Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Bananas were a special treat for us kids when I was growing up, so special that I tried to save a small banana that was the hot lunch dessert one day. I tucked it into my jeans pocket to take it home. After lunch I joined a bunch of guys in a softball game. As fate would have it, a line drive hit the banana pocket. I learned two important things from this event: First, bananas are pretty effective softball shock absorbers and second, removing a smashed banana from a pocket is a challenge.

I excused myself from the game and went to the boys’ bathroom where I discovered that I would have to take off my jeans, turn the pocket inside out and wash the offending mush away. The warning bell for afternoon classes rang while I was doing this, so about twenty guys came into the room to find me in my shorts scrubbing my pants in the lavatory.

They were not as amused as the girls in my class when I walked in with a big wet spot on the front of my jeans. Mrs. Coogan was very nice and did not quiz me about the matter, though she did look startled as I carefully walked to my desk near the front of the classroom.

And then I had to ride the bus home, accompanied by laughter and the odor of ripe bananas. My mother sympathized philosophically, “I’m sorry, but I hope you learned your lesson.” I did. I have never put a banana in a pocket again.

In spite of this embarrassing episode, I still thought well of bananas because we had them only once in a while. They were almost always available at the Co-op or A & P but they were expensive. When young people look at old supermarket advertisements and see bananas for fifteen cents a pound, they may wish bananas were that cheap today.

Adjusted for inflation, however, bananas actually cost less now than they did when I was a kid. Fifteen cents in 1950 is the same as $1.50 today, so sixty cents a pound is a real bargain. Mom bought bananas only when they were on sale for ten or twelve cents a pound. Every once in a while she would use a couple of bananas to make banana pancakes. They were her regular thin pancakes with slices of bananas baked into them, but we thought that they were extra good.

I like to use some whole wheat flour in my recipe. The whole wheat gives the pancakes a slightly nutty flavor that I think makes them taste even better. And just think, you can buy the bananas for less than half the price Mom paid!

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder
2 T sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups milk (approximately)
2 T vegetable oil plus more for frying the cakes
2 medium bananas

PROCEDURE:

Use a fork to mix the flours, salt, baking powder and sugar together in a bowl. Stir in the milk, eggs and oil and mix until you have a batter. Don’t worry about a few small lumps. If the batter is too thick to pour, add a little more milk. If it is too thin, add a little more flour.

Heat a skillet or griddle over moderate heat. Spread a half teaspoon of oil on the surface of the pan. When a drop of water sizzles as it hits the surface, the pan is ready.

Pour or ladle a fourth or third of a cup of batter onto the pan and spread it to a five to eight-inch circle.Banana Pancake cooking Cut four to six thin rounds of banana on top of the batter. Cook each cake until bubbles start forming in the center and the edges are dry. Turn and brown it for a minute or two on the other side.

Continue with the rest of the batter, greasing the pan very lightly after each cake is done if necessary, until you have enough pancakes for everyone. Leftover cakes can be warmed next day in the microwave.

Serve with maple syrup, butter and bacon or sausage for a real Wisconsin breakfast.

NOTES: You can make oatmeal banana pancakes the same way, and they are delicious. I discovered this at the cabin when we didn’t have any whole wheat flour. We now enjoy them for breakfast occasionally at home as well. Just use the recipe for Easy Oatmeal Pancakes and slice the bananas on the cakes.

Jerri’s Banana Pudding

When I brought home a large bag of bananas, Jerri sent me off with a disapproving look and orders to buy a package of vanilla wafers. She was going to make banana pudding. I can endure a few scowls if I know that banana pudding will be on the menu, so it was with a light heart that I ventured out into the cold.

I felt like I did when Mom sent me out to fill the woodbox or shovel the path to the chicken coop when she was making vanilla pudding with vanilla wafers and bananas next to her on the counter. Work it might be, but my reward was being put together in the kitchen. Not only did her banana pudding taste wonderful, it looked beautiful.

Jerri’s does too. Here is a photo of the one Jerri made for me because I was thoughtful enough to bring home some extra bananas. To be honest, she admitted that she had been thinking it was about time for another banana pudding.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups sugar
4 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
4 T butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4 – 5 ripe medium bananas
1 package of vanilla wafers

PROCEDURE:

Break two large eggs into a one quart bowl and allow them to come to room temperature while you cook the pudding.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a three-quart saucepan. Stir the milk into the dry ingredients gradually and put the pan over medium heat. Stir frequently while the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously when the pudding starts to thicken. Cook the pudding until it is thick and starts to bubble. Cook another two or three minutes over very low heat to make sure that the cornstarch is cooked. Remove the pan from the heat.

Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored and use a small measuring cup to dribble about a half cup of hot pudding into the eggs while beating vigorously. Whisk this egg mixture gradually into the pudding while bringing it back to a simmer over low heat. Cook for another two minutes, stirring the pudding constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and vanilla and stir until everything is blended together. Cover and begin to assemble your banana pudding.

Layer the bottom of a two or two and a half-quart soufflé dish with vanilla wafers. If you wish, you can break a few wafers into pieces to fill in the spaces between the cookies, but it is not necessary.

Next, put a layer of sliced bananas over the wafers. Spoon a generous layer of hot pudding over the first two layers. Repeat until you are almost to the top of your soufflé dish, ending up with a layer of pudding.

Line the inside of the soufflé dish by pushing wafers into the pudding. Finish by crushing three or four wafers and sprinkling the crumbs over the pudding. If you want to be artistic, do like Jerri does and put a wafer in the center. Allow the pudding to cool for fifteen minutes, then put it in the refrigerator and serve it well chilled.

NOTES: If you make the pudding in a two quart dish, you will have some vanilla pudding left over. This is a very good thing, since it makes a nice simple dessert or snack that is delicious by itself or with fresh or canned fruit.

You can use low fat or skim milk to make this pudding, but the texture and flavor will suffer. Replacing part of the milk with a quarter cup of cream or a half cup of half and half will improve the result. If you are very concerned about eating too much butterfat, take a smaller serving of the pudding.

Like my mother, Jerri makes her own vanilla pudding. There are mixes of course, but don’t try to make this dessert with instant pudding. The hot pudding reacts with the fresh bananas and vanilla wafers to create a marvelous flavor that you will never get with that instant stuff.

Plus, have you looked at the ingredients added to make instant pudding thicken? When I encounter banana pudding made with mixes, covered with whipped topping and who knows what else, I always think of some lines from a song by Tom Lehrer.

In “It Makes a Fellow Proud To Be a Soldier, ” he tells of his old mess sergeant whose “taste buds had been shot off in the war.” The unfortunate sergeant’s cooking reminded him “of all the marvelous ways they’re using plastics nowadays.” As with all satire, there is truth in the humor.