Buckwheat Pancakes with Cocoa Nib Pudding

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In terms of things that make me happy, my list would be spending time with my boyfriend, my family, my friends.......and then any time I am served breakfast in a mini cast iron skillet. Seriously though, how happy do you get when you're out to breakfast/brunch and you see the server coming towards you with a piping hot miniature skillet full of deliciousness?! If you're me, pretty darn happy. These pancakes are from the Sqirl cookbook Everything I Want to Eat which is just about the best title for a cookbook I've ever heard of. Whenever I go to Sqirl I am guilty of always ordering the same thing (Famed Ricotta Toast, if you're curious), even though I literally always look at the pancakes and say how good they look. I love Sqirl so much and my visits there are so special that I'm always afraid to stray from the norm, even though everything on the menu is superb. When I saw that the recipe for pancakes is included in the cookbook, I dogeared the page and started stalking Amazon, waiting for the 6-inch cast iron skillets to go on sale. The patience paid off this past week when I got 2 skillets for 12 bucks! These pancakes require a few specialized ingredients: cocoa nibs, corn flour, and buckwheat, but you can find these things in the bulk bins at most health food stores (I found it all at Sprouts). I made these for Noah and I as a weekend linner, and they were So. Good. I called my mom and told her that these might be in the top 3 of baked goods I have EVER MADE. And they are actually pretty healthy, too as far as pancakes are concerned! My qualm with most sweet breakfasts is that they are so heavy that you feel like crap for the rest of the day. The pancakes/waffles/French toast just sit in your gut like a wad of wet paper and you have to go home and sleep it off. These pancakes are different: they are fluffy and light due to the buttermilk, only slightly sweet due to brown sugar and vanilla. You can eat the whole dish and not feel like you're going to have a food baby. The pudding is smooth but not too rich, and it's actually made with almond milk! Jessica Koslow, owner of Sqirl, recommends eating them with whatever fruit is in season (I used blood oranges and raspberries but you could do pineapple, pears, bananas, apples, strawberries, persimmons--whatever you have in your fridge!). Also you totally don't need a cast iron skillet to make these--you can fry them in a pan the old fashioned way, but the skillet adds a little something extra, and now I will be tempted to make them all the time. 

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Cocoa Nib pudding (from sqirl)

  • (makes enough for 3 6-inch pancakes) 
  • 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) plain almond milk
  • 12.5 g (1.5 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 25 g (1/8 cup plus 2 teaspoons) cocoa powder 
  • 70 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • 22 g (0.75 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 32 g (1/4 cup) cocoa nibs 

Buckwheat pancakes (adapted from sqirl) 

  • (makes 2 6-inch pancakes plus a little extra)
  • 45 g (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) buckwheat flour
  • 50 g (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) corn flour (I used Bob's Red Mill brand) 
  • 27 g (1/8 cup) brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 240 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Additional Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 2-3 cups of prepared fruit of your choice 
  • powdered sugar 

Instructions:

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Start by making your pudding. Combine 1/8 cup (30 ml) of the almond milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to form a "slurry" (bottom left photo). Meanwhile, in a pot combine sugar, cocoa, salt. Whisk in remaining almond milk gradually. Turn on heat medium-low and heat chocolate mixture, stirring with spatula. Try to remove any clumps of cocoa by smashing them on the side of the pot. Once the mixture is bubbling at the edges, add your cornstarch slurry. Keep stirring with the heat on until mixture thickens and is very shiny, about 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn off heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla. Pour into a small cereal bowl and cover with plastic wrap in the fridge (don't add nibs yet!). 

For the pancakes, start by preheating oven to 350 degrees F. 

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In a small bowl combine buckwheat, corn flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Whisk with a fork to combine. In a separate bowl, combine egg and buttermilk. Whisk either by hand or with an electric mixer on low for 3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and aerated. 

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Slowly add buttermilk/egg mixture to dry ingredients, whisking as you go. Make sure there are no lumps of dry ingredients. Melt butter and stir in (see below). 

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Your batter is now done. Take a scant tablespoon of butter and add it to cast iron skillet on low heat. When it has melted, swirl it in pan to get a good coating. Now add batter, filling it halfway up the side of the skillet. Repeat for other skillet. 

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Heat skillet filled with batter on medium heat on stove for 1 minute before transferring to oven. Set timer for 12 minutes. Alternatively, if you are not using skillets, make pancakes as you would normally on a griddle or in a large frying pan. 

