Pancakes That Won’t Put You to Sleep After Seven Bites

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 17 2013 10:06 AM

Make Pancakes With Whole Grains and Fruit—Not Because They’re Healthy, Because They’re Good

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Superior pancakes

Photo by James Ransom

Dinner vs. Child is a biweekly column about cooking for children, and with children, and despite children, originally published in Food52 and now appearing on Brow Beat.

Today: Nicholas loads his pancakes with whole grains and fruit—not because it's healthy, just because it's good.

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I have a tortured relationship with pancakes. I have talked publicly about this before; I am not ashamed. Basically, I adore pancakes. And pancakes repay my affection by sending me into a Rip Van Winkle-like weekend stupor from which I only awake when the toddler, desperate to be fed, starts teething on my ankles. 

But there comes a time when a father, no matter how many recipes he still has not made in The Breakfast Book, has to make pancakes. It’s stipulated in a clause somewhere in the appendix to the Contract of American Fatherhood. (You sign it, sleep-deprived, at the hospital; no one ever remembers it. It’s also why fathers are obligated to play interminable games of catch with their sons. You think they enjoy that?) Don’t think you can weasel out of this by making crêpes. Leggings are not pants, and crêpes are not pancakes.  

In any case, after many lengthy, batter-focused sessions with my therapist, my occasional weekend pancakes have: 1) less white flour; 2) more fruit.

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Better than blueberries

Photo by James Ransom

I know that reads like a parody of a health-conscious recipe adaptation for children. (You know what I’m talking about: the just-add-chia-seeds-to-your-cookies sort of recipe. Which I swear I just made up but turns out to totally exist.) But health-conscious recipe adaptations are in clear violation of the standards and best practices of this column. This column does not think that the best way to get your child to eat fruit is to hide it in a pancake. It thinks that the best way to get your child to eat fruit is to give said child fruit. It also thinks that any sort of smuggling—and here I am refusing to link to a chocolate-broccoli cupcake recipe—is modeling bad behavior. It may start with healthy vegetables. But who knows where such smuggling will end?

I am interested in none of the many good reasons to use less white flour and more fruit. I do not want you to use less white flour for nutritional reasons. I do not want you to use less white flour because the children are our future. I want you to use less white flour and more fruit because pancakes with less white flour and fruit are superior pancakes. They are more like a pancake and less like the top of a muffin.

A pancake made with white whole wheat flour—which is much milder than the standard red whole wheat—has some weight to counterbalance the maple syrup. It has some taste besides maple syrup. It has some complexity. And it will not put you to sleep after seven bites.

And it will have, if I am making it, a high ratio of fruit to batter. Not blueberries but fruit that will caramelize: bananas, peaches, apples. Once the pancakes are on the griddle, the tops are covered with slices of fruit, which, once flipped, will grow soft and golden. I like some fruit in every bite, so much that the batter only peeks through the slices. If your fruit caramelized nicely, you can flip the pancakes again to serve, so that the golden slices are on top. Think of it, if you must, as pancake tatin.

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Photo by James Ransom

1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
⅓ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup yogurt
A few fruits of your choice: bananas, peaches, apples all work well

Nicholas Day's book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World, was published in April 2013. Follow him on Twitter.