Fall is finally here and with the cooler weather and changing leaves comes a different flavor palette to enjoy. Thick-skinned winter squash arrive, along with onions, cold-hardy greens, and root vegetables. The body begins craving heavier meals and cream and strong cheeses are often summoned to sate growing appetites.
Pumpkin begins appearing in everything.
Where their own flavors were once appreciated, lattes, bisque, beer, chili, butter, and a host of baked goods now seem bland without the addition of pumpkin flavoring. With all of the focus on pumpkin, I can’t help but feel that maybe the sweet potato just got stuck with the marshmallow topping on Thanksgiving. Think about it – When was the last time you had a sweet potato latte? Unless you live in Korea, it’s probably been never.
So when I began reminiscing about Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Waffle Mix, I got a hold of myself and set about developing a pancake recipe that used sweet potatoes, instead of the ubiquitous pumpkin.
Creating a recipe takes a bit of basic cooking knowledge, a lot of patience, and a little magic.
Before going to the kitchen, I thought about what I wanted: A healthy, fluffy pancake that used only whole wheat flour, minimal animal products, and no white sugar or artificial sweetener.
Then I combined what I wanted with what I knew:
- That a basic pancake recipe consists of balancing dry ingredients (flour, sweetener, rising agent) with wet ingredients (milk or water, perhaps an egg) to create a batter that, when poured, will spread out in the pan just so to settle debates on whether the consistency was too runny or too thick. I would have to pay more attention when substituting liquids in place of dry ingredients (or vice versa).
- That adding sweet potato would make for a much denser pancake which meant I would have to take extra care to create a fluffy pancake, and heed my rising agents.
- That when adding whole wheat flour, other flavors can become muted and would therefore need to be increased accordingly.
Magic happened during the cooking process when I added another pinch of spice, like the cardamom, or made last-minute decisions. Lemon juice was not something that I had considered until I remembered its brilliant ability to bring out the different flavors in the sweet potato curries I made. A second later, I realized that it would also serve as the extra acid I needed to react with the baking soda and create my sought after fluffiness.
Patience came in the form of adding, subtracting, and adjusting my ingredients and going back to the drawing board twice before I was content with my third attempt.
I say “attempt,” because I do not believe in a stone-set recipe, but a method that improves with time. If you happen to use this method and improve it to your liking, I would love to hear about it.
1 medium sweet potato
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
Crushed cardamom seeds from 3-4 pods
1 pinch nutmeg
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T grated ginger
2 T honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg (or a little oil for a vegan recipe)
1 ½ cup almond milk
2/3 cup reserved steaming water plus extra if needed
A few pats of butter (or small amount of oil) for cooking
For Fall Fruit and Walnut Topping:
Small handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
5-7 Korean dates (jujubes), roughly chopped
½ apple or pear
Small handful of cranberries
2 T honey
A pat of butter
1 tsp cinnamon
First roughly chop the sweet potato and steam it until tender. There is no need to peel the sweet potato, as it will later be pureed. To peel it would not improve texture, but cause you to miss out on a great deal of fiber.
While the potato steams, assemble your dry ingredients (cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda and flour) and combine them thoroughly.
Remove the potatoes from the steamer, taking care to reserve the water. Reserving the water not only conserves water, but it is beneficial. The leftover potato starches in the water will aid in binding your ingredients together. Tip: If you need to make almond milk before making your pancakes, reserve the water that you use to blanch the almonds for boiling the sweet potato.
Place the potato pieces into a sturdy food processor with the reserved water, almond milk, ginger, lemon juice, egg, vanilla, and honey. Puree the wet ingredients until they are smooth, with very few lumps. For a vegan recipe, you may add two or three tablespoons of oil in place of the egg.
Place a pat of butter in a large griddle pan and set it atop the stove on medium heat. For a vegan recipe, in place of butter, you may use a tiny amount of oil to just coat the pan.
While the butter melts, whisk together your wet and dry ingredients until just combined. It is important that this is done right before you pour the batter into the pan, so that the baking soda reacts with the liquids and fluffs your pancakes. If you combine the ingredients too early, the pancakes could fall flat.
For medium size pancakes, pour the batter into the pan using a 1/3 measuring cup to ensure even stacks. Wait until you see bubbles forming on the top of the pancakes before flipping them once. This batter made eight medium size pancakes.
To make the topping, heat a pat of butter in a pan, and add the walnuts, cinnamon, and one tablespoon of the honey. Stir frequently, taking care to not burn the walnuts. A moment later, add the Korean dates, apples, cranberries and the rest of the honey and stir until they are heated. Serve the sweet potato pancakes hot with plenty of topping and an extra drizzle of honey, if needed.