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March, 2008

Pecan Pancakes

By Heidi Allison

No matter how health-conscious you are, everyone needs a little pancake sometimes… If that’s your mantra, head to the kitchen with this recipe.

Pecan Pancakes
No matter how health-conscious you are, everyone needs a little pancake sometimes… If that’s your mantra, head to the kitchen with this recipe. These updated cakes are a new spin on the classic, oversized, fluffy pancakes we use as a vehicle for butter and syrup. Flavored with winter squash and pecans, they are everything a great pancake should be: tangy, slightly chewy and perfectly browned.

But these cakes will tackle those Sunday brunch cravings sans the guilt. Using buttermilk and low- fat milk in the batter keeps the level of saturated fat in check, while the almond oil and squash act as a healthier stand-in for the melted butter. Moreover, adding squash to the batter allows you to reduce the amount of butter that’s traditionally used to create a moist and tender texture. You won’t need to drown these pecan pancakes in melted butter to kick up the taste—just a touch of maple syrup.

But squash offers a lot more than texture and taste in this recipe. Winter squash is a nutritional powerhouse packed with caroteniods, potassium and zinc. Numerous studies have found that the potent antioxidant, beta-carotene, provides protection against certain cancers. Beta-carotene has been shown to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body and slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. It may also protect against diabetic heart disease. Emerging research is finding that eating foods rich in caroteniods, such as winter squash, is beneficial to blood sugar regulation, This research suggests that a high dietary intake has an inverse relationship with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Butternut squash also contains beta-cryptoxanthin, which decreases the risk of lung cancer in smokers! Moreover, this winter squash keeps hypertension in check by delivering hefty doses of potassium, while zinc boosts your immune system and supports bone density. With so much to offer, it’s a shame to restrict this winter squash to the realm of side dishes!

Pecan Pancakes
Makes: 10 pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
11/2 tsp. plus a pinch of cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp. powdered ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 jumbo eggs (Don’t substitute with extra large eggs)
1 cup shaken buttermilk
¼ cup 1% low-fat milk
1 cup steamed and pureed butternut squash, room temperature
2 Tbs. almond oil
½ cup chopped pecans

Preparation:
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, low-fat milk, almond oil and squash. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the buttermilk mixture into it. Whisk ingredients together just until smooth. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat a medium cast iron skillet on medium-high heat until hot. (Test the temperature with a drop of water--it will sizzle and “dance” over the surface.) Add 1/8 cup almond oil to the cast iron skillet and let sit for 10 seconds to allow the oil to get hot. Pour 1/3 cup batter into the skillet from a height of 4-6 inches and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chopped pecans over the top. Cook for 1½ minutes or until the edges are golden and bubbles begin to break on the surface. Turn and continue to cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until golden brown.

Remove the pancake to a warm plate. Pour a small amount of almond oil to film the pan, and then repeat this process with an additional 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Top with maple syrup and serve.

Notes from the Author:
You’ll get the best results if you preheat your pan after the batter is mixed. Let the batter sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the leavening agents work, which ensures a light and fluffy texture. Use two cast iron skillets if you’re feeding a crowd.