Yeasted oat pancakes

Even for dinner

March 11, 2011

What seemed like such a good idea just a few months ago — smoky kale and potato cakes, kale and potatoes with Spanish chorizo, and a hundred other versions of potatoes and kale — has finally gotten old. (Especially, I imagine, for locavores who haven’t seen much else in their CSA boxes lately.) The winter squashes are starting to get a little strange, and asparagus from Peru is simply not an option for anyone who has even a vague sense of limits when it comes to food miles or the cost to others — in that case, water — of growing foods for the U.S. market.

So what do we do while we wait for the first inklings of sprouts and greens to grow into food? I’ve already pounced on my minute tarragon leaves to season a shaved-radish salad and added a few sorrel leaves to a potato soup. Uplifting, sure, but not exactly filling.

Yeasted Oat Pancakes

My answer, at least this week, is pancakes. But not your fluffy, white-flour, baking-powder-risen pancakes. Having just eaten road food for the past week — ghastly stuff that included breakfast at the Amarillo IHOP and a place in Oklahoma called the Pig Out Cafe — road-food pancakes are not an option for me. But we love pancakes in our house, and not just for breakfast. They can be the stuff of dinner, too.

For a while in the 1980s, there was a restaurant in Berkeley a few doors down from Chez Panisse that served a dynamite breakfast, and yeasted waffles were the star dish. They had been suggested by Marion Cunningham, of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Breakfast Book fame, who was consulting on the menu.

Those waffles were unusually light, divinely crisp, and delicate, and you got two to an order — but not both at once. You were meant to enjoy the first one, hot from the iron, before the second was brought to you, without your having to ask for it. You could fill up all those little indentations with real maple syrup and soft, sweet butter. They were heaven to eat, and like no other waffle I’d eaten before.

Using yeast to raise waffle batter predates the use of baking powder. It makes such a better waffle I can’t imagine why we ever stopped using it, except perhaps that recipes tell you to let the batter rise overnight before adding the final ingredients, and no one seems to be able to think ahead that far. I myself gave those instructions in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but since writing that, I’ve also discovered that you simply don’t have to have much rising time at all.

My husband loves yeasted waffles. I can put together a batter in a few minutes, then give it 15 minutes to rest while I make coffee, get out accoutrements, and turn on the waffle iron. It’s actually enough time for the yeast to do its trick, though a longer rise does develop the flavor. I know this because there’s always batter left over, and it seems to get better with each passing day. For some reason, though, the leftover batter tends not to go in the waffle iron, but into a skillet — where it makes the loveliest and, if I’ve thinned it a bit, delicately lacy pancakes.

Make them any size you want.

So I’m thinking, why not just start with pancakes in the first place? Big ones or silver-dollar size — each has its charms. I like to mix flours together when I make my yeasted waffles/pancakes, using white whole wheat, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, and whatever other flours are around, but this particular recipe is devoted to oats as the second grain.

I love oat cakes of all kinds, whether in crisp Scottish biscuits, moist and awfully good pancakes that include precooked steel-cut oats or oats first soaked in buttermilk, or cakes that include oat flour and oat meal ground a bit in the blender first.

I know I don’t have to tell you what to do with pancakes, though I will. A fried egg can go with, on top, or between them. You can eat them with bacon and cheese as the English do, or pile on creamy yogurt and hot maple syrup. I’m also looking at the last of my dried fruits (pears and apples) and frozen fruits (peaches and berries) for compotes to go alongside.

For supper, leave out the sweetening and consider serving these savory cakes with mushrooms or — you guessed it — sautéed kale.

Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.

There are 22 comments on this item
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1. by debra daniels-zeller on Mar 14, 2011 at 7:32 AM PDT

Spring greens are coming in in the Northwest, but this oatcake recipe is one I want to try. Love the light flavor of oats, it seems to go with spring. If I can’t drink milk what would be the best option? Would apple cider work?

2. by Deborah Madison on Mar 14, 2011 at 9:30 AM PDT

Debra - Frankly, I don’t know about cider - have never tried juice. I often use almond milk or coconut milk (the stuff in the carton, not the can) rather than
cow’s milk. but if you do try the juice, could you let us all know how that worked for you? Thank you!

3. by maxie on Mar 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM PDT

I love sourdough cakes and oat cakes, so can’t wait to try these.

I’m not a food snob by any means (I live a half mile from an In ‘n’ Out!), but what on earth did you order at IHOP? Just watching their TV ads makes me cringe.

4. by Deborah Madison on Mar 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM PDT

Well, if you must know, Maxie, my husband was on a Belgium waffle quest and that’s what he had. It was disgusting and he didn’t eat it. I ordered what I use to order when I was in college, which was a century ago - Swedish crepes - and they were better than the waffle. They didn’t have that chemical taste, at any rate but it might have been smothered by the frozen berries. It was an interesting experience, actually. I haven’t eaten at an IHOP in over 30 years!

