The art of compromise

Dinner time (again.) I’m scanning the cupboards and the fridge, feeling lazy. I need something I can make with my eyes closed, so I don’t panic and give up midway through (and end up with another dinner like the night before: mystery sauté/dry goulash). I need a compromise between fancy and pop-the-top dinner.

I see a pear on its way out. Pancake mix sitting stout yet slumped over a wayward yeast packet. Bingo.

Meet my dinner: Pear pancakes with brie. The heart shape was a happy accident, much like my approach to cooking.

You too can create breakfast for dinner with a kick. Cheese and fruits are stellar bed-fellows, and cheese lends the dish towards a more savory affair.

But first, a word on mixes.

I’m not dogmatic about baking mixes, at least with regard to how you should do something; however, I find certain things just as easy (and way cheaper) to make from scratch, e.g. muffins, cakes, breads.

Pancakes are one of those things that I’ve been meaning to make from scratch. It hasn’t happened yet. I know that when I do get around to making my own pancake batter (with ingredients already in my pantry) I’ll say, “boy, oh boy, that sure was easy!” For now, I’m not too worried about asking Bob’s Red Mill to throw in the extra goodies for me.

Why you shouldn’t sweat using a mix:

1. Morning baked goods are a little more demanding than those prepared and consumed during other parts of the day, i.e. breakfast pancakes are more common than breakfast cupcakes. (Though, I’m coming over if you’re making breakfast cupcakes!) A pancake mix comes in handy when you’re not awake enough to conduct simple math and measuring.

2. As you might remember, I’m baking gluten free; I haven’t tried making gluten pancakes (mix or scratch) because I was still terrified of my kitchen two and a half years ago (around the time I went GF-gluten free). Sometimes I just don’t feel like pulling out the xanthan gum and baking powder.

3. Good mixes exist, ones that don’t have a bunch of unidentifiable shit (stuff you might find in airport runway cleaners) in them. The thing I love about Bob (and his mixes) is that I have all the ingredients he uses in his mix in my cupboard. AND that he still pulls off a great pancake when faced with the improvisation queen. People like me should really make our own batters because altering pre-made and -measured mixes is a true recipe for disaster.

(My renegade recipe-following all started with some fruit. Who wants plain pancakes all the time? Not us. I make breakfast pancakes for J and me usually on one of the weekend mornings (once a week max.) My pancake antics got us some attention on Facebook, since we couldn’t keep our mouths shut about banana-, pear-, sweet potato-, pumpkin-pancake adventures. We had to host a pancake party, which led people to believe that my lucky pancakery lent itself to other chefery, oh no. That’s J’s expertise, I’m sous at best.)

Ze Recipe (altered from the one listed on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pancake Mix)

1. Start by skinning a near-mushy pear. I used a potato peeler and discovered one of life’s lesser known pleasures. Core it then mash it with a fork or a potato masher in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add 1 egg, 1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil, 1/2 cup milk of any sort (cow or non-cow). I know the back of the bag says 3/4 cup, but you just added a bunch of fruit water, so we’re keeping up the liquid/solid ratio by dropping the milk content. Whisk!

3. Add 1 1/3 cups Bob’s mix to the wet ingredients.

4. Add 1/3 cup ground flaxseed meal (for added oomph). You can’t taste it and it makes foods better for you.

5. Use a spoon or heavy-duty spatula to fold and mix the ingredients together. Don’t over mix (no need for a mixer, really), just make sure everything’s incorporated evenly in the batter and it’s generally the same consistency throughout. Let this sit for a minute until you get get a sauté pan warmed up (somewhere between med- to med-high) and sizzling with butter. (I hate non-stick cookware, BTW; yes, even for pancakes!)

6. Drop dollops of the batter on the pan so that as they spread you’re left with about 3” (or less) pancakes. My pan can hold between 3 and 5 pancakes, depending on that day’s confidence level: how much room I want for flipping. Give yourself extra room on your first few go-rounds with pancakes. They can be mighty sloppy on the first flip, especially if they’re crammed in the pan and you don’t have much room for error.

7. Flip when you see little bubbles forming. Remember that if your pancakes are different sizes, flip the smaller ones first to avoid burning.

8. For each round of cakes drop a nickel-sized hunk of butter in the pan. Yum.

9. Serve with a slab o’ brie and a cute jam/butter knife.

10. Yes, you can refrigerate left-over pancakes, if there are any.