When my husband is away, my 5-year-old and I often have breakfast-for-dinner. This usually means that I have no plan for food and we will pour milk on cereal and play Candyland, then eat ice cream cones.
So today, when a friend's 5-year-old asked if we were having pancakes for supper, it made supreme sense. I am not super-religious, rather, I think I am spiritual. Pagan, a good friend once said. But I like the idea of Shrove Tuesday -- use up all the butter and eggs in the house before the Lenten Fast -- and while I was planning to use the eggs and butter to make a cake to send to my step-daughter in college (promise we'll do that tomorrow!), pancakes seemed way more fun. And a little bit spiritual.
There is only one thing about pancakes: I have been gluten-free for almost two years, and never met a gluten-free pancake to write home about. Or anywhere, for that matter. My husband, bless him, tries every so often of a Sunday to throw together some vehicle for syrup we can all eat. So far, no dice.
It is important to mention that NO home-made pancake has ever made the grade with me, gluten or no. You see, there is a pancake of legend in my gluten-ous past. It is served in a dive called Dick's Harbor House, on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, New York, and is fluffy, high, light and full of flavor. I have tried to pry the chef's secret from many a waitress, including my earnest friend Carolyn, to no avail; they just shake their head sadly and roll their eyes. I've never ventured back to the kitchen ask the cook himself (or herself) but I think in part that might be because I secretly fear it will be so disgusting back there I may never return. But despite this lack of hard evidence, I have for years suspected that the secret ingredient may just be vanilla.
So tonight, Shrove Tuesday, I put aside the visions of flat, burned discs of rice flour and embarked on a mission: fluffy, light, flavorful pancakes. Gluten-free.
Talk about your 100-year snow.
Armed with vanilla extract that I request from a girlfriend who vacations in Mexico each year, I hit the stove, 5-year-old and all. I made it up while he measured and stirred. Then he played me a little electric guitar while I fried them.
It might be the electric guitar that did it. Next time I am at Dick's, I will inquire if the cook plays. Because darned if these weren't the lightest-fluffiest- yummiest pancakes I've ever turned out. And did I mention they are gluten free?
I won't tell if you won't.
1/4 cup rice flour
3/4 cup sweet rice flour (I think it would be fine to use all one or the other, I had just a little in a bag to use up)
1/2 cup tapioca flour (also sold as tapioca starch)
4 tablespoons dry buttermilk powder
3 teaspoons vanilla sugar (fill a jar with sugar and stir with a split vanilla pod, store until needed - which I promise will be more than you think, once you have it. In fact you may wonder how you ever didn't have it)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
sprinkle of cinnamon sugar (I have a shaker on hand with raw sugar and ground cinnamon for just such emergencies)
3 tablespoons applesauce
1 1/2 cups water
Mix or sift dry ingredients together. Stir in the eggs and applesauce. With a whisk, incorporate water slowly -- you may need more or less depending on how thick you like your pancakes. I have one person here who only likes crepes, and this batter, with more liquid, makes a fine one.
Heat a griddle and melt some butter. Pour batter into rounds, or Mickey Mouse heads, or the initials of your favorite rock star. When uncooked side begins to bubble, slide a spatula under the cake and flip in one deft go. Cook another 5 minutes or so (again, depending on the thickness of your batter), plate and butter. Serve with real maple syrup, preferably from just down the road, or from Indiana.