5. by debra daniels-zeller on Mar 14, 2011 at 1:23 PM PDT

Good to know about the coconut milk Deborah, I just recently decided to try some but it’s still in my cupboard, a good excuse to try it. Thanks!

6. by Susan Shores on Mar 16, 2011 at 1:56 PM PDT

Mhusband recently had 2 stents put into an 80% blocked artery, so I have to stay away from butter. What else can you use instead of 5 T of butter or is nothing able to replace the butter?

7. by Jan Harding on Mar 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM PDT

Susan - You can use some cooking oil in place of butter. Sorry, I don’t know what quantity would be best, but you can probably find some recipes online that use oil to use as a guide.

8. by Deborah Madison on Mar 16, 2011 at 4:24 PM PDT

Susan - I was going to say the same thing. Oil. The same amount. I’m not fond
of canola, but many people are and it does have a buttery quality. Sometimes I use sunflower seed or light sesame - it will be fine.

9. by maxie on Mar 16, 2011 at 4:57 PM PDT

I usually sub a light olive or corn oil. Or in savory pancakes/waffles an extra virgin olive oil.

10. by Susan Shores on Mar 16, 2011 at 7:49 PM PDT

I feel so honored that you responded to my question, Ms. Madison. Thank you so much. I have most of your cookbooks and cook from them a lot. You are a very gifted cook. Thank you.

11. by Deborah Madison on Mar 17, 2011 at 7:32 AM PDT

You are so welcome!

12. by Maria Hodkins on Mar 17, 2011 at 8:46 AM PDT

Deborah, could you please elaborate on “white whole wheat pastry flour”? That title is confusing to some. I assume you mean that it’s whole wheat flour ground very finely? And it is difficult to find that title on commercial flour sources. Does it go by another name? I grind my own, so I can replicate the texture.

13. by Deborah Madison on Mar 17, 2011 at 9:18 AM PDT

Maria - Perhaps it’s not as universal as I thought. It is a whole-wheat flour that is lighter in color than the usual (because of the wheat used?) which makes it much more suitable for things like pancakes, cookies, cakes, etc. I buy it at Trader Joe’s and that’s what it’s called. Whole-wheat pastry flour is an equivalent flour, I believe, in that is it’s finer and lighter and not so dark as standard whole wheat flour. Plus you can it organically. I hope this helps.

14. by maxie on Mar 17, 2011 at 9:38 AM PDT

We made these this morning and they were fantastic, and now it’ll be our go-to recipe.

I used organic whole wheat pastry flour; I do have white whole wheat flour too, but have never seen white whole wheat pastry flour (Whew! that’s a mouthful).


15. by Maria Hodkins on Mar 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM PDT

Thank you for the clarification, Deborah. I made these pancakes this morning with white spelt flour instead of the white whole wheat pastry flour, and just blended up rolled oats finely for the oat flour. Also used slightly soured raw milk for the milk. They were scrumptuous! Can’t wait to try them as a savory.

16. by Kim on Mar 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM PDT

After consulting with Deborah, we amended the recipe to specify white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour. Thanks, everyone!

17. by Susan Shores on Mar 19, 2011 at 6:27 AM PDT

Since I am going to use oil instead of butter, do I need to heat the milk and oil before I add them?

18. by Deborah Madison on Mar 19, 2011 at 11:26 AM PDT

Yes, do heat them, or at least the milk. It stimulates the action of the yeast
and thereby the flavor as well.

19. by molly on Apr 13, 2011 at 9:25 PM PDT

I love it! Our go-to waffle is your aforementioned yeasted lovely. And our go to pancake is an oat-filled tender number. Why not combine the two, indeed?

I’m so glad you mentioned the short waiting period. I happen to like getting started the night before, but it’s wonderful to know ad hoc is still an option.

20. by Deborah Madison on Apr 14, 2011 at 7:14 AM PDT

Indeed, why not combine them? I do!

21. by anonymous on May 20, 2011 at 10:08 PM PDT

There are many types of wheat... white or red, hard or soft, spring or winter. Flour for bread-making comes from hard wheat and pastry flour comes from soft wheat. White whole wheat pastry flour is whole wheat flour ground from soft white wheat.

22. by joanne saliby on Dec 28, 2011 at 1:45 PM PST

Yes, anon. White whole wheat comes from a variety of wheat that is white in color instead of tan or light brown. It is made from hard winter wheat, has more gluten and is best for making breads. Pastry flour is made from soft wheat and is more suitable for things other than bread.

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Local Flavors

Deborah Madison, the celebrated cookbook author and local-food advocate, feeds us with her occasional reflections. Her latest book is Vegetable Literacy.

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