Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 11, 2012

Toss the pancake box and make your own

BY CHERYL GROSS, Special to the Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY — Pancakes make a wonderful breakfast.

However, made with some of the mixes such as Aunt Jemima or Bisquick, pancakes don't offer much to fortify the body.

Yet, pancakes can offer a delicious and effective way to increase whole grains in your diet. With a little planning, you can make your very own pancake mix that is good for you and lends itself to your personal preferences.

Pancakes are not only wonderful for the whole family, but to serve when entertaining. They can be eaten plain or dress them up with sweet potatoes, berries or fruit.

Begin by shopping for a variety of different flours, available today in many of our local markets. Try oat flour, spelt flour, brown rice flour, whole wheat flour and soy flour. Keep unbleached flour, buttermilk, milk, eggs, butter, baking powder, baking soda and sugar on hand.

Experiment with the different flours to discover the ones you like best. I tend to use anything I have on hand in similar proportions. However, should you not favor a certain flour, leave it out and increase the flours you do like.

While I used to make each batter from scratch, hauling all of the ingredients from the pantry can be a bit much. To make things easier, I have begun to assemble and store the dry ingredients in a large batch. Having the basic mix on hand makes serving pancakes easier.

Use this first recipe as a base to create Sweet Potato Pancakes, Banana-Filled Pancakes and Apple Pancakes.

Basic Pancake Recipe

½ c. unbleached flour

½ c. other flour or flour combination: soy, brown rice, oat, spelt

2 t. sugar

½ t. baking powder

¼ t. baking soda

1 egg

¾ c. buttermilk

¼ c. milk (plus a little more if needed to thin batter)

2 T. butter

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk the egg, buttermilk and milk in a smaller bowl. Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and blend, leaving a few small lumps. Melt the butter and stir into the batter.

Heat frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Add a bit of oil or butter to surface and pour batter onto griddle in puddles. Fry the cakes until bubbles pop on surface and underside is a toasty brown; flip and cook second side. Adjust the heat — higher if pancakes cook too slowly, lower if they brown too quickly. Thin with milk if pancakes are too thick.

Makes about 6 4-inch pancakes. Hint: Multiply as needed to make a larger quantity.

To make this next mix, allow 50 percent unbleached flour to half other flours. The 50 percent unbleached flour allows your mix to behave as if it were all wheat. Using more than half of the other flours may make your batter behave differently.

Nutritious and Delicious Pancake Mix

5 c. unbleached flour

5 c. other flours (1 c. each soy, oat, brown rice, spelt and whole wheat or your own combination)

3 T. plus 1 t. sugar

1 T. plus 2 t. baking powder

2½ t. baking soda

Mix well in a large bowl and transfer to a food storage container.

When you are ready to feed four to five folks:

Whisk 2 eggs in a medium-sized bowl.

Add 1½ c. buttermilk and ½ c. milk.

Stir in 2 c. pancake mix.

Add 4 T. melted butter.

Let mix stand for about 10 minutes while your griddle heats. Add milk as needed for the pancake consistency you prefer.

Cook on one side until richly browned and flip to finish. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

The next level

Once you have made a few batches of pancakes with your multigrain mix, the fun can begin. This recipe readily accepts additions. The following may be used alone or in a combination of your choosing. The added ingredients enrich the nutritional value of your pancakes.

Enhanced Healthy Pancakes

For every 2 c. flour, add the following ingredients to the dry mix to increase texture and nutrition. You will probably need to add more milk to the batter when you add more dry ingredients.

Add up to the following amounts of each of these items:

1 T. wheat germ

1 T. texturized vegetable protein

1 T. rolled oats

Blueberry Pancakes

Add ½-1 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen) to 2 c. of mix. If frozen blueberries, be sure to cook your pancakes thoroughly.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 moderately sized sweet potato or yam

1½ c. buttermilk, divided

2 eggs

½ c. milk

2 c. nutritious pancake mix

4 T. melted butter

1 t. ground cinnamon (optional)

Bake sweet potato or yam until very tender. (I either plan ahead and bake an extra sweet potato for dinner earlier in the week or cook one in the microwave.) Cool to the touch and peel the skin from the potato. Cut the potato into chunks (you should have about 1½ cups of cooked potato, but don't worry about more or less) and blend with 1 c. buttermilk. I use a small food processor, but a potato masher or blender would work as well. The smoother the puree, however, the smoother the pancake batter. Mix the eggs, remaining buttermilk and milk with the pureed sweet potato. Add pancake mix and melted butter, along with cinnamon, if using. Cook on a griddle until richly browned.

Banana-Filled Pancakes

1 T. butter

3-4 sliced sliced overripe bananas

2 T. brown sugar

Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Add bananas. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the bananas with brown sugar and remove from heat when the sugar dissolves.

Use the basic pancake mix to make pancakes. When cooked, place a large pancake on a plate, spread with warm, sliced bananas, top with a similar-sized pancake. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar or whipped cream. Ooh, la, la!

Cheryl Gross is a freelance writer who enjoys cooking and creating with foods at her home in Frankfort.