February 8, 2012

they're oooooo-tay

Take a moment to sit with me and enjoy the beauty
that is a tall stack of pancakes. These may not be as
sexy-looking as the ones I imagined, but in between
each layer you'll still find melted buttery brown sugar.
You can go ahead and sigh right now. I did remembering
the deliciousness. Totally YUM.
With my recent LauraPalooza committee work and Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday falling yesterday, I definitely had the Little House series on my mind lately.
So of course I wanted to use an awesome LIW-inspired recipe to bring back my Reading in the Kitchen series.

Even though we've been fortunate to have a mostly mild winter in Nebraska, the past few weeks brought snow and cold. That put me in the mood to bring out another The Long Winter recipe. (If you haven't already, please check out the Green Pumpkin Pie I made in September based on this book. It was the inspiration for this series and so much fun.)

Now, our winter has been nothing compared to the weather disaster Laura and her family faced, but I still felt like I deserved to make and eat the best dish prepared in this book. That's right. I'm talking about the ginormous pile of pancakes the Wilder brothers ate throughout the winter.

Know I feel incredibly guilty admitting this, but while I should have been worried about the Ingalls family and their near starvation — and I really did — I often found my myself envying Almanzo, Royal and their mountains of pancakes. Terrible, I know, but can you blame me? Here's a few excerpts from the book:
He was making pancakes, not because Royal could boss him any more but because Royal could not make good pancakes and Almanzo loved light, fluffy, buckwheat pancakes with plenty of molasses. (p. 100)
The three pancakes on the griddle were holding their bubbles in tiny holes near their crisping edges. He flipped them over neatly and watched their brown-patterned sides rise in the middle. (p. 101)
Almanzo and Royal were eating supper. Almanzo had stacked the pancakes with brown sugar and he had made plenty of them. Royal had eaten halfway down his stack, Almanzo was nearing the bottom of his, and one tall sack of two dozen pancakes dripping melted brown sugar, was standing untouched when Pa knocked at the door. (p. 246)
And those are only a few references. I'm telling you, those boys were frying and eating pancakes the whole time. I'm totally justified in wanting to have some. Plus, I've had a longtime crush on Almanzo Wilder, so he could make me pancakes anytime, if you know what I mean. (OK, I maybe took that too far, but I won't apologize. Almanzo is total stud in this series.)

With my vindication intact, I moved on to the next step. I needed to figure out how to make these.

While perusing recipes, including the one from the Little House Cookbook, I learned a fun fact: Buckwheat pancakes are not made using only buckwheat flour. They also include all purpose. When I commented on this to my office mate, he explained that buckwheat alone is too thick and heavy to use. File this tidbit away for later.

I went for Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Buckwheat Flour.
I chose Bob's because it was the most reasonably priced, and
because his picture on the bag seemed trustworthy.
I had the other supplies I needed for this recipe, but buckwheat eluded me for a while. Maybe I'm thick-headed, but I swear, I have never scoped out the bakery section of a grocery store so closely. I bet Ma never spent 10 minutes in a store aisle pondering the many kinds of flour and then wondering which of the brands would most authentically create the recipe. I ended up settling on the least expensive. (It's what Ma would've done, and it was still more expensive than the all purpose.)

With buckwheat purchased, I invited Sarah, my little sister, over to help me eat a pile of buckwheat pancakes on a weekend morning. Because it was only going to be the two of us — and I really didn't need to eat a couple dozen pancakes — I made a small batch to yield 13 3.5-inch cakes (or nine 4-inch if you don't care about having a large pile).

I followed this recipe, based on one from Cooking Light magazine:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cups buttermilk (which I was thrilled about, because I used it for another recipe, too)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
Photos do not even show how thick this batter
became. It seemed like soft serve ice cream.
After mixing it together, I realized my co-worker was right. This batter was thick. I've made my share of pancakes in the past, but this was nothing like the others. I had no idea how I could work with it. Sure enough, after stoking the fire (turning on the stove) and greasing (spraying) the griddle (flat pan), I dropped spoonfulls of batter (about one large spoon) on the heated surface. And they just sat there like the thick blobs they were. I solved this by smoothing them out with the spoon and repeated this step several more times, flipping after the tops bubbled and I was sure the first side was cooked.

In between every batch, I covered each pancake with some butter and a dollop of brown sugar. This really brought out the part I imagined from the books. Brown sugar is fabulous, and I admired his ingenuity at having a buttery-brown-sugary mix on each layer. *sigh*

After stacking up the 13 small pancakes this recipe yielded to take the picture at the top, Sarah and I topped them with syrup. I know. I deviated from the original recipe. But, if you'll recall from my Little House in the Big Woods Molasses Candy recipe, I just can't do molasses, and I really didn't want to spoil the vision I had in my head.

We sat down to eat them, and here were our reviews:
•  Sarah - "They were good. I liked the texture. It was different from regular pancakes, and it was more filling. I don't normally like wheat things, but I did like it."
•  My broomie Mike - "They're oooooo-tay." (He didn't actually try them, but he thought he was so cute and funny when I asked Sarah what she thought, I had to include it and make it my headline.)
•  Me - I love the brown sugar. I'll admit these might not be my most favorite pancakes I've ever had — these got a little dry — but they were healthier than your average pancake and had fewer, better calories (lots of fiber) that they fit into the diet I'm trying to keep.

Overall, this was a Sunday morning well spent, and I'd encourage others to try it.

I'll be back Friday for another Reading in the Kitchen — this time as part of an author's book tour.

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