Super-simple recipes don’t skimp on great taste
We’ve all heard the adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” This is usually followed by an illustrative tale of woe. We’ve learned that if a price seems ridiculously low or a shortcut seems impossibly easy, the results may not be what we hoped. I had this very reaction to a pancake recipe that’s popular on several internet blog spots: banana oatmeal pancakes made with only three ingredients.
Recalling typical recipes for pancakes that require melted butter, eggs, milk, flour and leavening, I was surprised to see such a short list of ingredients: rolled oats, milk and a banana. Combine them in a blender, puree until smooth, then allow the mixture to thicken before pouring out rounds onto a heated griddle.
The only difference between these and traditional pancake batter is that they cooked over a lower heat for a slightly longer time. They were golden and fluffy, with hints of both banana and oat flavors. Far fewer cleanup chores, instead of washing multiple bowls, and the perfect amount of batter for the two of us. Definitely a keeper.
This prompted me to consider other recipes calling for only a few ingredients (outside of roasted meats and vegetables which require just seasonings and sometimes oil). I’ve included my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, which is a gluten-free treat, made with peanut butter, egg and sugar. Like the pancakes, they take a little longer to bake, but the results are delicious.
Despite these successes, I was not completely convinced by the two-ingredient biscuit recipe. Old-fashioned baking powder biscuits require lots of butter, buttermilk, flour and (of course) baking powder. The substitution of self-rising flour seemed reasonable, but I wasn’t sure if heavy cream would be enough to replace both the liquid and fat you would find in a traditional recipe.
I measured out the flour and cream, mixing them together to form a dough, which was then kneaded and rolled before being cut with a biscuit cutter. The recipe called for baking these at the same high temperature as most biscuits, but instead of on a baking sheet, these were baked in an oven-safe skillet.
By way of clarification, the word biscuit comes from the Latin words bis, meaning twice, and coctus, meaning cooked. The term emerged in 14th century England as a description for a small cake that is baked and then dried out, to produce a hard, flat, durable disk with a long shelf life, not unlike hardtack, the staple food of soldiers and seafarers. In modern England, the word biscuit refers to what Americans call a cookie.
Americans use the word biscuit to refer to the light, fluffy breakfast bread, rich in buttery flavor. I wasn’t sure I could create a similar product with just two ingredients, so I ran a test. The dough was a bit drier than conventional biscuit dough, but it did rise in the oven. The biscuits stayed pale on their tops, but the bottoms turned golden. The texture was tender and flakey.
While my experiment was nothing like the ones they run in “America’s Test Kitchen,” I am happy to report that this super-simple recipe produces delicate biscuits in just a few minutes – perfect when you’re in a hurry, but still need something to butter for breakfast.
Banana Oatmeal Pancakes
1 C almond milk*
1 large ripe banana
1 1/2 C rolled oats
Add the ingredients in the order listed to the bowl of a blender. Process until completely smooth. Set aside to thicken for about 5 minutes. Heat a griddle over medium. Pour 1/3 C of batter for each pancake, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Allow to cook until the surface is bubbled and appears dry at the edges, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. Serve with butter and maple syrup, garnished with sliced banana. *Note: you may substitute any other type of milk for comparable results.
Peanut Butter Cookies
1 C crunchy peanut butter
2/3 C sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Cream together the peanut butter and sugar. Lightly beat the egg; mix it into the peanut butter and sugar until combined. Using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop, place dough balls on cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Lightly flatten each cookie with the tines of a fork to create a grid pattern. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool slightly before removing to a rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Yield: About 1 1/2 dozen cookies.
2 C self-rising flour
1 C heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450 F. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine thoroughly. Turn dough out onto a work surface covered with a sheet of wax paper. Knead and fold the dough until it is smooth. Roll out to a thickness of 1/2-inch and cut into rounds with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Be sure not to twist the cutter; you want clean edges to make sure the dough rises. Arrange rounds in a single layer in an ovenproof skillet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Yield: 8 biscuits. *Adapted from Taste of Home