Thursday, February 19, 2009

Whole Wheat Flour: a serendipitous waltz with God's gift to bread & pancakes (Part II)

Mmmmm...whole wheaty pancakey goodness...

Now that I'm at home full-time, I get to indulge in one of life's rare and very-delicious-indeed luxuries: a good breakfast every day. Apart from Ludovictus relentlessly demanding this from me, and doing my best to ignore the constant fight against my inner-sloth, I'd like to think I'm pretty good about indulging in healthful morning meals. Usually that means a bowl of Special K, a cup of coffee and some juice, but lately I've been going all out and making French toast, omelettes, and even, yes, All-American, Whole-Wheat pancakes.

I once alluded to my dad's pancakes and what follows is my best attempt at a semi-Proustian
account of why Matt and I now make pancakes every single Sunday morning (and sometimes, though admittedly rarely, for dinner). Somewhere in there is also a further homage to Whole Wheat Flour.
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As I will get into in further detail in a later post, I grew up in a Mexican household (which, being Mexican, makes sense, right?). My breakfasts were probably not like your breakfasts. They generally consisted of things which Americans would not only consider "lunch fare" but far too "spicy" to be eaten at any time of day, much less the morning.

A content little piglet from the start, I never had any complaints. My sister, on the other hand, was always harping on wanting "American" things (this is the girl who had probably at least five birthday parties at McDonald's growing up). She doesn't like spicy food, hates raw tomatoes, and, is therefore, in my opinion, probably adopted (as I tried to convince her growing up). One happy consequence (though I wasn't too happy about it back then) of Caaa's gringa tendencies was my dad's willingness to make American pancakes on Sunday morning for breakfast, despite the fact that I moaned and complained that I'd rather have chicharron en salsa verde.

NOTE: I markedly say American pancakes because since living in the UK I have discovered a couple of interesting things about what the term "pancakes" can refer to/ its reception in these parts:

1. When British people say "pancakes" they actually mean French
crêpes (because let's not kid ourselves - there's no way the British invented crêpes).

2. The British have a holiday called Pancake Day which is kind of like the American version of Mardi Gras, on which it is traditional to make and eat pancakes (rather than getting horribly drunk and flashing people, though I suspect that goes on in these parts too). Something about using up the eggs, flour and fat in the pantry. *shrug* Maybe I'll try it this year, but I'm not giving up flour.

3. Tesco (the kinda lame British version of America's Wal-Mart currently att
empting to break into the American market, now superseded by ASDA, the American answer in Britain to Tesco), disturbingly and yet somewhat tastily, sells pre-made, pre-packaged American pancakes in sizes ranging from silver-dollar to full-on pan-sized. Odd, especially when they're not called pancakes. Not really sure what they are called.

4. British people love American pancakes. They love them so much that after a lengthy British vs. American pancakes discussion with my midwife Pippa at one of my antenatal appointments (I know, relevant and productive!), she made me swear to have her over for my - dare I say it? yes, I dare - infamous whole wheat pancakes.

5. Further proof that British people love American pancakes is that they actually do accommodate our colonial whims somewhat by selling maple syrup (the real deal; no Aunt Jemimah up in here) in their grocery stores. But they sell it in miniscule, in fact, laughably-sized containers for prices that still make me tear-up. To give you a sense of scale: Matt uses approximately 1/2 one container each Sunday morning.

Oddly, despite my father being a chef, we generally had pancakes made from one of the trusty old pre-made batter mixes. I guess maybe sometimes he made them by hand, but honestly, most people cannot tell the difference between homemade and pre-made batter pancakes anyway. That's probably because there are a lot of great pre-made batters out there (including the crazy but delicious sweet potato pancake mix I ate with mom last time I was home), and because, as a rule, I've noticed people don't really tend to pay attention to the nuances of the food they eat.

For better or worse, I married someone with fantastically sensitive taste buds and the memory of an elephant. This blog could be characterized as the madness that fact has driven me to.

So, yes, in fact it wasn't until I met Matt that I, the grand foody, got into the whole "make-it-yourself" pancake concept. And up until very recently, I had always made them with white all-purpose flour. Strange of me, actually, because growing up my dad actually did make whole wheat pancakes at home (pre-made or not). And whenever we went to IHOP
he tended to order the whole wheat pancakes with pecans (how Texan!), and then smother them in butter and raspberry JAM - not syrup.

In honor of those half-forced-upon-me pancake Sundays (which I now nostalgically look back upon), in celebration of whole wheat flour, as a shout out to my midget kid sister, and in the name of what could technically (if you count the fruit, nuts and whole wheat) be considered a healthy breakfast, here is my recipe for Whole Wheat American Pancakes.

* * *

Whole Wheat American Pancakes with Apples & Pecans
Makes ~6 Pancakes

I've honed this recipe over the course of the past two years, and so it is just watery enough that the pancakes are the thickness and consistency Matt and I like. Using whole wheat flour gives the pancakes a grittier, earthier flavor - we love it. Matt insists that pancakes are the best when you take them off the pan when they are just under-cooked. I've come to agree with him and would definitely consider the art of cooking of pancakes a game of perfect timing.

Repetitio est mater memoriae

Though he's generally a purist and likes his pancakes plain, every once in a while I'll go crazy and add granny smith apples and some chopped pecans or walnuts to the recipe. I love how the apples get soft and the nuts stay crunchy.

But whatever you add, be sure to keep these warm on a plate with a loose sheet of foil over them. They're a crowd pleaser like you wouldn't believe, just so long as you don't skimp on the butter or syrup. Or raspberry jam, if that's how you roll.


1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or all-purpose, or a mix of the two)
3 tbsps sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbsps melted butter
1 granny smith apple, chopped into small cubes (peeled if you like)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely


1. Make the batter by sifting all the dry ingredients into a medium bowl and then creating a well in the center of them with a wooden spoon.

2. Crack the eggs and pour a little of the milk into the well and then mix, slowly drawing the dry mixture into the well until well-incorporated. Slowly add remaining liquid (including butter) and mix well (whole wheat flour makes the batter look lumpier than regular). Add chopped apple and nuts and mix until incorporated.

The Batter: lumpy but lovely.

3. Heat a small teflon pan (~8 inch diameter) over medium heat and melt a pad of butter on it until the butter is bubbling. If the butter starts to brown, the heat is on too high.

The Butter

4. Take the pan off the heat and with a soup ladel, pour one ladle-ful of batter onto the pan, hitting the sides to make the batter spread evenly in a circle covering the surface. Put the pan back on the heat and allow the pancake to sit until it starts to bubble (see below).

The Bubbling Cake of the Pan; ready to turn!

5. Only once the cake starts to bubble and the bubbles start to pop, do you turn it over. Allow it to cook for, at most, 10-15 seconds on the other side and then remove to a plate.

6. Repeat as necessary for the remaining batter.

The Beautifully Browned Lil' Darlin'; ready to eat!

7. Serve with copious amounts of butter, syrup and a nice mug of American coffee!
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  1. Brenda - Thanks for recommending Teflon pans in your cooking process!

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    The pancakes look great, btw :)

  2. I love it - more pancakes, please!