When my daughter was born she reminded us of a monkey, the way she curled up on our chest. One day she was napping in her little monkey ball wearing one of our favorite onesies, sock monkeys all over it, and it came to us that that’s what she needed to be for her first Halloween. After spending night after night crocheting together a homemade sock monkey costume from various parts of various patterns in various books I got her dressed on Halloween morning in her first mama-made costume. That day I was slapped in the face by an overwhelming excitement that I hadn’t expected, when I realized that I had daydreamed, for years, about how much fun it was going to be to craft with and for my kids one day. And here I was, actually doing it, with my daughter, who was really here in my life. Well I was gladly slapped in the face again this weekend when another one of those pre-baby daydreams came to life for me.
In the nine years my husband and I have been together he has typically been the cook of the couple… until it comes to pancakes… then I wear the apron in this relationship. For some reason pancakes are just something I’ve been able to perfect, maybe because they’re one of those comforting, homey foods I’ve enjoyed as long as I can remember. If we’re being honest it just doesn’t make sense that someone who can make a box of mac’n’cheese taste like she threw sand in it could also make a thick but light and fluffy pancake from scratch. But I don’t ask too many questions.
This past Saturday I woke up with a hankering for pancakes, and with my nine month old now eating solid food like it aint no thing and wanting to put everything you’re eating in her mouth too, I knew it was the day we would share our first pancake.
Now typically I would turn to the Joy of Cooking pancake recipe, which is a classic, with that traditional pancake flavor. But I also try to cook healthier versions of things where I can, and knowing that my nine month old would be eating it too, decided it was a day for returning to one of the healthier pancake recipes I’d found in the past. So I went to my bookmarks bar and pulled up a Whole Wheat-Applesauce Pancake recipe I’d tried out in the past from Nick Jr. (yeah, what? recipes at nick jr.?) to launch my healthy pancake Saturday from.
With how simple making pancakes from scratch is I’m surprised so many people still use mixes. Maybe it’s just an unknown secret that needs to be shared far and wide, because believe you-me, I am L-to-the-AZY when it comes to the kitchen and pancakes from scratch are still a snap… as in “oh, snap, I just made pancakes from scratch!” Even doing them the fancy way takes just a few extra minutes. So if you’re thinking at this point this is not for you, stick with me, hear me out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and you’ll feel like a bad ass when you’ve made a better and beautiful pancake from scratch all by your onesies.
Sugar-Free Whole Wheat Applesauce Pancakes
This recipe, modified from the Nick Jr. recipe and the Joy of Cooking technique, made 7 small to medium pancakes which, once paired with sliced nectarine and pear, was enough food for our family of three.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. You can just measure them out and whisk to mix, or you can sift the flours, then remeasure and re-sift them in to the bowl along with the remaining dry ingredients. This extra step isn’t imperative, but helps make sure you don’t have too much flour packed in and kicks off your overall pancake lightness.
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2t baking powder
1/4t cinnamon (because I don’t have “apple pie spice”)
In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. If your melted butter is hot, be careful as you add it to the egg so at to not cook the egg. It’s best to just heat your butter long enough to melt it, then slowly pour it in to the rest of the wet mixture while whisking. This also helps make sure the butter won’t re-clump if the wet mixture is too cold.
1T agave nectar
1 egg yolk (save the white in it’s own bowl!)
3/4 cups milk of your choice (we’re an Almond milk family, so that’s what I used)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (we were lucky enough to have some homemade stuff from my mother-in-law)
1T melted butter (we are a non-dairy house due to my daughter’s milk protein allergy so I used a non-dairy margarine myself)
Now for that egg white… with a clean, dry whisk, beat the egg white until it’s light and fluffy and holds soft peaks. This is not a mandatory step, you can leave the egg whole and put it all in to the wet ingredients, but you’d be making a big mistake… big, huge… so stick with me for this.
Once you’re satisfied that your dry ingredients and wet ingredients are well mixed independently of each other, you can combine them. I like to pour my bowl of wet ingredients in to a well in the middle of the dry all at once. Then whisk quickly until just combined. Don’t over whisk, or you’ll just start to make your batter runny and you’ll be setting yourself up for a flat pancake.
At this point take a moment to get your pan ready to go. I use a griddle that goes across two burners, but you should use your own favorite non-stick pan or skillet. You want to lightly coat it with butter or oil, and start warming it up to a medium heat.
Now, at the last minute before you’re ready to put your batter on the heat, you’re going to gently fold in your fluffy egg white. I do this using the same 1/4 cup measuring scoop I subsequently use to scoop the batter on to the griddle, scooping up batter and folding it over the whites. You could also use a spoon or spatula, but don’t use a whisk. You’re trying to disperse the fluffed white through the batter without breaking it down too much. You’re folding that air in. The bowl at right is how it should look fully combined.
You’re ready for the griddle. You can make your pancakes as big or small as you like. I like small and medium sizes because you feel like you’re treating yourself to a lot of food. You can also go back for one more without feeling too guilty. Added bonus, you can fit a lot of them on the pan at one time. However you choose to do it is A-OK.
Pancakes should not be cooked quickly. Let them take their time, cook them on a nice medium heat. You don’t want the bottom to be getting too brown when the rest of the pancake isn’t set-up enough to flip yet. Once you see the edges start to firm up, and you can slide a spatula under there without wet batter smearing all over it, you can check the bottom to see if it is a pretty golden brown color. If so, it’s time for the flip.
My secret to a good flip… acting quickly. Slide your spatula under the pancake confidently in one swift go, don’t hesitate, this will get the pancake to slide on smoothly, then flip it over in one quick motion. If it lands kind of hard and splatters, just push the batter back against the side of the pancake. This can take practice, so just give it a go. The worst flips I’ve had are when I don’t go in to it confidently and wind up folding it in half on itself or tearing it in half all together. If this happens to you, you’re on a list with the best of them. Just try to unfold it and go again, let the pancake be a halfer, whatever you want to do, they’re still going to taste delightful.
The pancake needs less time on the second side, but you still want to make sure your pan doesn’t get too hot. The second side can brown a lot faster. The important thing is that your pancake is cooked all the way through, which takes a few minutes for such a thick delicious beast of a pancake like these.
Once both sides are golden and almost a little crispy and your center is cooked you’re ready to serve it up with whatever fixings you like. I’m a fan of fresh fruit; I also am a big proponent of peanut butter and honey pancake topping. Both pair nicely with these whole wheat applesauce cakes. If you’re not serving right away, say you’re waiting to make several batches before serving them, consider keeping them spread out on a tray in the oven to stay warm and keep them from getting soggy from their own steam.
I hope you and yours enjoy this recipe. If not, tweak it. Maybe you don’t like Agave Nectar and want to sweeten it another way, or go back to the traditional 1 tablespoon of sugar. Maybe you think it’s too gooey in the center and want to reduce the amount of liquid for a cakier pancake. Maybe you don’t like thick pancakes, a classic to you is thin, then don’t separate the white and see how that goes. Pancakes are one of those diverse foods that is personal to everyone in a different way.
It was so much fun to get to watch my little girl enjoy her first of mommy’s pancakes. An excitement I still look forward to enjoying with her in new and fun ways through out her life. From making shaped pancakes and colorful ones when she’s a little older, to making them for the first time together when she’s yet a little older. Here are some creative pancake ideas from other bloggers to enjoy with your family:
What are the things you look(ed) forward to sharing with your wee ones?