Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio + whole wheat pancakes.

Ratios liberate you – when you know the ratio and some basic techniques, then you can really start to cook.

That’s the final line of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, a cookbook that’s also part anti-cookbook in the way it attempts to separate you from your 1/8-tsp-this-and-1/2-cup-that recipes by addressing the underlying relationships between ingredients that make the recipes work. It’s worth buying even if you never get out of the Doughs and Batters section that opens the book, including master formulas for bread, pasta, pie crust, biscuits (his are rolled, but unrolled they are as tender as can be), cookies, pâte à choux, pancakes, muffins, fritters, crepes, and more. I’ve adapted his master pancake recipe to use 100% whole wheat flour* below, but if you do decide to buy the book, I suppose you might want to delve into later sections on stocks, roux, brines, vinaigrettes, hollandaise, and custards. I’m just saying the first section is the part I’m wearing out.

*I love white-flour pancakes, but let’s face it – you feel like crap after eating a whole stack of them. Pancakes have a high glycemic load, and good ones contain a fair amount of fat, so to me, they function more like dessert than breakfast. If I’m making pancakes for the family for breakfast, it needs to be a kind that won’t put us all in a food coma for the rest of the day. It reminds me of a line in the very silly too-good-to-be-true travel memoir Pasquale’s Nose, where a crazy old man has just one sentence to say: “Nobody ever feels good after eating pancakes.”

Whole wheat pancakes

Ruhlman’s recipe is identical to this one save an extra half-ounce of flour, since he’s using white all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat. These freeze and reheat well – cool completely on a rack, freeze in a flat layer (if you stack them in a bag before they freeze, you’ll need a jackhammer to separate them), then reheat in the microwave for about 40 seconds, or reheat for 30 seconds, top with cold syrup, and give it another 10 seconds to heat it through.

Wet ingredients:
8 ounces milk (anything but skim)
2 large eggs
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry ingredients

7.5 ounces (by weight) whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat your griddle. It has to be completely hot or the first batch of pancakes won’t brown.
2. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl, making sure the egg is thoroughly broken up.
3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a second bowl.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir briefly to fully hydrate the flour and eliminate any huge lumps. Small lumps are okay.
5. Lightly grease the griddle and immediately begin pouring the batter on to the griddle once any sizzling (of butter or bacon fat) has stopped.
6. When the bubbling on the top becomes firm and the bottom is nicely browned, flip and cook for roughly half the time it took for the first side to cook.

These pancakes are strong enough to handle anything you’d fold into ordinary pancake batter, but I haven’t found a better partner for the nutty, grainy, slightly cardboardy taste of whole wheat than sweet blueberries.


  1. Try beating your eggwhites until stiff and then folding them in to the batter after the other wet ingredients. It gives some of the fluffiness that you can’t get with whole wheat flour.

  2. Do you ever use white whole wheat flour? What other baked goods to you substitute (all/partial) whole wheat for?

    Also, I’ve never made them without doing the vinegar-buttermilk step, but Alton Brown’s pancakes are almost exactly the same outside of the buttermilk-for-milk. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/instant-pancake-mix-recipe/index.html

  3. I’ve used the egg white foam technique in the waffles I wrote about last month, but I don’t think these pancakes need them. Lots of baking powder and a hot griddle give them plenty of air.

    Robert – I’ve had bad results with white whole wheat flour. It doesn’t substitute 1 for 1 in my experience. I also try to avoid buttermilk whenever possible because it’s full of lactose – and I don’t love the taste. AB’s pancakes use baking soda (basic) to counteract the acidity of the buttermilk, whereas this recipe is all baking powder, which contains an acid and a base.

  4. Pancakes are amazing, but you are dead-on re: the food coma. I will definitely try this recipe. I ordered the cookbook you mention on here–are there any other cookbooks that you would reccomend? I am self-taught–mainly out of necessity, as I am a horrifically picky eater–and I have always been more interested in experimenting with flavors as opposed to following recipes.
    Also, I’m in the market for some new cookware, but am on a budget. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Keith.

  5. Thanks, Keith. And I appreciate the re-heating notes — that will save me some trial-and-error.

    While on the b’fast tip, I know you have suggested a burr grinder model in previous posts, but have you (or others) any suggestions for french press brands/models? I have a little more time on the weekends for b’fast and was thinking of trying french press for such casual mornings.

  6. I’ve taken to using a half-and-half mix of whole-wheat flour and white flour whenever flour is in the recipe. It seems like the flavor is brighter. I made a loaf of bread with all whole-wheat flour and mixed in 2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten (a Mark Bittman tip) and it’s good bread but heavier than other loaves I’ve made. Good for toast and, I suspect, grilled cheese sandwiches.

  7. “I ordered the cookbook you mention on here–are there any other cookbooks that you would reccomend? I am self-taught–mainly out of necessity, as I am a horrifically picky eater–and I have always been more interested in experimenting with flavors as opposed to following recipes.”

    Similar question (minus the picky eater part). Has anyone read The Flavor Bible? I want to get better at creating dishes versus following recipes and this seems like a really solid guide (although something about it makes me think there’s high suck potential too). Thoughts / opinions?

  8. Mark: I did a post on cookbooks for beginners (not sure of your skill level) a while back. Ruhlman’s book is a bit unusual in its emphasis on ratios rather than recipes, although Peter Reinhart tries to do the same in his bread-baking books.

    Dave: Haven’t seen that book before.

  9. Keith,

    Since I read your tweets but don’t write my own, I’ll just give you a heads up here. Here are my 10 most used apps:

    1. Meridian Music Player is much better than the (surprisingly lacking) built-in Android player

    2. Handcent is a much better and more customizable text message application

    3. Ringdoid is the best app for turning mp3s from your SD card into ringtones or alarms

    4. Last.fm/Pandora are good music streaming if you want to replace XM/Sirius with a simple cable or fm transmitter

    5. NewsRob is my favorite Google Reader/RSS app

    6. Dolphin Browser is a pretty good web browser. It takes a little while to master, but the motions are extremely useful

    7. Shazam is some kind of futuristic magic in that if you let it listen to a song that’s playing, it will tell you the artist and song name.

    8. Slidescreen is an excellent home screen replacement if you use a lot of social media because it shows your facebook/twitter/calendar/rss all in the same place.

    9. Places Directory/Yelp/Where/Yellow Pages all do the same thing where they find whatever you are looking for near you and sometimes show user ratings. You can experiment to see which one you like best. (especially because they are all free)

    10. Locale is my favorite app but isn’t that user friendly. It lets you set different tasks based on location. So, for instance, my phone turns to vibrate when I get to the office, back to audible ringing when I leave, and then turns the ringer off completely whenever I go to the courthouse. It also is currently set up to give me a notice when I drive within 2 blocks of the dry cleaners because I need to go pick up my dry cleaning.

  10. Very much off-topic, but what do you think about soon being co-workers with J.P. Ricciardi? I hear he’s lined up a gig with ESPN in some analyst capacity.


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