At home we called them pancakes and ate them fairly regularly, usually of the Aunt Jemima variety. That was all that we knew in this house where "from scratch" meant "Bisquick" and cakes came from the refrigerator case of the local Grand Union. For the first decade or so of my life, I never realized that pancakes (or biscuits, for that matter) could be made not using a box mix.
We have a bad case of the flu to thank for finally disabusing me of this idea.
In mid-February of my 12th year, I found myself miserable and buried under the covers in bed, my watery eyes glued to a still fairly new TV channel dedicated entirely to food and cooking. It was near Valentine's Day and cakes and other baked goods dominated the programming. I was hooked. I came out of the illness an inch taller, ten pounds lighter, and with a new passion. I poured through my mother's large (and mostly unused) collection of cookbooks, trying out recipes for just about anything that caught my attention.
My new hobby drove my mother crazy. I got flour everywhere. I used up everything in our pantry and refrigerator. I cut my finger and came damn well close to poisoning my entire family with undercooked chicken and odd substitutions. But I got better. Much better, in fact!.And it was around this time that I realized the truth that I wish everyone in this country knew: that mixing a cup of flour with a couple teaspoons of baking powder, an egg, and some milk is no more trouble than adding water and oil to the Aunt Jemima mix, only with results that are a dozen times better.
This is my "grown-up" version of pancakes, which uses whole wheat flour, ground flaxmeal, and cinnamon. Oh and (**decadent alert**) I use half &half instead of milk. (naughty!)
These rise up like no other pancake I've ever seen. The key to making this happen is to not over mix the batter. I repeat: don't over mix. If you're like me, you'll get the urge to beat out any lumps so the batter is completely smooth, but that will only toughen and flatten the pancakes. I like to use a rubber spatula and gently fold the ingredients together much in the same way I would with egg whites. Be delicate and err on the side of under mixing. As long as there aren't any dry spots, you'll be OK. Better than OK! Do this and your pancakes will puff up nicely and stay that way.
Try these. They're delicious, filling, and--unlike those sad little McDonald's ones--actually live up to their name (whatever that name might be). And between the whole grain flour, flax, and cinnamon, these are a hearty and healthy way to start the day. (Which is why you should feel NO guilt, about serving hot, drenched with good real maple syrup (I love Grade B for its richness of flavor), and extra pats of butter.
Oh, and will you do me a favor, please? Throw that box mix away. You're just never going to need (or want) it again.
Whole Wheat Cinnamon Pancake Recipe
This recipe makes enough for two servings of three thick pancakes each. If you want more, feel free to double (or triple!) the recipe.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (I used Splenda)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (golden or regular)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup Half & Half (or milk, for the faint-hearted)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, flaxseed, and salt in a large bowl and mix until combined.
2. In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg and add to this the Half & Half, melted butter, and vanilla.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine just enough to get rid of any dry spots. Do not overmix. It's OK if there are still a couple lumps in the batter. This is key to getting maximum rise and soft pancakes.
4. Let the batter sit while you heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat and melt some butter. (I like to remove the paper from one end of the stick of butter and then used the covered side to hold while I rub onto the skillet. Great way to keep from over-buttering and easy to do in between batches.)
5. Drop the batter in, about a 1/2 cup at a time making sure to leave enough room to spread. Let cook for a minute or two until the edges look cooked and tiny bubbles pop up in the batter.
6. Flip using a spatula, then use the sides to push under any extra batter that spills out the sides when you flip. It should tuck in easily for a nice, neat pancake. Let cook on the other side for another minute or two. Remove to a serving dish and (depending on how many you're making) keep hot in a warm oven until ready to eat.
Note: these freeze well in an airtight bag or container and can be reheated in a toaster. Not as good as fresh, but tasty for a quick snack or on the go breakfast (way better than a PopTart, for sure!)