Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Taking back Sunday: Pancakes Whenever You Want Them

I'm a firm believer in pancakes. Not only in that they do, in fact, exist, but that they are one of the perfect foods. Suitable for any time of day, and most any kind of mix in, their culinary flexibility should be the stuff of legend. Reserved for lazy weekends and Sunday brunches, they're often left to others to cook for us, from diners, to chains, even high end restaurants, and why? Where does the magic lie? Where is the mystery, the secret perfect technique that only 3rd parties can master? I say we shun the lines, the crowded vinyl booths, the narrow allotted time frames of brunch, and take a stand! You too can make pancakes, whenever or however you want them!

This is a basic pancake recipe, although I did stumble upon something cool at the local market. Powdered peanut butter. How can I resist such a thing? I can't, obviously. If you don't have the powdered peanut butter, you can omit it to no bad end. You can also stir in your everyday peanut butter, there's no shame in that- but you'll have to add a bit extra almond milk to smooth things out.

One of the key factors of pancakes, perhaps the trickiest, is the method in which you cook them. I used to cook pancakes like a bad infomercial: burnt, misshapen, sometimes on the floor. I also have a nasty habit of waiting until I'm near starving to cook, it doesn't help. They key that I've found, is time and practice. So grab a coffee, and take it slow, it'll be worth it.

 Pancakes in your PJs

1 cup Flour
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 tablespoons Peanut butter Powder or 2 tablespoons regular peanut butter (optional)
1 cup Almond Milk (if using peanut butter, add up to 1/4 cup extra, slowly)
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons melted Coconut oil (or Canola/Vegetable)
1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
Mix-ins (Blueberries, chocolate chips, bananas, skittles)
Earth balance to grease the pan (and top your pancakes!)

Preheat your oven to its lowest setting, and stash an oven-safe dish in it. If your house is as cold as mine is in the winter, don't skip this step.
In a large bowl, toss in your dry ingredients, and mix to combine. Add in your almond milk, oil, and vanilla, and stir until it only just comes together. Don't over mix the batter, but don't leave any big dry pockets. It will poof up in volume a bit, but it should subside into a somewhat lumpy, pourable batter. If it's too thick, add in almond milk a tablespoon at a time until you have your desired consistency. Have your ladle, spatula, pseudo-butter, and mix-ins on deck.

Choose the larger size of the non-stick skillet you're most comfortable with, put your burner on between low and medium, and slap a pat of pseudo-butter on the pan. Not too much, or you'll have a greasy pancake. It's okay, everyone's done it once. Once the earth balance has melted, spoon a ladle full, anywhere from 1/4 of a cup, to however big you want your pancake, into your pan. Now's the time to add your mix-ins, just drop them gently on the top of your cooking pancake. I chose blueberries, even if I really wanted chocolate chips. We all make sacrifices. Here's the trick: this doesn't happen fast. If it does, chances are your burner's up too high, turn it down a bit. Once the bubbles form around the edge of your pancakes, wait a little longer. A few bubbles toward the middle of your pancake mean it's ready to flip. If you're unsure, jiggle your pan a bit to see if the cake will freely move around. Once flipped, the second side will cook much quicker, so don't go anywhere. Move your perfect pancake to the warm dish in the oven.

After each go, wipe your pan down, quickly and carefully, with a dry paper towel, then add another pat of earth balance.

Stack your  cakes high, and top them as you wish!

Weirdly enough, I'm a bit of a purist. I'd slather them in good ol' pseudo-butter rather than maple syrup any day of the week

Now you can sit back and enjoy your emancipation from a potentially hectic Sunday at the mercy of a short-order cook.

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