On the trip home from a long day of walking around Downtown Disney, my Mother, Father, Wife and I were struck with a sudden craving for waffles. As luck would have it, the Waffle House we tried to patron was closed. While this situation validated my strongly held belief on how Corporate America is screwing themselves trying to maximize profits by cutting staff to the bare necessity, thus leaving the store no option but to close when an employee came down sick; my stomach growling for waffles couldn’t have cared less. We wanted waffles!
Staring at the haphazardly misspelled sign, I quickly calculated I had the ingredients at home to make homemade pancakes. A quick run to the store for syrup, 20 minutes to prepare, and we’d be digging in to some yummy goodness that would make us all forget about waffles.
Excited I announced my plan to the group.
“Do you have pancake mix at home?” queried my Mother.
“Nope! Don’t need it.” I replied with confidence.
She had never heard of pancakes made without pancake mix and refused to believe I could do it. My wife thought it would take too long. Only my Father shared in my new excitement for pancakes. Mom was being stubborn wanting to eat out somewhere, I was becoming stubborn to prove that pancakes could be made without a store mix. Which I found surprising given her history making pies and brownies from scratch.
Grudgingly she agreed and I knew if these weren’t terrific I would be hearing about it. Accepting the challenge we arrived home and I pulled up my favorite homemade pancake recipe on my tablet and began to work.
Tip #1: Sift the dry ingredients together.
I think this does a nice job of getting air into the mixture. The baking powder can also clump and sifting keeps them out allowing the baking powder to work properly.
Tip #2: A lumpy batter is a happy batter.
I mix with a spoon until batter is even in color with small lumps left.
Tip #3: Watch the bubbles!
When the bubbles pop and start leaving little holes, that’s when it is time to flip.
As with anything, this may take a few tries to perfect. The recipe says medium-high, but I find my stove likes the dial between medium and medium high for best results.
Three bites in my Mother declare, “These are the best pancakes I’ve ever had!” Another example of how we’ve been suckered into believing a box mix is required to make something when all you need are some basic ingredients, a little patience, and a will to try. Mom will never use box pancake mix again and neither should you.
This weeks writing challenge is to finish the sentence, “I wish I were…”
I wish I were fertile dammit!
That’s the obvious answer. Wishing for fertility won’t make it happen and will only cause me more grief. But I came to another realization this weekend while baking brownies…from scratch…
I wish more people were aware brownies needn’t come in a box.
My Mother instilled in me a joy for baking. About once a week she would bake some sort of treat for the family. Cookies, cakes, pies for the holidays, she had a variety of recipes to choose from that could be made with staple ingredients she always had on hand. Once in a while she would use a box mix for cakes, but never brownies. Her brownies were always made from scratch. A recipe she knew by heart that was passed down from her Grandmother. One that she’s been practicing since she was a little girl.
Being the first born, I was Mom’s little helper in the kitchen when it came time to bake.
My first responsibility was Mixing Bowl and Beater Clean-up. She would hand me the bowl and beaters after the batter was in the oven and expect me to lick up all the excess batter remaining. I loved that job. Hunting for every scrap of gooey goodness before placing the bowl in the sink and filling it with soap and water. A job I resisted sharing with my sister when she grew old enough to help too.
I then graduated to mixing pie crusts. There were no frozen pie crusts in the freezer section of the store, we had to make it. Mom would place the shortening and flour in a bowl, then hand me a fork. I would sit there mixing until all the flour changed color and the clumps were as small as possible. She loved how flaky her crust would turn out whenever I mixed the batch, making it my permanent job whenever she baked a pie. A fact I took great pride in.
Holiday cookies were always so much fun. Rolling the little balls to make “snowball” cookies. Cutting out the sugar cookies and decorating them. Hand cranking the nut grinder for any recipe requiring chopped nuts. Tasting the first warm cookies to make sure they turned out well. Plus there was always a bowl or beater in need of cleaning!
I’ll always remember those times spent in the kitchen with my Mother. Fond memories relived whenever I get in the mood to bake something.
This last weekend when my wife was craving chocolate, I thought “brownies” and wanted to surprise her. I found a recipe for brownies on the Internet matching the ingredients in my kitchen and went to work. (I was missing a couple ingredients for my Mother’s recipe.) I started measuring, mixing, chopping and even tasting just as I always did with my Mother.
My wife had never made brownies from scratch, and questioned how I could make brownies without a box mix. I wonder how many others think the recipe for brownies starts with buying a box mix from a store? Needless to say she loved the brownies and they satisfied her chocolate craving at a time when the only chocolate in the house was chocolate powder.
I wish I were able to share the joys of baking with my child. Establishing wonderful memories that will last their lifetime. But since I won’t be able to…I sincerely wish you will with yours!
Edit: My Mother was happy to share her recipe.
Mom’s Homemade Brownies (not out of a box)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350*. Grease baking pan. 13x9x2 inches. Melt chocolate and shortening in a large saucepan over low heat (can now be done in microwave) Remove from heat. Let slightly cool. Mix in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in pan. Bake 30 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from sides of pan. Do not overbake. Cool slightly. Cut into bars. About 2×1-1/2 inches. Makes approximately 32 cookies