Growing up, whenever I saw my mom break out the griddle while the sun was still rising, I knew I was in for a treat. She would break out that yellow and blue box of pancake mix and get to work, and not long after, I'd be watching my morning cartoons with a plate full of hot cakey goodness. Any time we'd visit the lake house, she'd bring her griddle and pancake mix to feed the entire extended family and thus, fond memories of morning swims and afternoon laziness in the summer sun were cemented with waking and eating pancakes.
Now that I'm learning more about the importance of knowing where my food comes from and what is in it and how it effects me, I'm taking a different approach recreating a syrup coated stack of hot cakes. I only blame the food culture we live in on the low quality, vegetable oil infused mixes we used to live on and the corn syrup laden sweetness that stuck to our insides. Fortunately, the modern consumer has been demanding products better suited for our bodies and more easily recognized as real nutrition by our stomachs. Enter, Birch Benders. This Denver-based company is making gluten-free, paleo-friendly pancakes easy. Most of these mixes contain a combination of cassava flour, almond flour and coconut flour to deliver a satisfying consistency to meet your pancake cravings without hydrogenated oils, industrially produced, high-gluten wheat, or unnatural leavening agents and preservatives.
Below is an easy guide to a healthy approach to some of your morning favorites. We're going to be playing around with some of the Birch Bender's mixes as well as making some from scratch. Every ingredient used in this guide is gluten free and paleo.
Building Blocks for Successful Paleo Pancakes
- Leavening - The aspect in a baked product that allows it to rise, creating an airy texture. In pancakes, the most effective way to leaven is to use a chemical reaction. (The term "chemical" is thrown around far too often in media as something bad, but remember, everything is chemicals). When using baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate), a base, you'll also find an acid that it combines with in order to release carbon dioxide. Water and heat facilitate this reaction so the baking soda and monocalcium phosphate (the acid, in powder form) don't react when they're in the package.
- Moisture - Nothing is worse than biting into what appears to be a fresh baked scone only to be left with a mouthful of edible sand, so in your pancakes, there must be some element of moisture. I'm not even talking about the added water or milk in the recipe. A lot of that moisture is evaporated during the cooking. Here, I'm talking about oil. When you add Expedition Butter to your recipes, you're adding a very high fat (ie oil) ingredient and it will help keep your pancakes moist. Birch Benders mixes uses coconut flour, which is very absorbent and helps keep the cakes moist. Applesauce is another common replacement for oils and eggs as it keeps baked goods moist. Use 1/4 cup of applesauce for every egg.
- Body - With glutenous flours, a gluten network is formed when you knead the dough, basically binding the flour to itself which is why dough balls must be kneaded until they are kind of sticky. This is the result of the gluten network forming. In this guide, we're working with gluten free mixes (Birch Benders does offer classic mix that does use wheat flour if the reader desires). Here, cassava starch (not to be confused with cassava flour) serves as a thickening agent. In some keto pancakes recipes, the ingredients call for an abundance of eggs to create the food's body, but in my opinion, it tends to make the "bread" taste like someone spilled some flour into a quiche. We'll stick with cassava starch for our Body.
- Binder - Finally, the mix needs to be able to stick together. Egg whites provide the binding agent, since, when they're heated, they solidify and hold everything in place. The yolk offers flavor, nutrition, and color. If you're using applesauce as an alternative to eggs, be aware that it does not bind the same way as eggs do. Your mileage may vary.
Before we get to a few recipes for you to try, here are some quick tips to set you up for pancake mastery:
- Make sure you let your mix rest for 5-10 minutes before slapping it on the griddle. The mix will hold together much better after a quick rest. I know you want to eat them NOW, but don't worry, the short rest will yield much better flapjacks.
- Baked goods often come down to a precise science, and while pancakes fall into that category, I've found that, so long as you have the basic elements listed above (leavening, moisture, body, and binder), you can play around with mix-ins and consistences. For example, a higher liquid/mixture ratio will allow you to make crepes. More on that in a moment.
