Tuesday, November 29, 2011

sweet potato•pancakes

Many people are very particular about their pancakes.  I discovered this when I recently did a google search to find out if you can make pancake batter ahead of time and refrigerate it (and it turns out you can, if you use double-acting baking powder).  I also learned that pancake-making is a serious matter.  One guy became almost belligerent when someone else suggested they like to "whip air" into their batter.  Along with a detailed scientific description of how whipping your pancake batter destroys the pancake cells (or something to that effect), he said (complete with extra punctuation and caps), "Barely mix the batter!!!  BARELY!...  Stop killing your pancakes!"  Hmm.  I suppose it's time someone stood up against senseless pancake murder.  I had no idea this was such a problem.
Since people are so particular about their pancakes, I thought I should give full disclosure as to which type of pancakes these are.  These are not quite as light and fluffy as your average restaurant fare, not terribly dense and hearty (which is actually how I prefer my cakes), but somewhere in between.  I'm not sure where they fall on the scale of crepe to blini to blintz to galette (and I'm not even sure what all those terms mean or if I've terribly offended anyone by putting them in that order), but someone out there on the internet could probably explain it to you-- quite emphatically.

The last time we had these sweet potato pancakes we topped them with Nana's home-made apple butter.  In the event that your Nana didn't give you any home-made apple butter, syrup is good, too.  But, for the love of God, make sure it's PURE MAPLE SYRUP!!!  This is one thing I am adamant about.

The veggies (etc):*
  • 1 cup peeled and grated raw sweet potatoes or yams (about one small potato)**
  • A squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 tsp) or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS brown sugar

The love:
  1. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, lemon juice or peel, egg, milk, and oil.
  2. Add the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar, and mix until just incorporated (remember to "Barely mix the batter!!!  BARELY!").***
  3. Oil or butter and preheat the biggest, flattest skillet you have (I use a cast-iron griddle) over low to medium heat.**** 
  4. Scoop in about 1/4 cup portions onto your skillet and cook on each side until golden on the outside and no longer wet in the middle.


*This recipe does not make a ton.  The four of us usually eat it for dinner with a little fruit and a small side like some veggie sausage or green eggs and we never have leftovers.  If we're extra hungry or want leftover batter or pancakes for later, I double the recipe.
**Another google search has taught me that although sometimes you'll see something called yams at the grocery store, they're almost always really sweet potatoes.  Real yams are usually not sold in the US and are not even related to sweet potatoes.
***Most recipes will tell you to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, then stir them together-- this is to prevent clumping and ensure even mixing.  I'm lazy and don't like getting out and washing an extra bowl, so I do it all in one bowl.  To make up for it I try to mix the dry ingredients together on top of the wet before I really stir it into the the wet stuff.  If this is offensive to you, by all means, get out another bowl.
****These have a tendency to cook fast on the outside and slowly in the middle, so I like to cook them low and slow to ensure thorough cooking.

Where credit is due:

We once had a scrap of paper in our recipe box, in Brock's writing, that said "Cinnamon Rolls: flour, yeast, sugar, butter, cinnamon", and that's it.  This is how Brock transcribes recipes.  Needless to say, I never tried the cinnamon roll recipe and it's since been thrown in the trash.  My original sweet potato pancake recipe is also in Brock's writing, but was-- luckily-- much more thoroughly transcribed.  The only thing that's missing (as far as I can tell) is the actual source of the recipe.  I think it came from a Moosewood book, but exactly which one is a mystery.  In any case, I've made this recipe my own by simplifying it a little and adding whole wheat flour (as I can't bring myself to make something containing flour and not sneak in some whole grains).  And who knows what Brock left out of it...

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