with an equal amount of plain full-fat yogurt works pretty well even if it’s not an exact match.
Also, I can make blueberry pancakes specifically for the Professor, and silver dollar pancakes for my seven-year old for maximum finger-food usability, and regular-sized pancakes for my daughter and myself, and one or two chocolate-chip pancakes for Breakfast Dessert, all from the same batch of batter.
As for toppings? I’m a traditionalist: 100% grade B (that’s the darker variety) maple syrup, and plenty of unsalted butter. When summer fruits are in season, I will occasionally go the Fruit Supreme route (berries or fruit compote topped with a mountain of whipped cream, or rolled up cannoli-style). And a good, high-quality breakfast sausage makes an excellent pig-in-the-blanket.
The Professor used to sprinkle powdered sugar on his blueberry flapjacks, but recently has become a fan of drizzling them with warmed honey.
To paraphrase Homer Simpson on donuts: “Pancakes. Is there anything they can’t do?”
(I mean, we haven’t even gotten into the baked German apple pancake, or the savory varieties of pancake, or thinning out the batter dramatically to make crepes…the variations are endless!)
So tell me, on this fine Saturday: What’s your favorite kind of pancake, and what do you put on it?