(Freshly Milled) Feel Good Pancakes

Things are not feeling normal… When I work at the Bakehouse as the baker who likes to think, more often than not about the science of bread or how to formulate the next bread on the shelves, time seems to fly by so easily. Being busy is good and I love it. It gives me purpose, allows me to connect with all the wonderful folks at the Bakehouse and our guests who come to enjoy the Zingerman’s experience. I have been at home for five days now, maybe a few days more by the time you read this, and it feels like time is only creeping along.

Like many of you, I am doing things at home that make me feel better. In my case, a bit of yoga and meditation, walking/biking, some music or a nature show on the screen, watching my daughter get silly and practice multiplication, and of course cooking and eating meals together with my little family.

My cooking is adjusting, too. First, I felt panic—a need to cook a lot and freeze, and ration. I am the kind of person who likes to shop 2 to 3 times a week, and sometimes more, without having to keep a lot on hand. I like to cook based on my mood, what inspires me, and what’s in season. Now that I have to minimize the number of times I have to shop, I’ve felt this ‘tightness’ even in my most comfortable space, the kitchen that is. Well, that started changing on Sunday. I felt more at ease and I know, I believe it will get better. I even started milling some wheat last night and feeding my sourdough starter. 

So, this Sunday, as it has been the norm for the past many many Sundays, my daughter wanted pancakes. I am from the Mediterranean (think bread, cheese, tomatoes, and olives for a leisurely breakfast) but my daughter was born here like her mom. Pancakes for me were only the ones I knew from the International House of Pancakes from eating there back in my college days in Texas. They hold a different story for me now though… They have become one of my adopted comfort breakfast foods too. And what is better than cooking up a comfort food for your family to break the cold of these weird times!

Freshly milled flour at the Bakehouse

I came to the Bakehouse a little more than 3 years ago with a vision to freshly mill whole grains (yes, I’ve read our co-founder, Ari Weinzweig’s work on visioning before I landed in 40-inch stone millthis wonderful organization). Today, that vision is a reality with our 26-inch New American Stone Mill, which allows us to produce freshly milled whole grain flours for many of our baked goods. We even have a new 40-inch mill waiting for its spot in the Bakehouse to further our collective vision on producing freshly milled whole grain flours.

Whenever I talk to folks or teach about flours or milling, I tell them the difference in flavors and aromas between freshly milled flour and flour that’s been sitting around a while is like day and night. One has to experience it, taste something made with fresh flours to see the difference. So, I tell them (typically my hands full of freshly milled flour and specks of flour on my nose because I was smelling the flour!)—imagine waking up on a Sunday morning, milling some fresh flour using a countertop mill, like the Mockmill, and making pancakes. 

I got this tip about using pancakes as an easy canvas for freshly milled flours from the super passionate, flour ambassador, Amy Holloran, the author of The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf. Initially, I resisted. I said to myself I’d much prefer the challenge of a naturally fermented bread with fresh flour with all the nuances of fermentation, shaping, proofing, and baking…but one day, I gave the pancakes a shot and realized they are so easy, so forgiving, and such a treat! Plus, you can be so creative with them.

freshly milled pancakes

Pancakes with freshly milled flour

My recipe for pancakes is loosely based on the sourdough pancakes from the talented, poetic baker-teacher Tara Jensen’s book, A Baker’s Year, 12 Months of Baking and Living the Simple Life at the Smoke Signals Bakery. My wife also occasionally makes very simple banana pancakes for my daughter (simply a combination of a banana and two eggs), which I riff on in my trials.

So, in the spirit of encouraging you to make these pancakes your own, here is my guide—not really an exact recipe—for delicious, comforting pancakes. (If you prefer more precision, you’ll find a more standard format follows.)