While pancakes are cooking, prepare your fruit. I used blood oranges, sectioning them. I researched a couple ways to do this but I think the easiest way is to cut the bottom and top off of the orange and then cut the sides off, going around the outside until you have what will feel like a little bloody pulp of an orange. Cut into each segment to release it and place in a bowl, as shown below. 

At 12 minutes, take a peek at your pancakes. They are done when the middles feel springy. If they aren't done, return to oven for an additional minute and then check again. Repeat until fully cooked. Mine took about 16 minutes in total because my oven runs a little off. This recipe made 2 adult-sized pancakes with a little batter leftover, and so I used it to make a mini pancake in a mini cast iron skillet!  

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While pancakes cool, take your pudding out from the fridge and uncover. Add cocoa nibs and stir into pudding. Adding them right before serving keeps them crunchy and it's a nice added texture! 

To assemble your pancakes, spread pudding on half of the pancake. The pudding should be thick enough that it won't spread all over. It's almost like frosting a gigantic black and white cookie! Next to the pudding place your fruit going up the middle like a stripe. I alternated 2 raspberries and 2 segments of blood orange. 

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Next, add a dusting of powdered sugar next the the fruit. To try and get it as perfect as possible I used a mesh strainer and gently placed a paper towel on the chocolate/fruit side of the pancake (the height of the fruit will keep it from adhering to the pudding). 

To capture the entire assembly sequence, I took pictures of the mini skillet below! 

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Serve immediately! The pancake will still be warm which will melt the chocolate pudding a little. The mix of textures in this personalized dish are unreal--the smooth pudding, the hearty buckwheat, crunchy cocoa nibs....so good! I found that these pancakes required no extra butter or syrup, but you could always add that if you want, or if you are making them for a kiddo.

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I have truly never seen my boyfriend eat anything so fast (and we are the FASTEST eaters in our house!) so I think he liked them haha! And he is in general a very savory-things-only-for-breakfast type of person. He finished his AND the mini skillet AND the rest of mine that I was too full to eat!  

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Thanks for reading! I start in the ICU on Monday so I feel that may put a damper on my blogging streak, but I still have a bunch of recipes I want to make before Easter!  

Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies (and some thoughts on medicine)

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Most times, I bake because I love it; baking is my church, my sanctuary, my therapy. The kitchen, the oven, my glass jars filled with ingredients are my home and my creative outlet. But this week was different. This week I baked because it is also how I show I care and show appreciation: it is my love language. 

Four days ago my grandpa, Papa, was admitted to the hospital. For those of you who know me, you know that my Papa means the world to me. Next to my parents, he was the relative I spent the most time with growing up. He never missed a Grandparent's Day brunch, a recital, a graduation. He drove us on roadtrips, taught us how to stargaze in Park City, and gave me my sweet tooth.

Papa came to the ED after he took a fall at his care center. In the ED my mentor and one of my favorite doctors in the world took care of him, and diagnosed him with a gnarly femoral fracture and several vertebral fractures as well. Luckily, he was able to have surgery the next day and it went successfully despite him being a non-optimal candidate. For the first time since I started medical school, I was at the hospital, but I wasn't on the care team. The patient's family was my family, and the family's questions were my questions. I've spent the past four years learning and thinking about what makes a good doctor, but I had never thought about it from the opposite perspective: what makes a good patient? What makes a good family member when you are taking care of their loved one?

Of course, it is the doctors' and nurses' duty to make sure that all patients, whether they are "good patients" or not, get the same, superb care. But as someone who has been on the care team side of things, I know it makes life so much more pleasant if the patient and his/her family are kind and understanding. While Papa was in surgery and recovering I had a lot of time to think about this, and when I met all the people caring for him--the doctors, nurses, aides, PT and OTs, speech therapists, custodians, dietitians--I took note of what things made each of our days--theirs, Papa's, my family's--better, along with observations from my clinical years of school. Here's what I came up with:

How to be a good patient / how to be a good family member to a patient 

1. Show Up. Not everyone can be at the hospital 24/7 when a family member falls ill--life doesn't stop when we need it to. But trying to divy up the days into shifts as much as you can so someone can be there can really help out the care team and your loved one. For Papa, us being there helped orient him, smooth over little bumps in the road, and helped the care team know if certain behaviors are new or baseline. So many of our wonderful nurses just thanked us for being there, even though were were just chilling on the couch in Papa's room. This really surprised me, but it makes sense: the doctors and nurses can deliver optimal care, but they can't love your person like you do

2. Remember it is a profession, not just a job. In medical school there is a huge emphasis placed on professionalism, and all that that entails. I imagine it is true for nursing and for healthcare professions. As a medical student, being a professional means always keeping your cool, treating all people with respect, and providing the same excellent medical care to all comers. As a patient or family member, it means remembering that these people are there to help you or your loved one recover, but they aren't personal servants or punching bags for when things aren't going well. A hospital is not a hotel, and it isn't okay to treat anyone who works at a hospital like they are below you just because they are helping you urinate or bringing you your food on a tray.

