Zen and the art of pancakes

whole wheat pancakes blueberries

If you ever find yourself in Eugene, OR, make it your business to stop by the Keystone Cafe. In addition to the best cross-section of hippies, you can also find what I think are the best pancakes out there: plate-sized Oatmeal Sesame monsters. They even sell the mix, and you’d be wise to pick some up. They are wonderfully heavy, full of pleasant sesame seeds and oats, and one is a meal.

These pancakes, a close second to the Keystone’s, are on the complete opposite end of the pancake spectrum. They are unbelievably light and fluffy. If that description turns you off, don’t leave yet. I, too, once hated light and fluffy pancakes, because I only knew them in the Bisquick sense–all strange and biscuity-buttery. These are light because of beaten egg whites folded into the batter…they are so airy and yet they almost melt in your mouth. I actually don’t even know if I can describe to you how wonderful these are, you’d better just make some for yourself and anyone you love.

pre-egg whites
pre-egg whites

post-egg whites
post-egg whites

The recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book, given to me by my California-dwelling sister last year. Tassajara is a Zen Monestary near San Francisco. I love reading the recipes in the book because they are so relaxing. Some recipes I read and they stress me out thinking about all the ingredients and demands and potentials for mishap (see: Torrone). This one is simple (just 6 sentences long), reassuring (“may be made any size”), zen-like (“serves 6 perhaps”) and humble (“To have originally called these pancakes ‘entirely exception’ sounds extravagant after all these years, but they certainly are good, especially served with jam-marbled sour cream or butter and maple syrup”).

It also gives a lot of variations, which I love. AND, it’s flexible. I didn’t have whole wheat pastry flour this time so I substituted equal parts regular old unbleached all-purpose and regular whole wheat. They came out great. Minus me burning most of them, of course.

really stellar blueberry spacing
really stellar blueberry spacing

impossible to not burn
impossible to not burn

I had some wild blueberries in the freezer (about 6 lbs of them from Costco) so I threw some, very artfully might I add, on top. I tried using one of those silver dollar pancake pans, but like any wee kitchen apparatus, it proved to be more hassle than it was worth. Still, I am a sucker for tiny pancakes, and it took me a solid 2 rounds of half-burnt pancakes before I relented. Once I free-formed the cakes, they didn’t burn, but they were much less cute.

not showing you the burnt side...mostly
did i just say these were cute? because clearly they are not.

The zen monks are right, these are incredible served with jam-marbled sour cream. I didn’t have any sour cream, so maple syrup was an acceptable substitute. I plan on making these again and again and again until all the variations are used up and people tell me to please stop making pancakes that serve “6 perhaps” for 2 people.

Whole Wheat Pancakes
from the Tassajara Bread Book

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use unbleached all-purpose or whatever flour you have, I promise)
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar or honey
2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

[Serves 6 perhaps]

Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, and sugar. If using honey, add it to the milk and oil. Beat the milk and oil into the beaten egg yolks.
Combine the milk mixture with the dry ingredients until just blended, and then fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.
Cook on a greased griddle or frying pan. May be made any size–the larger ones will take longer to cook through.

Variations: May be made with fruit puree (apple, apricot, peach, pear) in place of the milk.
Fruit chunks may be folded into the batter. Blueberries, bananas, and apples are particularly good.
Nut butters may be added to the wet ingredients.
Roasted nuts or sesame or sunflower seeds may be folded into the batter.
Cornmeal, rolled oats, barley flour, or buckwheat flour (1/2 cup) may be substituted in place of an equivalent amount of whole wheat flour.
For waffles, use only 1 1/4 cups of milk.

P.S. If you are planning on using your hands to arrange blueberries on your pancakes, beware:

lookin good!
lookin good!

Author: katboda

Hey, cram it.

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