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