Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pancakes - making them healthier without making them taste healthy

It was my first day off at the end of my first week as Internal Medicine Wards Resident.  I had a fiancé headed out of town on a business trip later in the day.  It had been WAY too long since we'd shared a lazy Sunday morning.  Pancakes seemed like the perfect breakfast food.

The recipe below is what I created in an effort to make a pancake that was fluffy and exactly what you'd expect from a delicious pancake.  Unfortunately for me, delicious pancakes usually have buttermilk in them.  As someone with whom dairy is not a friend, I created this version.  My intention actually wasn't to create a healthier version of the classic buttermilk pancake that didn't taste healthy, but that is exactly what happened.

Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Syrup

Breaking it down:

1) Sneaking in whole grains - as a baker and pastry chef, I've had a lot of time to experiment.  I find that   up to half of all-purpose white flour can be replace by whole wheat pastry flour without anyone noticing.

2) Cholesterol-free - this recipe has no eggs and instead uses baking powder and the combination of baking soda and vinegar to make the pancakes rise to fluffy perfection.

3) Saturated fat-free - canola or other vegetable oil is used instead of butter or shortening in this recipe.

4) Reduced fat - only 1 tablespoon of oil is used in this recipe.  This is 63% less fat than the standard recipe.

5) Healthy flavors - to boost flavor and interest, cinnamon is added to the batter and white sugar is replaced by dark brown sugar.  Frozen berries are added to the pancakes and used as a topping to cut down on the amount of maple syrup and butter needed to moisten and add flavor after cooking.  Other healthy flavor options are to use dark chocolate chips instead of berries and top the pancakes with peanut or almond butter instead of syrup.  A household favorite is to make chocolate chip pancakes, top with peanut butter and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top.  While the nut butter adds calories, it also add protein and decreases the glycemic load of the final dish.  (Don't worry, most people don't know what glycemic load is - more on that later.)

6) Dairy-free - buttermilk is replaced with vinegar and soymilk in this recipe.  Depending on your perspective on healthy foods, dairy may or may not be on your "good list."  For the majority of the people the in world, it's just not very digestible.  If you eat dairy products, feel free to replace the soymilk and vinegar with buttermilk in this recipe.

Fluffy Pancakes

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/4 cups unsweetened soymilk
1 Tablespoon oil
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-4 Tablespoons water, as needed
Toppings (optional): chocolate chips, frozen or fresh berries, real maple syrup, etc.

1. In a liquid measuring cup, add vinegar and then fill to the 1-1/4 cup mark with soymilk.  Stir to thoroughly mix (it will get chunky).

2. Add oil to liquid measuring up without stirring in.

3. In mixing bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

4. Preheat griddle to medium-high heat.

5. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir just to combine.  Avoid over-stirring as this will make pancakes tough and chewy.

6.  Thin with 2-4 Tablespoons water.  The batter will still be thick after this.  Do not make it as thin as traditional pancake batter.

7. To cook, lightly oil griddle and scoop ¼-1/2 cup pancake batter onto griddle then use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread out the batter into a thin layer (about 1/4 –inch thick).  If using any toppings like berries or dark chocolate chips, immediately scatter these over the top of the pancake.  Cook cake until the edges start to appear slightly dry and like the batter is begin to set, then flip once and cook for another minute.  Pancakes should be lightly browned on both side.  

8. Serve with your favorite toppings.  I generally use Earth Balance (non-dairy “butter) and good drizzle of real maple syrup.

© Chef Michelle Hauser, MD, MPA


  1. Is real maple syrup as dangerous as regular table sugar. Dangerous as in raising your blood sugar levels and causing inflammatory reactions in the body?

  2. Maple syrup acts like a sugar in the body, because it is sugar. Same goes - give of take - for almost all caloric sweeteners, but also refined flours, breads, baked goods, etc.


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