Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coconut Pancakes with Sara

I remember back when I first started eating gluten free (okay, it wasn’t that long ago!) and I felt so overwhelmed by everything I was reading and learning about the gluten-free diet and where gluten hides. I started with an over-simplified diet to make it as easy for myself as possible – I stuck to whole foods, things I knew were gluten free, such as vegetables, fruit, rice, and chicken. If it came out of a package, I tried to avoid it.

Then, as I began to get a better handle on things, I searched the internet for recipes and information on how to bake my own bread, cookies, and other baked goods. I remember being overwhelmed all over again as I read recipes which called for 3 or 4 different types of flour and something called, “xanthan gum.”

Since I was already pretty well-informed regarding eating nutritiously, I was wary (and still a bit am) of gums and other stabilizers and I refused to accept substituting rice flour in everything, which is completely devoid of any nutrition and spikes your insulin.

And, not to mention, how in the heck am I supposed to have all these different flours in my cupboard?? It seemed that every recipe called for something different.

Now, it just seems part of the routine.

The more I read online, the more I learned about how nutritious teff and sorghum are. Quinoa and millet too. I learned that using these flours in combination with brown rice flour would make a healthier bread and enable me to make breakfast muffins that contained fiber and protein.

One day, I bit the bullet and made a big trip to Whole Foods, purchasing the following flours: brown rice, millet, teff, sorghum, and tapioca. I also picked up a bag of ground flax seed because I knew I could add it to my baked goods to add some nutritional value. Later that week, Ben and I made a trip to Ikea and I picked up a number of air-tight containers to store my flours.

I discovered that once the flours were in my kitchen, labeled and organized, baking muffins with 4 different flours was just as easy as it had been with all-purpose wheat flour!

Since then, I have been experimenting with garbanzo/fava been flour and almond flour. And, my most recent addition has been coconut flour. Despite the fact that coconut is one of my favorite tastes (I used to frequently order coconut lattes, for example), I had stayed away from it because I thought it would just be too high in fat.

Boy, was I excited when I took a look at the package and read there is only 1.5g of fat in a serving! That, and about 20% of your day’s worth of fiber! This stuff is not only tasty, but healthy!

So, when my friend Sara and her boyfriend were in town this past weekend, I asked them what they were interested in for breakfast. When I suggested pancakes or muffins or somesuch, I was delighted to find that Sara was interested in seeing how I put together baked goods with my “new” flours!

So, I pulled out a couple of basic recipes for pancakes and did some comparing to understand the basic components. I was eager to try the coconut flour, and thought it would add a nice flavor to the pancakes, so I pulled that one down from my cupboard and reached for the brown rice and tapioca flours as well.

These came out amazing! I had played around with making gluten-free pancakes a couple of times before, and was mostly disappointed, but these were perfect! I have to admit I was both surprised and relieved.

We added blueberries to ours, which makes it slightly more difficult to spread the batter thin, but they were definitely delicious, with a light coconut flavor!

Coconut pancakes

¾ cup brown rice flour
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (see note)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup agava nectar or honey or brown rice syrup
1 ½ - 2 cups hazelnut milk (any other milk will work just fine)
2 tablespoons oil of choice or melted butter (see note)

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and xanthan gum. Mix well.

Add eggs, vanilla, and agava nectar. Slowly add milk and mix until just combined. Batter will appear thicker than typical pancake batter.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat. The pan is ready when water droplets sizzle across it.

Spoon batter onto pan and spread carefully with the back of the spoon, to the desired thickness. My favorite way of cooking pancakes is to spread the batter out across the entire skillet of a smallish-sized skillet to make large, restaurant-style pancakes. Cook until batter appears dry on top (you may or may not have the bubbles appear that are typical for pancakes) and flip.

When pancakes are done, transfer to an oven-safe plate and place in warm oven to keep warm while the rest are cooked.

Note: If you do not want to use xanthan gum, soak ¼ cup of ground flax in about ½ cup water for about 10 minutes and add with the other wet ingredients. Also, for more cake-like pancakes, omit the oil.

Tip: If you substitute another flour for the coconut flour, reduce the milk to 1 cup. The coconut flour is especially absorbent and requires more liquid.

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