Pancakes!

So I finally got a chance to go grocery shopping at Superstore today in an enjoyable and leisurely manner.

Mom & I went out for about an hour and some and I got to roam around the grocery store in a seriously Moosed up state. Dad would have joined us, but he was in the midst of prepping for his CT scan that he’s having done tomorrow and so he had to be at home.

I am rather thrilled at all the neato stuff I picked up.

I finally got a bag of masa flour — not the original Harina P.A.N. as I was hoping, but I did pick up a bag of Maseca, which the bag says you can use to make pupusas. I am still not entirely sure as to what the difference between an arepa and a pupusa is, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to be tasty and given that they’re wheat-free. From what I understand, it seems that an arepa is made plain and then stuffed with fillings of choice, whereas pupusas are made with a filling already cooked inside. I am very, super excited. For some reason, I find playing with dough extremely fascinating and satsisfying. It’s fun just to manhandle dough.

Another neato thing I picked up today was a big bag of chickpea flour! When I bought it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I mean, I had some inkling as to some possibilities, but they were still only vague floaty ideas that might work, but I wasn’t sure about since I hadn’t done any solid research before going out grocery shopping today. It was all about the “Ooohhhh that looks interesting!” kind of shopping. When The Hubbs isn’t with me, I pretty much have free reign to take as much time as I want to look at stuff at my own pace and go back and forth to the same section if need be, as well. Tons. Of Fun.

Seeing as I’ve been trying to keep mostly wheat-free, though not really succeeding, I picked up a bag of gluten-free tea biscuit mix. It was out of some degree of desperation that I bought it. I’m not 100% committed to buying a ton of different flours to make my own all-purpose flour mix and so I figured I would try this to start out with and go from there. Plus seeing as I don’t really bake a lot for myself, I figured this would at least give me a starting point to see how gluten-free baking works and if I don’t like the flours/starches that Bob’s Red Mill uses, I could go from there and make my own. I have a few different recipes I can reference, so I’m not totally going in blind, but it’s still going to be a lot of effort (and money) to buy so many kinds of flour.

In an effort to make this seem a little more interesting (though it has been far more manageable than it was 3-4 years ago when I started having this weird weat issue), I picked up a copy of Shauna James Ahern’s new book Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef on Saturday. The nice thing about this purchase was that I finally used up some of my birthday gift cards from Chapters, so it made this even better. It would seem that I acquired quite a few Chapters gift cards for my birthday last year. I’ve been so Moosed up this weekend that I haven’t even finished reading the first chapter of the book. Totally unheard of! Ordinarily speaking, I should have been finished it by now, if not yesterday ;) I must be really having some serious issues if I can’t even get through a short cookbook in only a few days time. Yeesh.

I’m finding it very comforting to be reading a cookbook that doesn’t concentrate on pasta or bread as the main vehicle for the recipes without resorting to strange and obscure ingredients. There are lots of fresh and in-season recipes which sound fantastic without feeling weirdly “foodie” or require a lot of prep work by having to go out of your way to get hard-to-find ingredients. It seems like the current buzzwords everywhere you look are: fresh, local, in-season and as usual, organic. A lot of recipes, from other sources, that I’ve read using any or all of those terms usually make me feel terribly put off. I don’t know what it is, but the marketing job done on those words just make me want to roll my eyes and shake my head, which seems contradictory and somewhat hypocritical to what I was saying a few weeks back when I was trying to sign up for my fruits & veggies bukkit from a now defunct and non-existant company. I guess that’s what it boils down to — I find marketing and advertising somewhat distasteful.

So far the recipes don’t feel like I’ve already seen it or a version like it because people are still trying to find a satisfying gluten-free replica of a well-loved original. Yes, there are recipes which include pastas, but even they sound really good on their own without the requisite starch. I haven’t gotten to the breads and baking section, so I can’t comment on those as of yet and I know that it will definitely require a little more effort to find the ingredients, but the way the book is written, it doesn’t feel daunting. I don’t know why, but this book just feels different, and refreshing, and GOOD. I realize that the world doesn’t revolve around bread and pasta, but for some reason when I’m faced with having to restrict my diet of those two items, it feels like food isn’t going to taste right without them. The recipes are written simply from the perspective of both a chef and a non-chef. It’s great because you’re getting a recipe created by a chef who loves what he’s doing, written in a way that’s easy to understand because it’s made for someone who doesn’t work for a living in a professional kitchen. The recipes are written like you’re being taught by a really excited teacher who’s happy to explain to you why you’re doing things in the way they’re recommending.

