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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blueberries

I have made been making pancakes for the longest time, but I have never had a go to recipe that I knew would always taste good. Most of the times I used to fall back on using multigrain flour pancake mix from the local store. Or once in a while I tried out a new recipe, though nothing really stuck as "the one".

I am a fan of America's Test Kitchen, and while perusing their cookbook, I came across their recipe to make blueberry pancakes. This has now become my go to recipe for whenever I want to make pancakes. The main reason is that all the ingredients needed to make the pancakes are generally always available in the pantry and fridge. I tried this recipe a few times as and then substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose flour.  The all purpose ones are great and I like the ones with whole wheat pastry flour even better. The whole grain adds texture and depth to the taste and this is my go to recipe to make pancakes.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 egg
3 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1-2 tsp oil
blueberries (optional)

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Whisk together milk and lemon juice and set aside. The milk will thicken (the solids start to separate from the liquid in the milk. It is more noticeable if the milk is at room temperature than when milk is cold). Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Whisk together egg, vanilla essence, and add to the milk. Add the butter as well and mix the liquid ingredients together. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the liquid ingredients slowly to the flour. Mix the ingredients together with a whisk until they are just combined. Some lumps will remain. Do not overmix.

Heat your pan or griddle, and add some oil to the pan. Pour one ladle or about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. If using blueberries, sprinkle about 8-10 blueberries onto the pancake.  Cook until bubble appear for 1-2 minutes and then flip the pancake over and cook in the other side till golden brown for another 1-2 minutes. If pan is large enough, you can make 2-3 pancakes at a time.

Do not overmix the batter. Once the batter looks mixed in and you cannot see the dry flour anymore, stop mixing. Even if you see clumps in the batter, do not give into temptation to mix and make the batter smooth. Over mixing the batter can lead to chewy pancakes. The original recipe calls for all purpose flour, however I have used whole wheat pastry flour.
Note: Whole wheat pastry flour is different from whole wheat flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is closer to all purpose flour in color and texture whereas whole wheat flour is darker in color and heartier in taste.
I have used cold milk directly from the fridge and also milk at room temperature and haven't noticed any change in taste or texture.
You can substitute buttermilk instead of the milk and lemon juice mixture. Use 2 cups of buttermilk instead, if available.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sweet Crust for Mini Fruit Tarts - 200th Post Celebration!

This experiment started out with an intent to make whole wheat shakkarparas/shankarpali for the family. I have been trying to replace all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour in many recipes and thought that I should try replacing it here as well. However, I decided to be cautious, halved the recipe and made a whole wheat dough. It was quite late in the night, so I wrapped up the dough in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge and decided to tackle it the next day. It so happened that I was looking for something in the kitchen cabinet the very next day and came across mini tart molds which I had bought almost two years ago but hadn't used yet. So, I got them out and one thing led to another and instead of using the dough to make shankarpali, I decided to experiment with it to make a tart crust. And the experiment was an absolute success. The crust was crispy, with the just right of sweetness, and just perfect to make fruit tarts. Once the tart crust cooled down, I filled them up with some pastry cream and fresh fruit.

What better way to celebrate the 200th post than this, eh?! The best part is that I made a batch of minit tart crusts and stored them in an airtight box. I have made a small batch of pastry cream and am able to serve up these tarts to the family whenever someone is in the mood for dessert.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2.5 cups all purpose whole wheat pastry flour, approximately

In a mixing bowl, mix together the milk, sugar and stir. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it in. Then, start adding the flour, half cup at a time and mix it well, so that the butter is incorporated into the flour evenly. As the dough comes together, add the flour a tablespoon at a time and then stop when you have a dough which is firm. It takes about 2.25 to 2.5 cups of flour to get to this stage. At this stage, cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 30 mins.

Then make small balls of the dough and roll out small discs of about 3-4 mm thickness and place them gently into the tart mold. Using your fingers, press the dough into the mold and shape it. Then place the molds back into the fridge to cool for another 30 mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Pierce the base of the mini tart molds with a fork a few times. Then, line the base with small aluminium foil pieces and place some dry beans (chickpeas/pinto/rajma) or pie weights. Place the mini tart molds onto a baking sheet and place it into the oven on a centrally placed rack. Let it bake for 7-10 minutes till the crust is a light golden color. Then remove the sheet from the oven and remove all the foil pieces along with the weights. Place the sheet back into the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes till the mini tart crusts are evenly browned color and have a golden brown color.

Cool down completely and store in an airtight container.

You can fill these with custard, whipped cream, ice cream, or preserves and top with fresh fruits. The tart crust can be stored for a couple of weeks, but assemble them on the day they are to be eaten.

The ones pictured here have been filled with lightly sweetened vanilla bean pastry cream and topped with fresh berries and apricot.

Whole wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat pastry flour. The pastry flour is closer to all purpose flour in texture but made from the whole grain. It is made from soft wheat and is lighter in color.
Placing the pie weights or beans while pre-baking the crusts will prevent the crust from puffing up. It is important to rest the dough in the fridge, so that the butter hardens. As it melts while cooking, it imparts a flaky texture to the crust.
Make sure that the crusts have been completely cooled before storing them in an airtight container.