Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 27, 2015

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes, www.goodfoodgourmet.comIn my early 30’s, I decided to try a vegetarian lifestyle, and what started out as an experimental journey, lasted for 13 years. During this time I also tried life as a vegan, but found it very difficult to maintain because of my traveling and work schedule.

Several years ago, I began to eat meat again, but I had become very selective. I rarely eat pork – except for the occasional rack of BBQ baby backs or St Louis style cuts that I enjoy along with the few strips of bacon I will indulge in here and there. My meals with animal protein are fairly limited to only using organic chicken, grass fed organic beef and lots of fish. I still enjoy several vegetarian meals each week — and more often, find myself including a few vegan options.

Over the years, I began learning more about the dangers of gluten and dairy products for those with sensitivities. It was early in 2000 when scientists identified gluten allergies as a real ailment that could be potentially fatal, if left untreated. Medical providers began to kick around the word inflammation as the root cause of all illnesses. Although I never considered myself gluten intolerant, I did find that I felt better when I didn’t eat a lot of it.

Around the same time, dairy products began to get as much heat from the medical community as did the food products with gluten. Before you knew it, proclamations were being made citing new information that suggested inflammatory illnesses may also be tied to long term dairy consumption. This had many people re-thinking the food they consumed, yet again. I had known for a long time that I was (and still am) lactose intolerant and found myself reluctantly excluding more and more of the foods I enjoyed.

The good thing is that being lactose intolerant does not fall into a category of dreaded diseases that you might catch — instead, it is a natural progression of your body gradually moving you from exclusive milk consumption to relying on food other milk for your nutrition.

Our body is an extraordinary machine that runs on thousands, and perhaps even millions, of years of genetic coding that has been collected and stored on a cellular level. Our bodies are programmed to produce the enzyme lactase in our infancy, which helps digest the sugar (lactose) and proteins (whey and casein) in the milk provided by our mothers. When we are old enough to eat other foods, our bodies stop producing lactase. If you continue to eat dairy foods beyond this point, your body is unable to digest either the lactose, whey or casein (or all), which then cause those painful and uncomfortable symptoms associated with the intolerance.

Statistics show that approximately 65-75 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, and only those with milk drinking ancestry (who are likely to possess the gene(s) for lactase persistence) are still able to digest lactose into adulthood. Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent where more than 90 percent of adults are affected.

It is no wonder that we have seen an explosion of alternative lifestyles with people scrambling to find good, healthy ways to modify recipes into something that better fits their chosen meal plans. After reading and writing about most of these many options, I have found that the vegan lifestyle has evolved the most. Let’s face it — it’s quite challenging to bake without dairy items — and for many of these folks, even beloved recipes like pancakes needed a makeover.

You might ask yourself how a delicious, fluffy pancake can be created without the use of eggs or milk, because vegans don’t use any animal products. I’ve come across recipes that would use mashed bananas, applesauce or ground flax seed in place of the dairy, yet none of the recipes I tried convinced me that they were the one.  They may have been edible, but were heavy and dense. I began my own experimentation over many weekends which finally resulted in a very delicious vegan pancake.

I did a few things differently that other recipes did not do, and have listed the details for you below…