3. Things are happening even if you don't see them happening. The night we brought Papa to the ED, my mom remarked, "I can't believe how long it takes to do anything around here." At first, I was defensive about this, emergency medicine being my chosen field. But then I thought about it more and I realized that I was used to seeing things from the provider perspective: just because I'm not with the patient, doesn't mean I'm not working on his care--calling consults, following up on test results, tracking down a nurse, calling family members, helping to put transfer orders in, discussing care with my superiors. There are so many tiny, minute tasks and clicks on a computer that need to get done for anything to happen in a modern hospital. Even if your doctor isn't bedside (I know all doctors lament that in modern medicine too much time is spent at the computer instead of the bedside), it doesn't mean the gears of the machine aren't turning. 

4. Say thank you. This one is so obvious, but it is always appreciated and it always goes a long way. Thank everyone for everything no matter how small. It costs nothing but it can have a big impact. Because my love language is cookies, I made these pan-banging cookies from Sarah Kieffer's blog and gave them out to the care team as a thank you. I'm not at all advocating that you should bake cookies every time you're in the hospital--in fact as a rule you should never buy gifts for any sort of healthcare provider, as it is considered unethical--but since I knew most of the care team from school and people know that I will bake for anyone and anything, I figured a homemade cookie and a thank you was quite alright. 

To be honest, these cookies have been on my list for a while (especially after the NYT printed the recipe), but I hadn't made them because I felt bad about cheating on my one true love. These cookies make a different type of cookie than my normal recipe, but just as good. They are thin, lacey, crispy on the outside, and super buttery. They are beautiful to look at, with dark edges and ruffles all the way around, and a gooey light center. They are made with chocolate shards, instead of chips, that bleed in the oven and make a beautiful, marbled cookie. They should definitely be the next thing you bake. 

Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip COokies By Sarah Kieffer 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 ounces chocolate, cut into shards (some big pieces, some small). Sarah's original recipe calls for all bittersweet chocolate but I used 3 oz milk and 3 oz dark because I liked the color difference in the baked cookies and because not all people love pure bittersweet chocolate.  
  • Maldon sea salt--my addition, I just can't eat a chocolate chip cookie that doesn't have a sprinkle of salt.

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well, followed by baking soda and salt. Add 1 c. of flour and mix on low until incorporated. Add water followed by the last cup of flour, mix until incorporated. Scraped down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 30 seconds on medium-low. Add chocolate and fold in with spatula.

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Line pan with either parchment or tin foil (shiny side down). Do not use silpat! (I tried). Weigh cookies into 100g balls (about 1/3 c of batter) and place on cookie sheet, 4 at a time for 1 big cookie sheet. The cookies have to be this big to work. Spread them faaaaaar apart, they will spread a ton! Don't be tempted to bake any more than 4 at a time. Place entire cookie sheet in freezer for 15 minutes. Don't skip this step or they will heat up in the oven too fast. 

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After freezing, place cookies in the oven for 10 minutes. At 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and drop the cookie sheet on the stove or counter top, from about 4 inches high. The domed peaks of the cookies will fall--this is what you want (see below). Return cookies to oven for 3 minutes. 

After first bang. 

After first bang. 

After 3 minutes, repeat the pan-bang. The cookies below have been "banged" twice. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. 

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After 2 minutes, bang again and return to oven for 2 more minutes (that's 10 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 2 minutes for 17 minutes total). At this point you will have 3 ruffly rings on your cookies from the 3 pan-bangs, like the cookie below. 

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After the last 2 minutes, remove cookies from oven for good and bang them one last time. The cookie will still look raw in the middle, but the edges will be brown and caramelized. The ones below are finished. 

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Add a small sprinkle of salt and allow the cookies to cool on the parchment completely. The gooey center will solidify after about 15 minutes. Place on paper towels to let some of the butter from the bottoms absorb. Let your pan cook completely before adding more balls of dough and returning to freezer for the next batch. This recipe will make about 10 large cookies.

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I love how the chocolate chungs spread out and the ruffles accumulate on the edges! 

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Cookies can be eaten warm, kept in a tupperware container for 5-7 days, or tied up in cellophane as a gift like below! On Sarah's blog she also says they freeze really well. 

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Yum. Thanks for reading!