Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Pancakes smothered in warm maple syrup are the ultimate in breakfast comfort food.
We've been through a few attempts of gluten free pancake making. We didn't realise how much we would miss the taste of wheat until we tried a white rice flour pancake mix. The pancakes looked gorgeous and rose beautifully to give us the fluffy light pancakes we were used to eating with wheat flour pancakes. But the taste... there was no taste. It was a fluffy bland sponge for maple syrup.
Those spongy pancakes led me on a quest to reproduce their lofty lightness and add some flavour and nutrition. So we scrutinized the ingredients.
White rice flour and methyl cellulose...
The white rice flour was pretty apparent as the bulk of the sponge but what was methyl cellulose?
This was the magic fluff ingredient that gave the pancake mix it's loft. It turns out that methyl cellulose is a chemical compound derived from cellulose (plant walls if you remember your biology). It forms a gel when combined with water.... and the easiest way to get my hands on some was to buy some.... laxatives!?! No way.
Gluten free was getting weirder by the minute.
The gluten protein in wheat forms the structure for pancakes. It provides an elastic matrix or sponge for baked goods. Without gluten, there is nothing to hold onto the air and it just bubbles out of solution. In order to trap the bubbles, something else needs to be added to provide structure. This is where a gelatin's binding properties come into play. Without structure, you end up with a rice mud.
It turns out that gluten free cooking relies on a lot of different "gelling substances" to provide structure. Some of these gelling agents are a little more interesting than others. No, I wasn't about to slip laxatives into our food.
There is no getting around the fact that gluten free baking requires more flours and ingredients to replicate the products we love to eat. And we love to eat pancakes! After a few attempts, we finally came up with a mix that earned two thumbs up from the family.
For our pancake mix, flax seed meal gives a slightly nutty wheaty taste that just teases our taste buds while xanthan gum recreates the fluffy lightness of great wheat pancakes. The yellow corn flour lends a gorgeous golden hue and subtle taste that earned a thumbs up from the family. Brown rice flour imparts a nice taste and texture without being overwhelming. Both the brown rice flour and corn flour are flours, not starches. They don't squeak when you pinch 'em!
I think we have a winner for a gluten free breakfast. These are the monster pancakes my daughter whipped up for herself.Pancakes
1 cup of dry pancake mix*
1 cup warm milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Note: The warmer your wet ingredients, the thicker the batter and the fluffier your pancake. Just don't have them so hot that you cook your eggs.
Place the dry mix into a medium sized bowl. Add the wet ingredients, in order, directly to the dry ingredients. Mix well. It will be lumpy but will smooth out as you keep mixing. If the mix is too runny, add a tablespoon of dry mix. If the mix is too thick, add a bit more milk. The mix can be thinned with milk to make crepes. However, the batter should be thick if you really want big fluffy pancakes.
Cook over a hot griddle greased with unsalted butter. If the griddle is not hot enough, the pancakes will fail to rise in an impressive way.
This recipe makes 15 mom sized pancakes or 5 monster teenager pancakes. Even my hungry teenager eats only 2 monster pancakes.
*Pancake Dry Mix
1 & ½ cups yellow corn flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/6 cup tapioca starch
6 tsp baking powder
6 tsp flax seed meal
3 tsp xanthan powder
3 tsp white sugar
3/8 tsp salt
Sift all ingredients together and put in an airtight container. Store the container in the freezer to extend the shelf life. This is not a very sweet dry mix; if you wish a sweeter mix, double the sugar.
When you choose a flour for the pancake mix, be sure to choose one that has a taste that is appealing to you.
This can be your regular pancake mix.... bad bad pun.