Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Lesser Evil: Pancakes

There is something about a summer pancake breakfast. My kids go berserk as soon as they see me take out the big bowls and spoons - they know what's coming. Maybe I do it this time of year because it reminds me of vacations, when there is plenty of time to make the morning meal and linger over the coffee. Making pancakes takes me to that happy place, and my kids straight to heaven.

But I see a lot of crazy short cuts to pancakes these days, and I have to say they scare me to no end. The other day I saw them sold in the freezer section of the supermarket, waiting to be microwaved in some poor kitchen with little time and low standards. The ingredient list was long and painful. The directions were brief and unappetizing. The calorie count rivaled the deficit. Stay away from frozen pancakes my friends - they are evil.

Evil comes in many forms, and it certainly manifests itself in the kitchen. But what does it mean? I always liked the definition of the devil, evil incarnate, from the film Broadcast News:

"What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women."
The stuff at the market is a little like that. It is attractively prepared and packaged. It is helpful in that it seems to save time and effort. And let's face it, it has influenced a many a great nation, which is why we find ourselves in the state of food crisis we are in these days. It is therefore incumbent upon we consumers not to choose flash over substance, but to choose the lesser evil.

In the case of pancakes, next on the wrung of wrong is Bisquick. I am not a fan and honestly do not see the point of this product. But some folks swear by it. Here are the ingredients:
Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Salt.
Bleached flour is a bad idea. To do it, firms use things like peroxide and chlorine, things you don't want in your hair much less your mouth. It is used purely for appearance, to seem whiter than white. Partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil anyone? I think we've established the dangers of these products. So why buy them in a mix? Bisquick works in a pinch, but the ouch factor is not worth it. Buyers beware.

From my own experience, the best way to get pancakes is to make them. They really are easy to do, taste great, are fun to cook, and ready in less than 1/2 hour. Best of all, when you make them yourself, you can be confident about what you are eating, without the fine print haunting you later.

Ways to further lessen the evil:
  • Add fruit such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apples, and anything else you enjoy.
  • Use almond flour, a terrific option particularly celebrated by the gluten free crowd. I have personally come to know and love cooking and baking with it.
  • Cut out the extra sugar, or at least lower your risks. Mix with palm sugar, and if you need syrup, use real maple syrup. Or consider agave, which has a much lower glycemic index.
They are so good, it's almost sinful, dare I say evil (pinky points to corner of mouth)? Enjoy every bite.

Blueberry Pancakes
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tsp double acting baking powder
2 beaten eggs
3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup blueberries

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine until just mixed. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Heat a skillet on medium until hot, then add pancake batter, 1/4 cup at a time. Dot tops with blueberries and let cook until bottoms are firm. Flip and let rise for approximately 1 minute, or until cooked through (you can tell if the bottom is brown and they have risen a little). Serve.

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