  • Combine about a cup of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. If you want depth of flavor and want to taste the flavors of a grain (like einkorn, soft white wheat, barley, or rye), use freshly milled whole grain flours. If not, an all-purpose flour would totally work as well. Throw in some buckwheat flour or finely ground cornmeal too if you like! Just keep in mind that whole grain flours will be a bit more thirsty which you can counteract with adding a bit more liquid, like milk in this case.
  • For a bit of sweetness, you can either add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the flour mix above, or opt for something like honey, maple or date syrup, which you can include with the liquids that I mention below.
  • Separate the yolks and whites from two eggs. You will beat the whites into foam later, so placing them in a large metal bowl will be helpful. Into the bowl with the yolks, add about half a cup of plain yogurt, half cup of milk, and a glug of olive oil. Then, add a cup of some liquid sourdough starter you may have on hand. It can be the discards you have been saving in the fridge (just get rid of any boozy liquid that accumulates on the surface), or it can be a fresh feed from the night before. If it is a stiff starter, you can dissolve it in a bit of milk or water. The sourdough will add complexity to the flavors and a nice textural element, a bit of a chew. If you don’t have sourdough, no worries, just compensate with a bit more yogurt. If you haven’t added any sugar to the dry ingredients, this is the time to add in your sweetener of choice as well.
  • Another option is to include some mashed bananas or some other fruit in the wet mixture. The other day, I added some grated local apples and used apple cider for some of the milk! I even spiced it up with a bit of cinnamon and crushed fennel seeds to go with the apples. I also still remember this Food & Wine magazine pancake recipe from the 2000’s that had the rustic combination of cornmeal and blueberries, like our blueberry muffins we make at the Bakehouse. Be creative!
  • Whisk the wet mixture really well. Slowly add and stir in the dry mixture until all the dry bits are just incorporated. If it looks too wet, stir in a bit more flour. If it is not wet enough, stir in a bit more milk.
  • Heat up your cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium-high. You want it hot enough to give the pancakes good color on the surface while letting them cook through. 
  • Beat your egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold in the resulting foam gently into the wet mixture you have going in your other bowl; it will get fluffy and light.
  • My daughter likes small pancakes, so I typically use a quarter cup size scoop to drop the batter into the lightly oiled hot skillet. Let the pancakes cook on one side until you see bubbles starting to form and pop on the surface. Flip and cook a bit more until nicely colored, 4 to 5 minutes in all. I like to cook all the pancakes and save them on a big platter in a slightly warmed oven. 
  • Then comes the best part where the family comes together! Enjoy with some butter and maple syrup, or a homemade blueberry sauce.

freshly milled pancakes with blueberry sauce

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5 from 1 vote

Feel Good (Freshly Milled) Pancakes

These are flexible pancakes that can be made with freshly milled flour (or not!) and sourdough starter (or not!) that just might become a new weekend tradition. For more information on the ingredients and suggestions for how to riff on this recipe, see the notes above.
Course: Breakfast

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour all-purpose or freshly milled
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 eggs yolks and whites separated
  • 1 banana, mashed (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  • Place the egg whites into a large metal bowl and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, add the egg yolks, yogurt, milk, olive oil, sourdough starter, and banana, if using. Whisk the wet mixture really well.
  • Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, stirring as you go, until all the dry bits are just incorporated. If it looks too wet, stir in a bit more flour. If it is not wet enough, stir in a bit more milk.
  • Heat up your cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium-high. You want it hot enough to give the pancakes good color on the surface while letting them cook through.
  • Beat your egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold in the resulting foam gently into the batter; it will get fluffy and light.
  • Use a quarter cup size scoop to drop the batter into the lightly oiled, hot skillet. Let the pancakes cook on one side until you see bubbles starting to form and pop on the surface. Flip and cook a bit more until nicely colored, 4 to 5 minutes in all.
  • I like to cook all the pancakes and save them on a big platter in a slightly warmed oven. Enjoy with some butter and maple syrup, or a homemade blueberry sauce.

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Robin Kline
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Robin Kline

5 stars
What an inspiring post! Thank you. Gonna have pancakes, really soon. I enjoyed your explaining the ingredients and how to adjust recipe to … my own kitchen and the size of my family. Now, I’ve got to get my grain mill out….! Thank you for piquing my appetite for freshly milled flour.

Hazim
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Hazim

Very glad to hear! Hope you enjoy with your family 🙂