Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pancake Dreams are Made of

When I was a kid I loved pancakes, especially with chocolate chips. I called them pan-a-cakes, and they were my favorite breakfast. My favorite nightgown even had a picture of pancakes on it, a big huge stack dripping with melted butter and syrup, being gobbled up by Garfield the cat. I guess I must have overdone it on the pancakes at some point, because as an adult, I prefer savory breakfasts to sweet. And, if I am going the sweet route, I’d much rather have waffles, French toast, or pastries than pancakes. Unless, of course, it’s the Vegan Pancake at Portage Bay Cafe. The holy grail of pancakes.

The Vegan Pancake is the one and only pancake that makes my heart skip a beat. I crave it. A lot. I convince Evan to wait in the long line at Portage Bay at least once a month, so that I can get the Vegan Pancake (usually with a side of bacon, which really confuses people). It’s wholesome and hearty, not overly sweet, and full of delicious things—whole wheat, oats, banana, coconut milk, and cinnamon. And, Portage Bay has an ahhhmazing fresh fruit bar to go along with the sweet menu items. I usually pile my Vegan Pancake high with blackberries and raspberries, maple-pecan syrup, and thick, fresh, slightly sweet whipped cream. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s my favorite breakfast in Seattle. Or… it WAS my favorite breakfast in Seattle.

A few weeks ago, Evan and I went out to brunch so that I could get my Vegan Pancake fix. I was so excited…my mouth even started to water a little as I walked past the fresh fruit bar on the way to our table... I could just taste the cinnamon and coconut milk, the oats and mashed bananas. But the Vegan Pancake, my favorite pancake EVER... was no longer on the menu! They had replaced it with a gluten-free pancake, sliced bananas on the outside rather than mashed up inside, no whole wheat flour or oats. I ordered it anyway, hoping it would do the trick, but it just didn’t. It wasn’t even close. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. I mean, I seriously almost cried, thinking I would never again taste the glory of the Vegan Pancake. I probably haven’t felt that kind of heartbreak since Beverly Hills 90210 went off the air.

Then, last week, as if by fate, I saw a vegan pancake recipe in Bon Appetit. They were vegan pancakes, sure, but would it be THE Vegan Pancake!? I had to make a few alterations, adding in oats and mashed banana, tweaking the spices here and there, until… finally… the clouds parted, the Seattle gloom disappeared and the sun started shining, and, on my plate, there it was. The. Vegan. Pancake.

The world makes sense once again.
The Vegan Pancake
Adapted from Bon Appetit, inspired by Portage Bay Cafe

2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup quick rolled oats
½ cup shredded or flaked coconut (I used sweetened bc it's all I could find)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 13 1/2-ounce can light unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Optional Toppings:
Pure maple syrup-warmed
Fresh or thawed blackberries
Sliced almonds
Shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 250°F (to keep pancakes warm as they are made). Whisk

 first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Blend together (with an immersion blender or blender) coconut milk, mashed banana, maple syrup, and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir coconut milk mixture into dry ingredients. Add warm water until batter is pourable, but still thick.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat; spray with cooking spray. Working in batches, add batter by 1/4 cupfuls. Working quickly and using back of spoon, spread each pancake to about 4-inch round. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface and bottoms of pancakes are golden, reducing heat if browning too quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet. Keep warm in oven. Top with syrup, berries, nuts, and shredded coconut. And then revel in the fact that you can make this amazing pancake at home.
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