- Your cooking surface should only be lightly greased. Many recipes call for vegetable oils sprays. Beware of vegetable oil and canola oil! Instead, use avocado or coconut oil from available spray bottles. I'd save your butter for a topper.
- Folding in egg whites at the end helps add air bubbles to your mixture, increasing the fluffiness factor.
These recipes are written like basic blueprints to a house. There are a lot of mix and match options for you to play with. All of these recipes are gluten free and paleo (depending on which Birch Benders mix you pick)
Birch Benders + Expedition Butter Pancakes and Crepes
- Foundation (for pancakes)
- 3/4 cup Birch Benders Paleo Pancake Mix
- This mix contains the leavening, body and binder elements
- 2/3 cup liquid of choice (water, vanilla almond milk, or grass-fed whole milk)
- This serves as your moisture component and facilitates combining all other ingredients
- 1T Classic Expedition Pili Butter, (room temperature)
- The unique combination of high fat pili nuts and coconut manna makes for a rich and moist meal.
- Batter Additions (Go very light on these mix ins when making crepes)
- 1T finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts. Both these nuts are higher in fat than almonds and crunchier than pili nuts. For me, the unique nutty flavor of pecans pairs extremely well with pancakes.
- 1t raw cacao powder or 1t Cacao Magic by Philosophie Superfoods
- 1/2 scoop of your favorite protein powder. Keep an eye on your mix's consistency; you may need to add more fluid to compensate for the addition of powder.
- 1T cacao nibs. These magnesium filled bites are bitter and crunchy. You may want to balance out the bitter flavor with a semi-sweet topper.
- 1/4 to 1/2 ripe banana. Mash with a fork before adding to your mix. Since bananas have so much liquid, you may have to add an extra tablespoon of mix to compensate.
- 1 Egg, yolk and white separated. Mix in the yolk to start, then fold in the egg white as mentioned above in Tips. The folding action aerates the batter, giving it a fluffy body.
- 1T Chia Seeds. To add a touch of fiber and Omega 3 fats, I like to add chia seeds to a lot of my recipes. They don't have much flavor and only offer a slight crunch since they're so small. You can easily sneak them in if you're preparing your 'cakes for picky eaters.
- 1t Cinnamon. Cinnamon has the incredible effect of lowering a foods' glycemic index and stabilizing blood sugar.
- 1 scoop Natural Force Collagen Peptides. Add some tendon, ligament and joint support to your breakfast!
- Foundation (for crepes)
- 3/4 cup Birch Benders Mix (Paleo or Classic)
- 1 cup liquid of choice
- As you may have guessed, the added liquid make the batter a lot more runny, thus allowing you to make your crepes nice and thin. I'd recommend using a liquid with some fat content to help with the flavor. In this case, pili butter works better as a topping/spread.
- Pinch of salt
- Grass-fed butter. A keto-dieters favorite superfood, grass-fed butter tends to have more omega 3's than conventional butter and you may notice a deeper yellow color in grass fed butter as well.
- Pasture-raised fried egg. I like to have my yolk slightly runny to allow it to cover the pancake when I slice in. Pasture eggs also tend to have a higher omega 3 fat content than conventional eggs. Compare the yolk color between pasture eggs and cheap conventional eggs. We are drawn to foods with deeper, richer colors as then tend to be more nutritious. This is especially true for conventional vs pasture eggs.
- Blueberry compote. In a pan over medium heat, melt a spoonful of coconut oil. Add 1 cup of blueberries, 1 tbs water, and 1 tbs maple syrup. Allow it to simmer until the juice from the berries starts to seep out of the skin.
- Coconut Bliss Butter. Take a spoon full and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. If you have the option, run the microwave on about 70 percent power to avoid splattering from heating too quickly.
- Expedition Pili Butter. If you're really looking for a super easy paleo pancake with a healthy whollop of fat, a single squeeze packet of Expedition Pili Butter of any flavor pairs so well with Birch Benders and is one of the most satisfying ways to start a day.
- Keto Granola. This 5 recipe granola adds a great crunch to your crepe. Try mixing it in with your compote, too.