Monday, 8 February 2016

It's flippin' pancake day! Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes

I'm seriously thinking of opening a pancake bar.  I mean, you can throw just about anything in there and they look great piled up high with something runny dripping down the sides.
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, but don't ask me for a detailed chronicle of what that means.  I know it's important to those it's important to.  I also know that it signals the start of Lent, a period when people sacrifice indulgences for 40 days.  And it's the day when lots of those indulgences are celebrated.  Mardi Gras.  Fat Tuesday.
Well, in an attempt not to get too mardi, I've been searching for some creative pancake ideas to goodness-up the sweet versions.  The Big Small has requested sweetcorn pancakes for dinner tomorrow, which he'll dip in some manner of sticky sauce.  You can find a basic recipe here or a more interesting courgette, corn and cheese one over at Girl Versus Dough (I would replace flour with wholewheat spelt in either).
And as for the sweeties, I've had a go at a few new ideas over the last couple of days.  My big pan has hardly been off the heat.  First, I tried this recipe for Butternut Squash Maple Oat Pancakes from Skinny Fitalicious (that's got to be Amercian, right?!)  I used the flax egg / vanilla options but must admit to playing about with the volumes of squash and oat flour that I added.  Basically, there was more squash mush in half a roasted squash than required - but just a little - so I plopped it in.  And I'd ground a bit more oat flour than I needed - but just a little - so I poured it in and stirred quickly, before I really saw it.  Then I added some water as it was sooo thick.  Like, you could totally drop them in the pan and then pull them up into a cross-section of the Sydney Opera House.  (Why didn't I do that?)
They took aaaages to cook, and the tip to make them small so they flip more easily was a good one.  They were very soft in the pan but I left them to cool on a rack and they firmed up.  They're hearty and great for a not-so-sweet breakfast, with bonus veggie content!  They are yet to be tested on The Smalls but I'll let you know what 'hilarious' comments they receive (The Smalls are anti-squash). [Update: "I actually like them.  I can't even taste the butternut squash." - The Bigger Small, aged 3-and-a-half]

I've got plans for the other half of that roasted squash and those plans are these Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes from Simply Quinoa.  This girl uses quinoa in everything.  Everything.  Lots of recipes call for quinoa flour, which I've never used, but these have the cooked stuff in them and I have a tub waiting in the fridge.  Fingers crossed I get a chance tonight.  Haven't even washed the pan.
The other recipe I have my eye on is this one for Carrot Coconut Pancakes over at Self Proclaimed Foodie.  There are loads of version around (search for Carrot Cake pancakes!) but this one ticks my boxes: oats, Greek yoghurt, applesauce, coconut milk and flour...I'm actually drooling atlittle just thinking about them!  Fingers crossed I get a chance tonight...oh, wait a minute...  [Update:  I have these on the go NOW!  They are taking an age to cook - about 5 minutes on the first side - but they are delicate and delicious.  The Smalls are eating 'em much faster than I can make 'em.]
And then I made these.  Chocolate brown, puffy clouds of yummm. 

Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes (GF)

with thanks to Gina from So...Let's Hang Out 

image from So...Let's Hang Out
With a base of buckwheat and cocoa flours, these are just so light and fuffy.  The buckwheat flavour is strong at first but a lot less the next day and is not so overwhelming for those not accustomed to it.

I followed Gina's recipe but reduced the maple syrup to 3 tablespoons.  I try to minimise the sweetener in most things but especially in pancakes as you reserve the right to drizzle some syrup over when serving.
Man, I could have just drunk the mix of wet ingredients. Phwoaar.  Make sure you heed her instruction to combine the wet and dry mixes by gently.  Buckwheat flour is very fine and will get you in the eye otherwise.  The batter looks like a spoonable chocolate sponge cake mix.  Mine was a little thick so I added a splash of water.

I used rapeseed oil instead of coconut in the pan.  The bubbles appeared after a couple of minutes and, if you get the right moment, you'll see the wee guy puff up as he hits the pan on the second side, accompanied by a satisfying little hissss.  A minute or two on the other side and the pancakes were ready.  

These chocolate and buckwheat pancakes are thick and fluffy and look really naughty.  The buckwheat flour gives them a distinctive flavour that I love.  These will be our breakfast on Tuesday morning, perhaps served with some sliced banana and a few toasted hazelnuts.  Happy Pancake Day!  But try not to get too mardi... 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Ready, Steady...Bake! Quick breakfast muffins

Lots of my friends tell me that they can't bake.  Not just that they don't, but that they actually can't.  I try not to let my eyebrows twitch upwards.  "Of course you can," I think.

