The Best Whole Grain Banana Pancakes

Every other Thursday on Food52 we bring you Nicholas Day -- on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.

Today: Nicholas loads his pancakes with whole grains and fruit -- not because it's healthy, just because it's good.

I have a tortured relationship with pancakes. I have talked publicly about this before; I am not ashamed. Basically, I adore pancakes. And pancakes repay my affection by sending me into a Rip Van Winkle-like weekend stupor from which I only awake when the toddler, desperate to be fed, starts teething on my ankles.

But there comes a time when a father, no matter how many recipes he still has not made in The Breakfast Book, has to make pancakes. It's stipulated in a clause somewhere in the appendix to the Contract of American Fatherhood. (You sign it, sleep-deprived, at the hospital; no one ever remembers it. It's also why fathers are obligated to play interminable games of catch with their sons. You think they enjoy that?) Don't think you can weasel out of this by making crepes. Leggings are not pants, and crepes are not pancakes.

In any case, after many lengthy, batter-focused sessions with my therapist, my occasional weekend pancakes have: 1) Less white flour; 2) More fruit.

I know that reads like a parody of a health-conscious recipe adaptation for children. (You know what I'm talking about: the just-add-chia-seeds-to-your-cookies sort of recipe. Which I swear I just made up but turns out to totally exist). But health-conscious recipe adaptations are in clear violation of the standards and best practices of this column. This column does not think that the best way to get your child to eat fruit is to hide it in a pancake. It thinks that the best way to get your child to eat fruit is to give said child fruit. It also thinks that any sort of smuggling -- and here I am refusing to link to a chocolate-broccoli cupcake recipe -- is modeling bad behavior. It may start with healthy vegetables. But who knows where such smuggling will end?

I am interested in none of the many good reasons to use less white flour and more fruit. I do not want you to use less white flour for nutritional reasons. I do not want you to use less white flour because the children are our future. I want you to use less white flour and more fruit because pancakes with less white flour and fruit are superior pancakes. They are more like a pancake and less like the top of a muffin.

>>RELATED: Even less like the top of a muffin? Green pancakes.

A pancake made with white whole wheat flour -- which is much milder than the standard red whole wheat -- has some weight to counterbalance the maple syrup. It has some taste besides maple syrup. It has some complexity. And it will not put you to sleep after seven bites.

And it will have, if I am making it, a high ratio of fruit to batter. Not blueberries but fruit that will caramelize: bananas, peaches, apples. Once the pancakes are on the griddle, the tops are covered with slices of fruit, which, once flipped, will grow soft and golden. I like some fruit in every bite, so much that the batter only peeks through the slices. If your fruit caramelized nicely, you can flip the pancakes again to serve, so that the golden slices are on top. Think of it, if you must, as pancake tatin.

Fruit-Laden, Whole-Grain Pancakes

Serves 4 to 5

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup whole millk
1/2 cup yogurt
A few fruits of your choice: bananas, peaches, apples all work well.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, melted butter, milk, and yogurt until smooth, and then add this to the flour mixture, whisking to combine the two. Let the batter rest for five minutes or so until it thickens (whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white flour).
2. In a clean bowl, or with a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites gently into the batter.
3. Cut the fruit into relatively thin slices and set aside. (Not too thin, though: you want to taste the fruit, not have it disappear into the pancake.)
4. Grease a griddle or cast-iron pan with butter (or vegetable oil, if you prefer). Cook the pancakes over moderate heat, dropping several tablespoon sized scoops of the batter onto the hot griddle. Then decorate the top of the pancakes with the sliced fruit. I cover my pancakes with immodest amounts of fruit -- I like to have fruit in every bite -- but feel free to use less, of course. When bubbles appear on the top of the pancake -- peeking through where there is no fruit -- flip and then cook until the fruit is caramelized. Serve immediately, fruit up or down (depending on how photogenic or mangled your fruit looks).

Save and print the full recipe on Food52.

Photos by James Ransom

This article originally appeared on Fruit-Laden, Whole Grain Pancakes