Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Recipe: Wholesome Instant Pancakes

One of my childhood breakfast comfort foods is pancakes. But along with all of the other paranoias I've procured in my many years, I've become sensitive about the ingredients in my food. I like to be able to pronounce what I'm eating. If nothing else, it helps me feel smarter than usual.

I like Alton Brown's Good Eats for various reasons. He covers one food or food subject thoroughly on each episode. He reviews the best tools for the best results without resorting to uni-taskers, so I get good advice on cheap kitchen solutions. And he's a geek. He identifies the chemical reactions that result from mixing, baking, burning, etc. with props and such so that viewers get a thorough understanding of the chemical processes taking place in their kitchen. And since I believe that if I understand the fundamentals of how something works, I can apply appropriate reasoning to future decisions, this show speaks to me. After all, cooking and baking is just one big, delicious chemistry experiment resulting in, if we're careful, Good Eats!

So, when he doled out a recipe for instant pancakes, I was all for it. Finally, my big chance to ditch Aunt Jemima and all her luscious, fluffy goodness for my own stash of mix, each ingredient no more than a few syllables. Cake-ilicious.

I make a batch of the instant pancake mix using whole wheat flour and it's ready to go whenever the mood strikes. It's a bit more interesting and nutritious than using all-purpose flour. I've tweaked the actual pancake recipe by halving it (perfect for 2 adults) and adjusting the ingredients to our taste and texture preference. I used to use buttermilk, which can be substituted with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and enough milk to make 1 cup. However, I tried plain yogurt one day and I really liked it. It makes for a tarter flavor, so if that puts you off, add a little more sugar to your dry mix or just stick with buttermilk. Occassionally, I also add 1/2 (or an entire small) banana to the yogurt, emulsify with a stick blender, and continue with the recipe as usual...makes for a nice depth of flavor, with little change in texture. Eat 'em with butter and syrup. Or my favorite new treat is to spread on my favorite jam. Yum!!

1 egg, separated
1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cups "Instant" Pancake Mix
butter, for greasing the pan
1 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries or banana slices, if desired

Heat a frying pan or electric griddle to 350° F.

In a bowl, add the instant pancake mix. Set aside.

In another small bowl, melt the butter and cool about 1 minute. In another bowl or large measuring cup (e.g., 2+ cups), measure out yogurt. Break the egg and add the white to the yogurt and the yolk to the butter. Whisk each, then add the butter mixture to the yogurt mixture and combine. For easy whisking in the measuring cup, I take a whisk, insert it in the measuring cup, and roll between my the palms of my hands (like making a snake out of play-doh).

Pour the liquid mix on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all of the lumps out.

Check to see that the griddle is hot by placing a few drops of water onto to the griddle. The griddle is ready if the water dances across the surface.

Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired. The yogurt batter are slightly thicker, so I use this ice cream scooper instead. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place (e.g., oven at 200°F) for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 pancakes (12 with buttermilk)