Before you shake your head and mutter about whole wheat flour and head off to Paula Deen’s site for some real pancakes for the love of Bisquick, give me a second to tell you about Friday night.
Friday night starts in the mountains of western Maryland where, about 10 minutes outside of a lakeside area that makes its money almost purely on tourism, stands Annie’s Kitchen, which is a third-generation (I think) working-class, meat and mashed potatoes, over-easy eggs and scrapple kind of restaurant. Linoleum floors, mismatched tables and chairs, diner coffee cups from before Crate & Barrel started making them, and waitresses who know everybody in town, and every thing about every body. You know the kind of place–the hole-in-the-wall you only tried because you wanted something off the beaten path, and any shake-shack of a dive with that many pickup trucks in the parking lot had to have something going for it.
Once you try it, of course, you understand that this may well be the best breakfast joint you’ve ever had the supreme pleasure of visiting, and that unless you want a heart attack before your 50th birthday, you’d best not visit all that often.
We were not in western Maryland on Friday night, but our story starts there because when we are, my kids beg to go to Annie’s for breakfast. Pancakes, they say. At Annie’s.
So. Friday night was a meat-free night for our family. DH and I had enjoyed a large, late lunch and weren’t particularly hungry at 6 p.m., but the kids were starving. Wanting something simple in both the cooking and the clean-up department, I promised them pancakes; we’ve talked before about how I always make a mess of them and stow the extras in the freezer for very fast hot breakfasts later on. Pancakes for dinner become a two-fer in my house, and two-fers are gold this time of year.
I pulled out my handy-dandy copy of How to Cook Everything and flipped to the basic pancake recipe, and decided right then and there that it would be an outstanding night to muck around with it and see if there was any magic to be had in the healthy-but-good department. And so I swapped out this for that, upped this other thing over here, figured out how to add in a simple chemical reaction to give me lots of air bubbles in the batter and lighten things up (thank you, years of Alton Brown), messed with the mixing part a little bit, and produced a whole-wheat pancake. Which I spread with a little butter and a touch of syrup and served, without a word, to my little guys.
The 8-year-old took a bite and nodded and told me hers were really good. And the 10-year-old…guess what he said about these healthier pancakes with their grainy goodness?
“Mom…you made Annie’s pancakes! These are Annie’s!”
We had not, for the record, talked about Annie’s in weeks. Just so you know. And I am 99.99 percent confident that Annie’s pancakes are most definitely not whole wheat.
My kitchen smelled divine and I’ll have you know that my kids stuffed themselves with whole-wheat pancakes. The ingredient swaps and changes made them just as light and fluffy as regular flapjacks, and they froze and reheated beautifully so I still got my twofer. This recipe is absolutely our family’s new pancake standard, and I feel pretty darned good about that. I hope your family likes them just as much, because they are no more difficult than normal pancakes (which are really very easy). To make them, you need:
1 cup whole-wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur brand, which is soft and very easy to work with)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg plus two egg whites (the extra whites mean fluffy goodness with wheat flour)
2 tbsp vinegar mixed with enough milk to equal 1 1/2 cups (this’ll react with the baking soda for more fluffy stuff)
2 tbsp melted butter
Get your griddle heating up first–you want that bad boy to be screaming hot when the first pancake hits.
In a large bowl (I use my batter bowl), whisk together all the dry goods. Then, stir in the wet stuff with a whisk. Voila–your pancakes are ready to cook. Told you it was easy! Cook them on a hot griddle or fry pan until you see dry bubbles around the outer edges, and then flip them until they’re done.
Hint: The batter is going to fizz up a bit between batches as the baking soda and the vinegar get to know each other (and no you do not taste vinegar in these at all–trust me, my kids would revolt). Give the batter a quick stir before you pour each round of pancakes to get it to settle down and pour nicely for you. These are also going to want to stick to your griddle a bit, so give it a swipe of your nonstick goodness of choice between batches.
And don’t tell anybody our little wheat secret!