Baking for Bookworms: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes from Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Today’s post makes a great breakfast (or dinner) for the one you love. There’s something about pancakes that speaks to home and care.

(You can scroll down for my earlier post about this book) There’s not a lot of food mentioned in the novel. Pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches are the most noteworthy food besides the food supplied by Costco, which is regularly mentioned. Food is most associated with the idea of caring for others. When A.J. is alone, he barely feeds himself, only occasionally eating frozen Indian dinners, but when he introduces new love and light into his life, the food becomes nourishing, though never fancy.

This particular dish is mentioned in a scene without the protagonist where the town’s cop has his first morning with A.J.’s sister-in-law:

“He can smell the pancakes from where he sits. He can imagine her downstairs making them. She is probably wearing a white apron and a silky nightgown. Or maybe she is wearing just the apron and nothing else. That would be exciting.” (210)

There’s also mention of fresh-squeezed orange juice, but I could just not summon up the energy to do that this morning. We bought orange juice instead. There’s not a lot of detail associated with these pancakes, so I took them to be “normal” and added my own twist.

This recipe is freely adapted from Mark Bittman’s. These pancakes are basically healthy because there’s fruit, whole wheat, eggs, and calcium! That’s what I try to convince myself anyway. Ours were super dense (we are not fluffy pancake people) but you can make yours lighter by using cake flour, actually using the two teaspoons of baking powder (I eyeballed mine and almost definitely only used one teaspoon), whisking the batter at the end, and thinning the batter out more (I ran out of milk). You can also feel free to use your favorite mix and just add banana and cinnamon and vanilla.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • up to 1 tbs sugar (optional)
  • 2 medium bananas, on the riper side (if you have giant bananas like I did, just use 1 1/2, and it’s okay if they’re not that ripe, they’re just harder to mash)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Measure the flour and dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk with a fork. Mash the banana in a separate bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Beat in eggs and milk. Mix thoroughly and add more milk as needed. Add vanilla and cinnamon.

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As you can see, my pancakes are not what one would call “pretty,” but they get the job done.

You can butter, spray, put a little oil in the pan, or just cook them in the drippings from the bacon your boyfriend made, like I did, and turn to medium heat. You can come up with a more elegant method for dispensing batter, but I typically just tip the bowl over and let a pancake worth of batter out at a time. Then cook until the edges start to look cooked and the bubbles start to pop. Flip and cook until done (about 30 seconds).

Serve with desired accoutrements. Paul is partial to peanut butter and I’m a big fan of butter and real maple syrup.

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What food do you turn to in the morning for comfort? Banana pancakes always remind me of home.

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