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pancakes for an ordinary day

March 16th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Little that’s gone on lately has been ordinary, especially in other parts of the world. I’ve watched a few videos, scanned the headlines and saw a few photos, but for the most part, I’ve stayed far, far away from immersing myself in the news coverage of what’s gone on in Japan. I’m not posting on Facebook about it; I don’t tweet, or retweet about it. And quite frankly, if you want to call me insensitive, go ahead. That’s your right. Just remember that it’s my right too, to decide how I deal with it. And this is how I manage it, because the last time I was soaked in a tragedy, it ended up being stuck with me for the rest of my life.

Back when the world seemed a lot less harsh, I woke on a gorgeous September morning in Las Vegas, ready to spend my day at an International Baking Convention. I was the office manager for a large wholesale bakery in the Cities, and was there to check out new equipment, new software, and new procedures, and I never got the chance. Because that morning was the 11th, in 2001. And we all know what happened then. I watched the entire horror play out on television, right in front of me. I watched bodies plummet through the sky; I watched people on the streets, staring in terror. I watched those towers fall and I cried my eyes out. The country fell apart before my eyes, and I was stranded thousands of miles from home. Everywhere I went for the next six days until I returned home, it was like the tragedy was embedded in my skin, my ears, my eyes. It was all everyone talked about. It was on every television, in every podunk spot that the car stopped as I made my way home, across the gorgeous country amidst the worst times in recent memory. Yes, my boss and I drove home from Nevada; it took 2-1/2 days. We drove through the mountains of the West, through Utah and Colorado and were surrounded by stunning vistas while the sorrow poured out of the radio. A pall had settled on the nation and every gas station, every coffee shop, every tiny diner along the way were full of grim faces and tears. It’s been 10 years since that all happened and I still can see every detail; I can still feel my stomach sinking in agony, like it did that morning while I watched, unable to tear my eyes away. If I catch a glimpse of the clock, and it happens to read 9:11, I can’t get away from the image it leaves with me. And I can’t fill my head, again, with such sorrow.

I’m a sponge; I absorb my surroundings and it gets under my skin to stay with me. And it isn’t just events. It’s people, it’s daily situations, it’s the crabby strangers in passing, the nasty drivers on the road. Negativity can easily fill me up and just as easily take me down. I need to protect myself from drowning in it and so I simply turn away. It’s isn’t that I don’t care. The problem is that I care too much and me, this tiny individual, can’t offer much more than a solitary prayer of compassion. My repetitive tweets won’t do anyone any good; yet another posting on yet another heart-wrenching video won’t do anything. There are plenty of people to spread the news, and I just turn and walk away because to do otherwise would be more images seared in my brain that will stick with me forever. I can’t do that to myself. It’s bad enough that in the darkness I sometimes still see a burning skyscraper, and bodies falling through the smoke. After 10 years you’d think they would fade, but they haven’t. Even the few images of the destruction in Japan won’t replace the shocking pictures of that gorgeous September morning. In fact, they’ve joined them. And that’s not something I need.

So I made pancakes.

Because I needed to feel ordinary and plain, to have something of a constant come up during a time that is now written indelibly in the history books. And for me, it was Pancakes. And not just any Pancakes; these were Wheat Crumb Pancakes, made with fresh bread crumbs as the base. It was odd, to say the least, and maybe not exactly what I would reach for to try and raise some ordinary sense to my day, but it worked. Strangely enough.

The recipe came from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book. I picked this book up at a used book store many years ago, and it languished in my cookbook cupboard for a long time. I glanced at it once or twice, but never really absorbed it, and last year in a book purge, I almost added it to the boxes I was giving away. But something made me leave it on the shelf and I’m so glad I did because what exists in those pages is a treasure trove of simple, hearty, wholesome and flavorful breakfast recipes, and everyone I’ve tried has been delicious. These Wheat Crumb Pancakes were amazing; fluffy and light and so flavorful. I added some texture to them by tossing finely chopped honey-roasted peanuts into the batter, and replacing some of the liquid with pureed mango and peaches. They cook up thick and hearty, and beg for a dousing of maple syrup. A plate of them set my emotions and grounded me, just as I had hoped they would.


Wheat Crumb Pancakes

1-1/2 c. fresh wheat bread crumbs
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
2 T. butter
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan until butter is melted and milk is hot. Pour over bread crumbs and let stand for 5-10 minutes, stirring to fully combine.

Add flour, eggs, baking powder and salt to bread crumb mix. Fold together until just mixed and let stand for a few minutes. Cook pancakes on stovetop, or an electric skillet. Top with maple syrup and butter, if desired, or toppings of choice.

From ‘The Breakfast Book’ by Marion Cunningham

NOTE: Fresh bread crumbs can be made from several slices of good quality whole wheat bread. Place them in a food processor and process until they’re the size of peas. Do not sub in dried bread crumbs, croutons or Panko. I like to keep a ziploc bag of fresh breads crumbs in the freezer. Any leftover bread gets processed and added to the bag. The crumbs are wonderful to have on hand for many uses in the kitchen.



