Saturday, August 18, 2012

Buckwheat pancakes with ricotta and balsamic cherries

While buckwheat crepes are traditionally served with savory toppings, these buckwheat pancakes went perfectly with the creamy ricotta cheese and the sweet/tart balsamic cherry preserves I made last week. It's worth using the good, fresh ricotta cheese. I've come to the decision that the low-fat stuff isn't worth buying – the texture is terrible, and the actual difference in calories is almost nil.

Buckwheat (not actually a kind of wheat) is a favorite ingredient of mine — it has a nice hearty texture and a more earthy flavor than wheat. It's gluten-free, which is a plus when I'm cooking for my GF friends. Although most recipes call for buckwheat flour to be mixed with wheat flour, I've had good success using buckwheat flour alone in pancakes and quick breads.

I don't really use a recipe for my pancakes. It's rare that I even use measuring cups or spoons. I eyeball proportions, shaking flour straight from the sack into the bowl and grabbing handfuls of sugar. I use all different kinds of flours and milk-like liquids (soy milk, almond milk, kefir...), substituting according to whim or availability. I stir, then add more liquid if it seems necessary. None of these are recommended techniques.

If I were more scientific about my substitutions, I would pay attention and figure out the right compensations to make. Things like what adjustments to make for heavier or gluten-free flours. Or how I should change the of baking powder or baking soda if I'm replacing a pH-neutral milk or nondairy milk with an acidic kefir, buttermilk, or yogurt. Things like that.

I don't do the science when I'm cooking, which means that my results vary quite a bit. Sometimes my pancakes are thick and fluffy. Other times they're nearly as thin as crepes. Both of these are good. Occasionally I estimate wrong and the batter is too heavy (or the leavening too weak) to form the bubbles that give pancakes their lightness. The pancakes are thick and heavy, and the insides never quite cook properly. When this happens I serve them with really juicy toppings, which soak into the pancakes and make the gooeyness less obvious. If anyone complains, I invite them to make their own damn pancakes. 

For this batch, I separated the eggs and whisked the whites before folding them into the batter, which probably helped make the pancakes lighter but is more trouble than I'm generally willing to go through before I've had my coffee. For the liquid, I used half kefir and half soy milk, but you could almost certainly get away with just using milk.

Claire's Buckwheat Pancakes

Mix in a bowl:

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar

Mix in another bowl:

1 cup milk or similar liquid (I used 1/2 cup kefir + 1/2 cup soy milk)
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp melted butter

In a third bowl:

Beat two egg whites until stiff


Mix the liquids (milk, eggs, butter) into the dry ingredients. It's okay if it's lumpy.
Gently fold the egg whites.
Cook on a hot griddle.

Buckwheat flour