You know, I think The Great British Bake Off has a lot to answer for.  I fondly remember the first series, when the contestants were asked to bake a Victoria sandwich and a batch of scones.  They pushed the boundaries with their flavour combos, and their ability to do the simpe things well meant success.  I got that.  I made those things.  It was accessible.  Now, these folk have to whip up bread sculptures, 20-odd layer German tree cakes and biscuit replicas of national monuments!  I'm all for aspiration, but none of that does much for the confidence of those who feel they are skill-deficient in the baking arena.  

If you think about it, most of the awkward tecniques in traditional baking are all to do with the eggs (whisking to soft peaks, folding in dry ingredients, beating into a warm mixture without scrambling) and the gluten (kneading and proving bread dough, not overmixing muffins, etc.)  So in my quest for wacky, wonderful bakes, lots of these issues are avoided.  Hoorah!  And, whilst I do enjoy the ocassional kitchen faff, I much prefer a bish-bash-bosh approach to baking.  Ideally, one that takes less than 20 minutes from cupboards to oven, including the washing up.

So, for those of you who reckon you can't bake, I challenge you to try just one recipe this week - and why not make it a healthier one?  My courgette and banana muffins were the happy solution to a two-fold problem: lots of squishy bananas and a couple of bendy courgettes (that's zucchini if you're across 'the pond').  I also had some applesauce (I've decided to go with the one-word version, as if it's a technical term and therefore negates proper usage) that hadn't made it to the freezer yet.  

I generally try to avoid baking with bananas unless I'm making something that's out-and-out banana-ey.  I find that they take over and are all you can taste.  In these muffins though, you can't really taste the banana or the courgette.  What's the point then, you may ask!  Well, they're quite neutral in flavour, so they can pass for sweet or savoury (although I've put in options to make them sweeter), and they are packed full of goodness.  There's no butter or oil and they can easily be adapted to suit gluten-free or vegan diets.  They're also quite filling, portable, versatile, umm, and they have not yet been proven incapable of solving World Peace.  Ahem. 

So I bished, I bashed and I boshed.  You should totally do the same...

Courgette & Banana Muffins (GF & vegan options)

makes 18 regular or 12 biiig muffins

what you'll need
3 large bananas, mashed
1 cup finely grated courgette (I used 2 small, bendy ones)
1 egg (for a vegan option, replace with a chia or flax 'egg')
¾ cup applesauce
optional: 1 TBSP vanilla extract and/or 3 TBSP maple syrup if you want sweeter muffins

½ cup wholewheat spelt flour*
½ cup rye flour*
½ cup coconut flour*
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 cup oatmeal (aka oat flour, aka ground oats)
½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
optional: you can also add a couple of handfuls of raisins or other dried fruits, some desiccated coconut, some chopped nuts or a mixture of all three.  In fact, just throw anything you fancy in there and see how they turn out!

a muffin tray (or two), lined with paper cases, an oven preheated to 180°C and a cooling rack

*If you've just got plain wheat flour, use that (although I recommend that you trade up to wholewheat as your cupboard staple).  If you've just got plain wholewheat flour, use that (although I recommend that you trade up to wholewheat spelt as your cupboard staple - see what happened there?).  You can use 1½ cups wholewheat spelt flour. 

If you need a gluten-free version, use your favourite GF flour blend, although remember that you will lose a lot of the wholesome character (and nutrients) if you use a white rice and corn-based pre-mix.  I may update this with my own blend suggestions when I get a damn chance.

what you'll do
  • combine the wet ingredients (bananas, courgettes, applesauce, egg & vanilla/syrup) in a large mixing bowl (no need for an electric mixer here)
  • in a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Tip in any bran and oatmeal goodness left in the sieve.
  • stir together (adding any optional extras at this point) until combined and spoon into the muffin cases
  • bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer/toothpick comes out clean
  • cool on a wire rack then store in the fridge

These wholesome, hearty muffins would be great with some yoghurt for breakfast or on their own as a filling snack on the go.  As I say, they're subtle in flavour and, if you go for the standard version, they aren't particularly sweet - think replacement for bread or bagel as opposed to coffee shop cake.  I've had two for breakfast spread with peanut butter and another two with a fried egg (no, on a separate day, you cheeky beggar).  How will you eat yours?  Leave a comment or let me know on facebook.  Enjoy!