Smile Politely

Local Breakfasts Make a Big Difference

If you can only eat locally for only one meal a day, breakfast is not only the easiest to prepare, but also has one of the biggest impacts. That’s because the average box of processed cereal takes more calories to produce than it provides — 7,000 kilocalories versus 1,100 — according to a 2007 report from The Nation.

East Central Illinois is blessed with many local breakfast options. Our farmers produce some of the best ham, sausage, bacon and eggs around, as well as seasonal berries and grains. In the last few years, a handful of local farmers have started to grow and mill their own wheat flour. The soft winter wheat that does so well in our area also happens to be the type that is the best for making things like scones, biscuits, waffles and pancakes

You can buy soft winter wheat flour made from either red or white wheat. The difference between the two is the same as the difference between red and white wine grapes. Red wine grapes and red wheat kernels both have more tannins, which makes them more astringent. Typically, if you are using whole red wheat flour, you will want to use it in equal parts with all-purpose flour. You can buy whole red wheat pastry flour grown by Tomahnous Farm of Mahomet at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, and it’s available year round. From May through December you can buy locally milled whole white wheat pastry flour from Moore Family Farm at the Market at the Square in Urbana and the indoor Holiday Market at Lincoln Square Village.

If you’ve only made pancakes from the yellow box or the more recent yellow plastic jug, it may surprise you to learn how little time it takes to make them from scratch and how much better they will taste made with freshly milled flour. Really, my friend Clint makes them for his kids before school every week. The leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge. Or you can layer them between waxed or parchment paper and store them in a freezer bag in your freezer for a quick breakfast later on.

Depending upon the time of year, there are several local options for topping your pancakes. Currently you can get locally produced honey and sorghum molasses from Prairie Apiaries in Salem from Common Ground Food Co-op. If you are partial to fruit syrup, you can heat some locally produced jam or jelly and thin it with a little water. From March through August, you can get local maple syrup from Funks Grove in Shirley. And from June through August, it’s hard to beat pancakes topped with local blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or honey from the farmers at the Market at the Square.

Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • 1-1/4 c whole white winter wheat pastry flour or 1/2 c plus 2 T whole red winter wheat pastry flour and 1/2 c plus 2 T all purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 t salt
  • 1 c milk (use up to 1/4 c more for all whole wheat)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 T vegetable oil or melted butter

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a smaller bowl or large measuring cup. Stir into dry until just moistened. Small lumps are okay. Heat a skillet or griddle on moderate heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of oil and wipe skillet with a paper towel. Drop batter by 1/4 c into pan. Wait until bubbles form and pop before turning pancake. Makes eight, 4-inch pancakes.

If batter is too thick, add up to 2 T milk or water.

For buttermilk pancakes, substitute buttermilk for milk or use yogurt thinned to buttermilk consistency. Reduce baking powder to 2 t and add 1/2 t of baking soda.

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