February 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Shrove Pancakes

I don't know about you, but for me, pancakes have always been a little problematic. I've made them too gummy, too dense, and too black. I can never seem to flip them correctly in a skillet. There is always that stubborn pancake or two that catches on the edge of the pan during flipping and leaves pancake batter sliding down the sides. My pancakes are unattractive and troubled.

The key to golden, evenly-cooked pancakes is a griddle. You need even heat distribution (forget the patchy electric heat on your stovetop) and a flat cooking surface so the pancakes flip with ease. For Shrove Tuesday, I did not have a griddle, but I had the next best thing: a gas stove top. Even though at least one of my pancakes got caught on the side of my frying pan, they still turned out pretty nicely, and more importantly, light and fluffy.

And I finally realized why "light and fluffy" is necessary for pancakes, especially those made from whole wheat, which threatens the very lightness of traditional pancakes: the more porous and light the pancake, the less syrup you need to make your pancakes really sing. So be careful with your cooking times, and be careful not to overmix your batter. Those little lumps and air bubbles are essential to a successful pancake.

Shrove Tuesday has come and gone, but I couldn't resist sharing these gorgeous whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with apple-cinnamon compote. Accompanied with local hot sausage, these were the perfect end to Epiphany and great beginning to the season of Lent.

Basic Apple-Cinnamon Compote

8 small apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
splash of lemon
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan until slightly browned and fragrant. Add apples and stir occasionally, cooking about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon, and salt and cook on medium heat until apples are very soft and brown, about 25-30 minutes. Add vanilla at end. Keep warm and set aside for pancake topping.

Whole Wheat Pancakes
Adapted from skinnytaste.com

2 cups white whole wheat flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (optional)

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. You can modify the spices if you like. I put in extra cinnamon, but toss in some allspice, ginger, and cloves for a gingerbread-spiced pancake.

Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, and butter (if using) and whisk well, until eggs are fully combined.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour wet mix in the middle. With a wooden spoon, mix until just combined. There will be lumps and bubbles but do not worry! This is what makes the pancakes light, fluffy and ready for syrup.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and either spray with cooking spray or melt 1 teaspoon butter. When hot, add pancake batter by 1/3 cup (or more) and cook until small bubbles form and pop on the sides of the pancakes. Be patient - it might take a while for the first batch to cook but once the pan is hotter and greasier it will take less time. Once you see the bubbles pop on the sides, you can flip them. It should take about 2-3 minutes per side.

Transfer to plate and pile high with apple compote and maple syrup. Count your blessings - you're ready for Lent!

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