Being a regular reader, you know that we’ve tried to incorporate more whole grains into our diet. Then, the other week, we were reading a book about whole grains (we’re pretty sure it was Lentil Underground, by Liz Carlisle) and really got enthused about the idea of whole grains and how much they can change the flavor of your baking. We were so excited it was time to hit the Internet.
So, we looked for whole grains and found a group of people, right here in Tucson, who have formed a small cooperative to bring in non-GMO, organic, chicken feed for their hens. Now, we don’t have hens, so we don’t need chicken feed, but, through Tucson Organic Chicken and Livestock Feed at Wholesale Prices, we were also able to order organic whole grains at great prices. (We aren’t providing a link right now, because their website is down.)
We ordered a bag (25#) of rye berries and a bag (25#) of hard white wheat berries. Perfect for experimenting with rye breads. But, first, we tried something even easier, rye pancakes. Don’t worry, while we’ll show you how to start with rye berries, you can just substitute rye flour and skip the grinding part. We know that not everyone has the equipment or inclination to grind grain; we think that’s for us hard-core scratchers. In all fairness, we should say that we pretty much follow the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, just with a different flour.
As we said above, we started with rye berries; feel free to use flour, although the berries do give the pancakes a nice texture. Our eggs always come from free-range hens, and do you know why? Well, think about it; it’s suggested that you eat the most nutritious foods you can to be healthy, so why wouldn’t you expect the way to get the healthiest eggs would be to get them from the healthiest hens? Simple, right? Butter, as always is unsalted, because we can salt our own food, thank you very much. Finally, we make our own buttermilk; try it some time, it’s easy, and you won’t have unneeded ingredients in your buttermilk (such as salt, carageenen, etc).
Procedure in detail:
Grind grain. If you’re starting with flour, obviously modify this step to just whisking the dry ingredients, but, if you have a blender that can handle grinding, just put the rye berries, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder into the container and set that baby to running on high. LOUD, RIGHT? I’LL CONTINUE IN ALL CAPS SO YOU CAN HEAR ME. LET IT RUN FOR 1-2 MINUTES, OR UNTIL YOU HAVE FLOUR, AND THEN STOP. Whew. That’s better.
Whisk egg. Crack your egg that came from one of those happy hens into a medium-sized bowl. We use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, but anything about that size should work. Whisk the egg until it’s completely uniform. Note: do not try adding the egg and buttermilk to the blender with the flour; it doesn’t work — we tried in the name of science and found that the name of science makes mediocre pancakes.
Add buttermilk. Add the cup of buttermilk to the egg and whisk until uniform. Perfect.
Add butter. While whisking — you can’t whisk too much — slowly drizzle in the butter. When you’ve finished whisking, you can switch to a spoon. Ah, and here’s a tip for those who read the recipe before starting: what we do is to start heating the griddle about the time we grind the grain, and we place a small metal measuring cup with the butter inside right in the middle of the griddle. It’ll be melted when you need it. You just have to be careful because the measuring cup handle may be hot.
Add flour. Pour the flour on top of the liquids, and, using your spoon, quickly mix it in with a few deft strokes. Don’t worry about lumps, as they disappear while the pancakes are cooking; instead, worry about over-mixing the batter, as over-mixed batter means you’ll have rubbery pancakes. Maybe great for a humorous clown skit, but not great for breakfast.
Griddle. Place a griddle over medium-high heat and wait until it’s nice and hot. Give it a quick, light brushing with oil. This is one of the few places we use Crisco, since it’s easy to dip a paper towel into the Crisco container and wipe down the griddle to oil it. Once oiled, drop a largish tablespoon of batter onto the griddle to make about a 3-inch cake. Most griddles will hold more than one pancake, so squeeze a few more cakes onto the griddle, and cook until the centers are bubbly and the edges are beginning to dry, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the same amount of time on the other side.
Serve. Almost always, our favorite pancake accompaniment is maple syrup. Pure, 100% maple syrup. Yes, it’s expensive, but worth it.
These pancakes have only a slight rye flavor, so they taste somewhat like a more rustic pancake, rather the way buckwheat pancakes have a different flavor, too. If you do go all hard-core scratching on this, you’ll have a nice texture in the pancakes from the uneven grinding of the berries, which we think is the best part. This is a hard recipe to rate on the worth-it scale, because if you have something to grind grains, it’s as easy as regular pancakes, or five stars, but, if you have to grind the grain by crushing it between two rocks, it would be super difficult, or a one-star recipe (five stars on the upper body workout, though), so we’ll say four stars.