Our daughter loves books. She reads them in the car, on the couch, in bed at night before she falls asleep. She hands us books that she wants us to read to her, again and again. She has so many favorites that I won’t even start to list them here.
However, only one book makes us get off the couch and move into the kitchen to start cooking: Pancakes for Breakfast.
Lu loves this book with no words. A woman wakes up on a sunny winter’s morning with pancakes in her head. She must have some. But she discovers that uh-ho! She’s out of milk. She milks the cow. She returns to discover she has no eggs. She goes to the barn to collect some. She even churns butter by hand, for goodness’ sake! She buys maple syrup from a man standing by his maple trees. Clearly, those were going to be the best pancakes of all time. However, tragically, she returns home to find the dog and cat have eaten most of the ingredients and spilled the rest on the floor. “Uh-oh!” Lu always says when we reach this page. “What happened?”
(I sort of gloss over the fact that the book ends with the woman barging into her neighbors’ house and eating all their pancakes!)
Whenever we read this book, Lu looks up at me and says, “Make pancakes now, Mama?”
How can I resist? Lu knows what a recipe is from looking at this book. (I think she’s impressed that we wrote a cookbook because it means our book is like Pancakes for Breakfast.) She knows how to whisk flours and she’s learning how to crack eggs to make pancakes. (My hand is on hers when she does it.) And when she eats pancakes with us at the table, she licks her lips and says, “Yum! Really good!”
For awhile, we actually hid the book because we couldn’t eat any more pancakes. However, lately, there have been a lot of pancakes around here.
You see, about a month ago, I had this idea in the shower. Today, a bunch of some of the best gluten-free bakers and bloggers on the web are bringing that idea to fruition.
Welcome to The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally.
Every baked good has grown easier to make and much more delicious since I started baking by weight.
Last week, Lu stood on her chair at the counter, waiting for us to make pancakes. I pulled out the scale and containers of various flours. Lu looked at me and said, “How many grams flours, Mama?” (That made my day.)
She doesn’t play with measuring cups. She pushes buttons on her scale (the old one that doesn’t work as well as the one we use now). As far as she is concerned, everyone measures out 6 or 7 flours into one bowl on a scale. (Seriously, if for no other reason, you want to buy a kitchen scale and learn to bake by weight because you will dirty fewer dishes.)
However, it’s not just the ounces or grams that make a difference. It’s baking by ratios.
As soon as I cracked open my copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, my baking changed. Instead of throwing some gluten-free flours into a cup, attempting to duplicate a gluten recipe like a second-rate citizen, I started creating recipes instead. Each baked good has a ratio of fats to flours to liquid to eggs. Or other ingredients. What makes a muffin different than pizza dough? What makes bread different than a cake? It’s not just the ingredients. It’s the way those ingredients work in proportion to each other.
The baker is conducting a symphony with butter and eggs.
This is why baking has to be by weight. Because a cup of white rice flour is not the same as a cup of whole wheat flour. They have radically different weights. Add 50 extra grams of flour to a cookie recipe and you have messed up the ratio.
As long as you keep the proportion of ingredients in harmony with each other, you can double or triple or multiply x10 a great recipe created through a ratio. You can feed pancakes to your small family or an entire church breakfast gathering. More importantly, what do you do if a recipe calls for sorghum and you realize you have run out of it in the middle of baking that bread? You substitute the equal weight of brown rice flour and call it good. A recipe you trust calls for buttermilk but you can’t eat dairy? Use an equal weight of rice milk. (Buttermilk is much heavier than rice milk. Substitute cup for cup and the banana bread will be dry.)
Baking by ratio and by weight gives you the freedom to make that recipe your own.
In the last few years, I’ve made some good friendship through the internet, connections with people who love to bake, cannot eat gluten, and aren’t afraid of mixing up the flours in a bowl on a scale. Last month, I started joking on Twitter that I wish we could have a baking commune. Since that isn’t feasible right now, we’ve created the next best thing.
The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally.
Each month, this intrepid group (and it’s bound to grow) is going to work on one gluten-free baked good. This month it was pancakes. Next month, we’re tackling quick breads. We’ve been talking back and forth on email for weeks, in excited tones, about the kind of pancakes our families like to eat and what flours we are using. Today, we’re debuting our recipes.
Here’s the important, exciting part. Each of the recipes you will see on these various blogs are based on a clear ratio. You could take any of these recipes, change the flours for the ones you can eat, the toppings you like best, the fat you want to use to make your pancakes. And you will be successful.
We’re doing this to collaborate with each other. After a little conversation, spurred on by the suggestions of the talented Anile Prakash (who also designed the wonderful logo for us!), we all agreed on the word Rally. Challenge seemed like a competition. This is a collaboration. And we like the idea of us all rallying around a common cause.
We’re doing this to inspire you. We want you to start baking.
If you read all those posts and aren’t inspired to make pancakes in your kitchen, pancakes that fit the taste of your family, based on the ratios we have shown you?
Well, I guess you just don’t want pancakes for breakfast.
p.s. If you want to be part of the rally group for next month, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHOLE-GRAIN GLUTEN-FREE PANCAKES
I thought about throwing a lot of great-tasting flours, coconut oil, flavored yogurts, and fabulous toppings to these pancakes. But I thought, since I want the concept of baking by ratio to be clear with this recipe, that I’d keep it simple. Plus, Danny loves these damn pancakes so much he won’t let me make any others right now.
The classic ratio for pancakes is 4 parts flours/4 parts liquid/2 parts egg/1 part butter. Since a large egg weighs 2 ounces, it’s best to start with 2 ounces as the base. So, this recipe calls for 8 ounces of flours (4 x 2 ounces = 8), 8 ounces of liquid (the same), 2 eggs (2 ounces x 2), and 2 ounces of melted butter. Once you wrap your mind around that, you won’t ever need to look at a pancake recipe again. You just pull out the ingredients and go.
And if you cannot eat eggs, then you need 4 ounces of something that will replace the eggs. Yogurt? Applesauce? You decide. If you can’t eat dairy, try another milk for the buttermilk. If you don’t want butter, try oil. If the final batter feels too thick to you, add some liquid. You’ll have a slightly different pancake than this one. You’ll have your pancake.
You don’t need xanthan or guar gum for pancakes. You’ll see that I replaced 1 of the ounces of flour with 1 ounce of flaxseed. That made the pancakes puff up higher and hold together better. And flaxseed is good for you. These pancakes are good for you. They’re even sugar-free, since I like maple syrup as my sweetener.
This makes a hearty pancake, thick and fluffy with crisp edges. That’s how we like them here.
7 ounces whole-grain flour mix
1 ounce ground flaxseed
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
8 ounces buttermilk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
2 ounces melted butter
bacon grease or butter for the skillet
Combining the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour and flaxseed meal to incorporate them together and aerate. Add the baking powder, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. Whisk them all together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Combining the wet ingredients. Whisk together the buttermilk, almond extract, and eggs. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula until the batter is combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the pancake batter is entirely combined.
Making the pancakes. Preheat the oven to 250°. Put an oven-safe plate in there.
Set a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Grease the pan liberally (and by liberally, I mean a lot) of bacon grease or butter. Pour the pancake batter into the buttered pan, about ¼ cup at a time. When bubbles have started to form and pop on the top of pancake, flip it. Cook for about 1 minute more, then put the crisp pancake in the oven to keep it warm.
Continue this until you have cooked all the pancakes.
Pancakes! Time to come to the table.
Makes about 8 pancakes.