As far as I'm concerned, the best holiday gift is one that's handmade and edible. And if you can make it in big batches on a budget — and have it be healthy — even better.
That's the thinking behind this delicious pancake and waffle mix. Face-to-face with a whiny child on a Sunday morning, too many otherwise accomplished and adventurous home cooks reach for a box of pre-fab pancake mix. That's a shame, not least because it's easy to make your own mix, using ingredients of your choice, and to do so in — you guessed it — a jiffy.
The food police love to vilify pancakes and waffles as nothing more than carbs and sugar, but these guilty pleasures can be nobler than that. At their base, pancakes and waffles depend on a few key ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and leavener. If you swap in whole-wheat flour for at least some of the white flour, add a little flaxseed, slash some of the sugar, and top off the finished product with fresh fruit, you're suddenly looking at a very respectable breakfast. Heck, you even could drizzle a little Grade B maple syrup (my favorite) on top, and it still would be a healthy choice.
Using whole-wheat flour in the mix should not be terribly objectionable. Though there are some folks who insist their bread be white because "brown bread tastes yucky," no one feels that way about pancakes and waffles. And when you toss in some flaxseed, you really amp the recipe's nutritional value even as you add a subtle but distinctive nuttiness.
Flaxseed is showing up more and more frequently on supermarket shelves these days, and you can always find it online. I often add a tablespoon or two of it to my breakfast cereal in the morning. Just keep in mind that flaxseed isn't properly digested unless it is ground. You can buy it pre-ground or grind it yourself in a spice grinder. After you open the package, keep it in the refrigerator or freezer; it tends to go rancid quickly.
At holiday time, you can measure the batch into pretty containers — old canning jars are perfect for this purpose — attach a nice hand-written label and recipe with a ribbon, and consider it done. The deluxe version? Just add a little package of dried fruit or a tiny bottle of maple syrup.
Flaxseed Pancake and Waffle Mix
Start to finish: 10 minutes
Makes 4 cups of mix
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup flax meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
Into a medium bowl, sift together all of the ingredients. Transfer the mix to a 1 quart glass bottle or canning jar and screw on the lid. Attach the recipe (below) with a ribbon.
FLAXSEED PANCAKES OR WAFFLES
Wrapped tightly in plastic, these pancakes and waffles also freeze nicely, so consider making a double batch.
Start to finish: 10 to 15 minutes
Makes 6 large (3 1/2- to 4-inch) or 12 small (1 1/2- to 2-inch) pancakes, or 4 large waffles (depending on the manufacturer's instructions)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flaxseed pancake and waffle mix
Freshly cut fruit or berries and pure maple syrup, to serve
If using butter, in a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it is light brown in color and has a nutty in aroma. If using oil, skip to the next step of the recipe.
In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and egg. Add the pancake mix, then mix with a spoon, stirring just until the ingredients are combined. Stir in the browned butter or oil.
To make pancakes, heat a large nonstick skillet brushed with oil or coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and ladle either 1/4 cup or 1/8 cup portions of the batter into the pan (depending on whether you want large or small pancakes). Let the pancakes cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until small bubbles appear on the surface. Flip, then cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden on the second side.
Pancakes can be kept warm in a 200 F oven while remaining batter is cooked.
To make waffles, heat the waffle iron according to product directions. Lightly coat the cooking surfaces with cooking spray.
Spoon out 3/4 cup batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer) onto the hot iron. Using a rubber spatula, smooth the batter to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Close the lid and cook until browned and crisp. Repeat with remaining batter, coating the cooking surface between waffles with additional cooking spray only if they begin to stick.
Waffles can be kept warm in a 200 F oven while remaining batter is cooked.
Serve the pancakes or waffles with fruit and maple syrup.
Nutrition information per large pancake: 200 calories; 80 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 7 g protein; 310 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."