Wow I’m getting wordy tonight… and it’s hard too since I’m full of Moose and I’m getting supremely loopy-tired.

I think the biggest thing I’m that I’m having problems with in the wheat-free department is finding that palatable food substitute that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve been gypped. Commercially available gluten-free bread sucks. It just does, there are no two ways about it, which is why I am really, really, really hoping to find a good homemade version. The recipes in Gluten-free Girl & The Chef claim they are the closest thing to the real deal and I guess I will just have to take the plunge to find out.

In the meantime, there are things like pancakes that are a bit of an issue. You can’t just buy pancakes… well you can, but that’s just wrong. Tonight I made pancakes and I’m so happy that I’m discovering tasty flour replacements that taste good as they are and aren’t masquerading as a flour imitation just to satisfy a craving.

Chickpea flour pancakes do have an underlying beany flavour to them, which shouldn’t really be all that surprising, but if you’re eating the pancakes as a savoury meal, it’s certainly not bothersome. These pancakes are extremely satisfying and filling and holy cow, so simple to make. Seriously, you can’t even make regular pancakes this easily. Three ingedients, if you don’t count water as an ingredient, and that’s it! Flour, olive oil, a pinch of salt and water. Not only that, but there’s NO measuring because you only need as much flour as you think you can eat! Awesome possum!

The pancakes are also known as socca or farinata. I totally made the recipe incorrectly, as far as tradition is concerned, because you’re supposed to throw the batter into a screaming hot frying pan and bake the pancakes until they’re done. Not knowing the traditional method, I just made them as I would a pancake, like I saw on youtube. As far as I’m concerned, no harm was done to my tummy and that is probably the most telling and important issue at hand.

I would say for the four bucks I spent on a 2kg bag of flour, I am going to have a ton of fun with this stuff. I have all sorts of things that I’m excited to finally give a go, like: pakoras, falafels, apparently you can make the vietnamese crepe banh xeo well using chickpea flour, and of course the whole gammut of gluten-free sweet treat bakery items which I am now far too tired to list.

So yea, I have a fair bit of fun experimentation to be had in the next while and I am quite excited and proud of the fact I’ve got this stuff on standby to try.

Chickpea Pancakes

Chickpea flour
Olive oil
Salt
Water

Seriously, no measurements.
Put as much flour into a bowl as you think you can eat. If you’re making only a few pancakes for yourself, like I did tonight, I used 1/2 cup and it made 3 pancakes. If you’re making pancakes for a crowd, just dump in more. To the flour, pour in some olive oil until you’re comfortable with the amount. I have no clue how much I added, I just poured until I felt there was enough pooled in a corner. Add a generous pinch of salt. Stir in enough water to make a runny batter. If I were to guess, I think it would be about the consistency of whipping cream. To give you an idea, I think I used approximately a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, maybe slightly more water to get the consistency that looked right to me.
Whisk all together with until there are no lumps and let the batter sit to rest while you warm up your frying pan.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat with some olive oil. Pour in some of your batter and swirl around the pan to coat.
Let your pancake cook until it’s golden brown on the bottom and flip. Cook for a minute or two more on the other side. I don’t think it’s actually possible to overcook/burn these pancakes, which is kind of nice. If anything, I think the longer you leave the batter to cook, the better its taste and texture.
Serve pancakes hot with whatever savoury toppings you can think of.

Topping and other ideas:
* butter, parmesan, thinly sliced ham
* nacho cheez (yes, I said nacho cheez.. I am ashamed)
* Reading the recipes for socca, adding some dried spices to the batter would certainly be a great idea for flavouring
* Dried mushrooms and dill in the batter is apparently tasty, but have no idea what/if you would serve it with a topping.
* Really.. anything goes.

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