More Pancake love from Kate’s Kitchen:

Whole Grain Pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes with Winter Fruit Compote

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Fresh Cherry Syrup

Fresh Blueberry Syrup



Time for bread

October 19th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

I really need to make more of it. Time that is, especially when I can get this……

WW MG bread6627

for something like 15 minutes of actual work; like getting my hands messy, watching the mixer spin and covering a bowl with plastic kind of work. Whoa. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But really, I should do this more often.

WW MG bread6623

Maybe it’s because I don’t think bread photographs all that well. Like soup. I can make soup once a week but you rarely read about it here because it isn’t all that glamorous and hates to pose when the camera comes out. Some foods you can’t keep down if you tried. The camera turns on and they pose the heck out of themselves, flashing their merits for the lens to find, almost shouting ‘Look at me!!’ in their desire to be seen. And loved. Bread is just sort of there. The color isn’t superb and eye-catching; you can’t really show off the crumb in any photo and there’s no flashy edges, roasted and burnished, that tell it’s tale. And it’s bread. It’s a vehicle for your cheese, peanut butter, jam or fruit butter. It gets smothered in mayonnaise. No wonder it just sits there when the camera comes out. Rarely is bread honored on it’s own, although some of the best breads I have ever eaten can offer up their finest attributes with nary a spread in sight. But let’s face it. When you go for bread, you almost always have the thought of placing something on it, covering it up and hiding it from view, mashing it down in a press, or cooking it over a flame. Maybe over time, bread has developed somewhat of a complex, and when the camera points its way, it probably sighs and thinks ‘Oh great, next it will be the peanut butter jar. Or that god-awful mayo crap. Or that fabulous sharp cheddar in the fridge, maybe with chutney.’ It’s time to behold the bread. To claim it for the amazing food that it is, to place it forefront in the kitchen, to give it it’s due. To make time for it. To take 21 pictures of it like I did in an exhaustive effort to bring out the best of it, to try to make it shine. As I tapped ‘Command + Delete’ over and over again, sighing in frustration, the coarse and hearty crumb of this bread still playing on my tongue, I decided that the bread just needed to tell it’s own story in the only way it could. It needs to be made to be appreciated.

For five years of my life, I worked in the office of an artisan bakery and was subjected daily to fresh baked bread of all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some days all I could manage for lunch was to grab a ciabatta roll and maybe a little ham. Sometimes it was a Sesame Semolina loaf, a snappy and crisp Baguette or the mouth-puckering Sourdough Boule. My desk usually would be covered in crumbs, and when I cleaned out my keyboard, yep- you guessed it- crumbs. My daily log book was filled with crumbs. They crunched under my shoes, and almost every day as I exited the building and passed the rack of breads that were left, I would grab one to take home for Griffin. But I was surrounded by the wonder of all things yeast and it cemented a love for bread in me that lives strong still, nearly eight years after I left the job. I never really thought about how fortunate I was then, but now, when I want something yeasty, that snaps with a shower of golden snowy crumbs all over my lap, that’s what I think about.

And I need to give it the time and attention it should have, time it deserves and way more than I do, which is a rarity. Even if most of that time is spent gazing at a plastic covered bowl, faint drafts of yeast and flour emitting from within, while I sigh heavily, dreaming of warm bread covered with melted butter, a drizzle of honey or a gooey slice of melted Brie. The warmth of a 400° oven easily chases the chill of an October Sunday away, while I doze through the NFL game, one synapsis just awake enough to keep track of the time passing and bringing me ever closer to those dark brown loaves. And the smell. God really knew what He was doing when He created bread, didn’t He? Somebody say ‘Amen’.

Whole Wheat Multi Grain Bread
From The Essential Eating Well Cookbook

1-3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. 7-Grain cereal (Bob’s Red Mill makes a delicious one)
2 T. milk powder
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp.)
1-1/4 t. salt
1-1/3 c. water
2 T. molasses (I did not have any, subbed in unsw.applesauce and loved the result)
1- 1/2 T. canola oil

Fit your Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. Spray a medium bowl with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flours, cereal, milk powder, yeast and salt in the mixer bowl and blend on low speed for about a minute. Whisk together the water, molasses and oil until combined, and then with the mixer running on low, slowly pour the liquids into the flour mixture. When fully combined, stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest in the bowl for 30 minutes.

Turn the mixer on to low again, and mix the dough for about a minute stirring in about 2 more tablespoons of wheat flour. The dough will not form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Scrape the dough into the prepared bowl and cover the top with plastic. Allow to rise until doubled in size- 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Coat a standard loaf pan with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle a little more flour over the top. Carefully collect the dough together to form a loaf and place in pan. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled in size, 50 minutes to an hour.

Bake at 400° for 35-40 minutes, until top of loaf is golden brown and there is a hollow sound when you tap on the top. Allow to cool in pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Bob’s Red Mill makes a 5-Grain, 7-Grain and 10-Grain cereal mix. Although the recipe calls for the 7-Grain, I used the 10-Grain as it was what I had on hand. Either of the three varieties would work just fine in the proper quantity. I was a little skeptical about the amount of time the dough mixed after the rest period. It seems pretty short and does not seem to develop the gluten much like other methods. However, the result of the loaf tasted really good, with a dense and coarse multi-grain crumb and a nice texture. I might experiment with the amount of mixing time to see what the end result might be. I doubled the recipe and both loaves were a bit short but I might have baked them sooner than they should have though.