Saturday, March 1, 2014

Zen and the Art of Pancakes

"Last night," my husband told me, "I was dreaming of pancakes."


I have to admit I'm a bit of a pancake Grinch.  I'm not all that excited about eating pancakes, and I have a history of getting grumpy while I make them.

But what could I do getting such a poetic response to "what do you want for breakfast?"  That's right, I made 100% whole wheat buttermilk pancakes.

Credit for this recipe goes to Whole Grain Gourmet, one of my all-time favorite websites.  Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes is a lovely gourmet recipe fragrant with grated orange peel.  In an attempt to make the pancakes of my husband's dreams, I've made many little changes to the recipe.  Here's my version:

Buttermilk Pancakes for Weekend Mornings

Dry:
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2  tbsp turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

Wet:
1 cup 1% buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp canola oil

Mix dry ingredients.  In a separate container whisk together the wet.  Stir the dry into the wet to form a batter. Add a little extra buttermilk if you want thinner batter.  My husband doesn't count them as pancakes unless I add chocolate chips.  Cook on griddle at 400° F. Edges should look totally dry before you flip them.

This is such a deceptively simple recipe.  Deceptive, because I didn't list the critical ingredient, patience.

Below are two photos of pancakes on the griddle.  The first pancake included patience, the second did not.




Once you flip a pancake too soon there is no going back.  It retains a pale, flabby, and extremely unappetizing appearance no matter how long you leave it on the griddle.  It's imperative to leave the poured batter on the griddle alone, untouched, not even peeking underneath for a good check, until the perfect moment.  And there is no way to predict the perfect moment.  It depends on the thickness of the batter, how much you poured, the exact temperature on that zone of the griddle.  Knowing when to flip the pancake is a matter of allowing the perfect moment to arrive in its own time, then noticing it.

Allowing things to happen is very difficult for me.  I grew up believing that if I wanted to achieve something, I should strategize and work toward it every waking moment, with all my heart and all my might.  For many years I stood over pancakes, counting the minutes, adjusting the heat, watching for the formation of bubbles, and calculating the width of the dried edge of the batter.  My pancakes came out mostly white and flabby and I came out of the kitchen frustrated and mad.

Making pancakes is a zen-like art of patience and relaxed attention.  Some weekend mornings once I pour the batter on the griddle, I enjoy my sunny kitchen, start the tea, feed the cats, chat happily with my husband.  Other mornings I just want to finish breakfast and get onto other things.  And if I want to know whether I'm in a place allowing life to unfold, or trying to force it, all I have to do is take a look at the pancakes.

Through yoga practice I've come to realize that there are some things in life that can't be forced, and which actually get choked by constant tinkering and checking: the blossoming of a flower, being found by a cat, opening tight hips in a yoga pose, falling in love.  And, of course, getting that perfect golden color on a pancake.





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