Basic rights of people and pancakes

The ability to whip up a decent batch of homemade pancakes on a Saturday morning, without needing to leave the house on a ricotta cheese and chestnuts run, is a fundamental human right. So why has it been it such a challenge until now?

I feel pretty strongly that a person ought to be able to wake up on a weekend morning, leaf through a cookbook or two while sipping a cup of coffee, and proceed to produce a tasty and reasonably healthy batch of pancakes for breakfast in half an hour or so, with a few common ingredients. On the one hand, a box of Bisquick should not be required. On the other hand, neither should powdered buttermilk, sweet potatoes, ricotta cheese, or macadamia nuts. Save those for brunch parties and houseguests. Yes?

On Saturday, I found myself with fully functional internet access, four perfectly reasonable cookbooks, an ecological nightmare of a pile of foodie magazines, and the need to invoke my post-graduate education to make this happen. I did, ultimately, find a very good recipe at the ever-reliable Martha Stewart website – and perhaps someone who had known to Google “basic pancakes,” rather than the tempting but apparently idiotic “pancakes,” could have found this recipe in a matter of minutes. Alas.

To spare you the agony of the hunt, I’ve adapted that recipe below and developed a version using white whole wheat flour, because proper glycemic load, too, is a fundamental human right. (I’ve also peppered this blog entry with all sorts of Google-friendly tags, but this is the part of the story about flour, not pepper, so I won’t get into that until later.) In case you’re not familiar with it, white whole wheat flour is a beautiful thing. Despite the somewhat confusing name, it is, in fact, a true whole grain flour (with the same nutritional benefits as regular whole wheat flour). It is milled from white wheat instead of red wheat and produces, by some stroke of tremendous good luck, a much lighter and softer result than regular whole wheat flour in many baked goods. The pancakes pictured above are made with white whole wheat flour, but I don’t think you (or, say, your picky kid) would ever know it from looking at them.

Think of these basic pancakes as a canvas for whatever artistic additions you would like to make – from the impressionist (blueberries, bananas, a dash of vanilla extract) to the expressionist (shredded sharp cheddar, crumbled bacon), to the postmodern (pancakes with pieces of pancake in them, the brainchild of Shopsins in NYC, which I know I should be over the pedantic humor of by now; but I just can’t quite get there). Just try to stick with solids as opposed to liquids in more than tiny amounts, unless you’re willing to venture into truly experimental territory.

Back on the topic of peppering (peppering blogs with tags, you with requests, food with, well, pepper), if you like this entry and want to contribute a moment of your time to the promotion of fundamental human rights, would you please click below to Stumble, or Tweet, or share on Facebook, or otherwise have your way with this post and others that you like? I ask, of course, only for humanitarian reasons, and certainly not because, now that the baby is a little older, I am beginning an earnest attempt to cobble together a real, live career in food. I would(n’t) dare. Thank you, and happy St. Patty’s!

Basic Pancakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 12 pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour OR white whole wheat flour (or ½ cup of each)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (if you’re using all-purpose flour) OR 2 ½ teaspoons if you’re using white whole wheat flour or a mix of flours
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Butter or neutral-tasting oil, for the skillet

The pancakes will be fluffier if you have all ingredients at room temperature. See the tip below if you’re with me on the half-an-hour bit and don’t always have time for that kind of thing.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix together thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and the egg. If they are not already at room temperature, you can microwave them for one minute at medium heat. Whisk in the melted butter in a slow stream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix gently, just enough so that there are no dry pockets of flour. Do not overmix.

Heat a small amount of butter or oil (about two teaspoons, depending on the size of your skillet – just enough to lightly cover the bottom) in a skillet or large frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes to preheat the skillet. For each pancake, pour about 3 Tablespoons of batter onto the skillet. Cook until there are lots of small bubbles popping on the surface of the pancake, then flip and cook on the other side for a minute or so.

Serve with your choice of toppings.