1. I chose to use coconut oil that had been refrigerated and scooped out the necessary amount which I then cut into the flour with a fork. The fat coats the flour and lends to the tenderness and pliability of the pancake.
2. I used cool (not cold) apple juice, which helped to prevent the coconut oil from melting too fast in the batter. This helped to keep the coconut oil suspended in the batter and added to the richness of the pancake. If you choose to use water, you can increase the amount of sugar to 3 tablespoons and add 1 tablespoon of vanilla.
3. Add all of the liquid first to mix into the flour and create the right batter consistency, and then add the vinegar last. Once you add the vinegar, you will hear a fizzing noise which is creating the reaction with the other ingredients. Stir in the vinegar quickly and do not over mix or you will lose the leavening benefit.
4. Before adding the batter to the pan, dip a paper towel in some oil and wipe the interior of the pan just enough to create a thin coat of oil. Make sure to do this between each batch of pancakes that you are cooking up. You can fry these up in a nonstick skillet or a regular stainless steel skillet and adding the thin film of vegetable oil will help the skillet especially.
5. Each pancake will take 2 tablespoons of batter. Add the first tablespoon and spread out the batter as thinly as possible, then quickly add the second tablespoon and repeat.
6. I cooked these on a very low temperature to help them cook through before being flipped. You need to look for those bubbles in the batter before flipping. The same principle applies here as in regular pancakes — allow the sides to set first and then look for the bubbles forming on the top. At this point, the top will also start to set slightly.
7. Use a thin metal spatula to help you get under the pancake. Use the spatula to loosen the pancake from the griddle first around all of the edges, and then gently flip them and allow them to cook slowly on the other side.
8. I found that 2 tablespoons of sugar is better than 3 when you are using apple juice. The lesser amount of sugar along with the quantities of leavening ingredients provided will add the right amount of color to the pancakes. If you change these quantities, you will find that the pancakes will be a little darker. A nice golden caramel color is what you are after.
9. The vinegar you use can be either plain white vinegar, white balsamic vinegar or flavored vinegars like those you can get from Pok Pok Som (like pineapple). The vinegar provides the leavening reaction as it interact with the baking soda and helps to make the batter and the pancakes even fluffier.
10. I find that adding either almond or coconut milk makes them too gloppy/gluey tasting, so that is why I choose to either add water with some vanilla (about 1 tablespoon) or some apple juice. I keep some frozen apple concentrate in the freezer for this purpose and to also use in baked goods for extra flavor instead of just using water. If you want to use the concentrate, add 2 tablespoons of concentrate to the amount of water indicated.
11. Your first pancake is always a test pancake, so don’t get discouraged if it sticks to the pan or gets too dark. Make the first one to see how long it takes to cook on the temperature you are using, and if you are achieving the right color. Always wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in a little oil to prevent sticking.
12. The recipe provided will make about 8 (4”to 5”) pancakes. I scoop 2 large tablespoons of batter into the ready pan and carefully spread it out so it is not too thick.
13. Once you remove them from the griddle or skillet, place them on a platter and let them rest for a minute or so before serving. As they cool, they will become more pliable. To help keep everything nice and warm when you are ready to eat, serve them with warm syrup.
14. You can make a batch to enjoy the same day or freeze to enjoy the rest of the week. If I am freezing my pancakes, I place a small piece of parchment paper (or plastic wrap) in between each pancake until I have stacked them in 2 bundles about 4 pancakes high. I will then wrap each bundle in plastic wrap and then in some foil to prevent freezer burn. When I want to eat the pancakes, I will remove them from the freezer and place them (one at a time) on a microwave safe plate and cover them completely with a moistened paper towel. I will then heat them quickly in the microwave for about 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the strength of your microwave. The moistened paper towel provides them with some moisture as they re-heat in the microwave, and will result in a warm, tender pancake.

Vegan Pancakes
2 cups all purpose flour **see note below
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, solid state
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups apple juice (use carbonated water or water with 2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate dissolved in the water)
3 tablespoons white vinegar (or white balsamic or clear flavored vinegar like Pok Pok Som pineapple vinegar)
**vegetable oil & paper towel to wipe skillet or griddle between pancakes
NOTE: You may use self rising flour in this recipe instead of plain flour. If you choose to do this, you must still use the baking soda but make sure to omit the baking powder in the recipe since self rising flour already comes with baking powder in it.

Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and mix well. Spoon out the 4 tablespoons of solid coconut oil and cut this into the flour with a fork, making sure that all of the flour is evenly coated with the coconut oil and that no large lumps of coconut oil remain.

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Add in the 1 ¼ cups of apple juice and stir into the batter, then add in the white vinegar and stir well. You may have some small lumps in the batter and this is ok. On hot, dry days, you may have to add a little more than 1 ¼ cups of liquid which is why it is stated as such in the recipe. Set the batter aside to allow the reaction of the acid to take place. You will notice the batter will become very fluffy. In a matter of minutes, it will go from this…

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

To this…

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Set the temperature on your griddle on the lowest level, and do the same if you are using a skillet on your stovetop. Coat the inside of the griddle or skillet with a very thin coat of vegetable oil. It may take a few minutes for this to warm up, so be patient. Once it has heated up, your first pancake will be used to test the temperature and get you familiar with how the pancake should look as it is cooking. It will also help you become familiar at how to flip the pancake…so if your first one is not perfect, that’s OK!

Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter onto your griddle or skillet and use your spoon to spread out the batter so it is even in the pan. Allow it to cook slowly until you see bubbles forming on top of the pancake, like this…

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Use a thin metal spatula to loosen the pancake gently around the edges and in the center. Carefully peak under the pancake and check the color underneath. It should be a nice golden brown, and if it is darker than that, you need to turn your heat down a little more. Once the pancake has developed bubbles on the top and is (almost) set, carefully flip the pancake with your spatula and allow it to cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Once it is ready, remove them to a platter and allow them to cool slightly before serving. You can slightly overlap them on the platter because they should not stick together. As they cool, they will become more pliable and behave more like fluffy pancakes. Serve them with warm syrup or store them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the week.

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

Really Good, Really Vegan Pancakes,

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