Ask any parent about the “witching hour” and they will tell you: it is the moment of transition between afternoon and evening. It is the time that newborns are fussiest, children most restless. It is the hour when all of the day’s projects come to a head, and anything that hasn’t been started yet probably won’t get done until tomorrow. It is too late for another cup of coffee, too early still for wine or tea. In households with older children it is the moment when everyone needs to get somewhere, or is just getting home. Everyone is hungry, tired, cranky, and needs something all at the same time, and it often seems impossible to respond to everyone and still get dinner on the table at a reasonable time. No wonder it is also sometimes referred to as the “arsenic hour.”
The truth is, the end of the day has always been hard for me, even long before I had children. That pause between the business of the day and the evening’s quiet rhythms has filled me with restless sadness ever since I was a child. When the light begins to sink down from afternoon’s brightness to evening’s softer glow, I have always felt the need to grasp at each slanted ray, as if by drinking them in I could absorb the last drops of hope and possibility from the day that is ending. Theologically, I have come to understand this end-of-day restlessness as a type of longing for immortality. The sunset is so beautiful that it almost hurts because, try as we might, we cannot actually drink it in and make it last forever. Something deep within longs not just to witness, but to be united with Beauty, to be filled with the Light that never ends.
Practically speaking, the solution for days that come crashing to an end is even simpler. There is only one thing to do when dinner and bedtime are hurtling towards you like an oncoming train: make pancakes. The mere mention of pancakes for dinner cheers up the crankiest of children, the ingredients are pantry staples that I almost always have on hand, they only take a few minutes to make, and this version is even (relatively) nutritious. If you are used to using a mix then vegan pancakes from scratch may seem a bit involved the first time or two you make them, but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll find that measuring the ingredients really only adds a few minutes to the total time, and the results are fasting-appropriate and delicious. I made them almost every Sunday night during Lent last year, with a big salad to round out the meal.
Fluffy, Puffy, Vegan Pancakes
makes just over a dozen 3-4″ pancakes
2 c. flour (I prefer white whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 c. soy milk (or other milk substitute)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1-2 tbsp. ground flax seed (flax meal)*
¼ c. boiling water*
3 tbsp. melted coconut oil (or liquid oil of your choice)
1 tbsp. sweetener (sugar, honey, syrup, whatever you like – add an extra spoonful or two if you like sweeter pancakes)
*Ground flax seed + water = a reasonably good egg replacer. It adds a little extra healthy fat and fiber and helps bind everything together. You can leave it out of this recipe if you are in a hurry or don’t have flax seed on hand.
1. Whisk together lemon juice and soy milk. Set aside. Combine ground flax seed with boiling water. Set aside.
Now is a good time to begin pre-heating your pan or griddle. Electric stoves and griddles vary a little in how hot they get, so you may have to experiment, but I heat my stainless steel pan at medium for 4-5 minutes or my electric griddle at 340 degrees for the same amount of time.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium-large bowl. Whisk oil, flax seed mixture, and sweetener (if you are using a liquid sweetener) into soy milk. When wet ingredients are thoroughly combined, stir wet into dry until just mixed (there should still be a few lumps).
3. Put a little vegetable or coconut oil on a piece of paper towel and wipe your pan or griddle with it. Ladle batter into pan, about ¼ c. per pancake. Pancakes are ready to flip when several bubbles have appeared and burst.
To keep pancakes warm without getting them soggy, place pancakes in a single layer on a cooling rack placed on top of a cookie sheet. Keep them in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. Leftover pancakes can survive in a closed container on the countertop for up to 24 hours, in the fridge for several days, or with parchment paper layered between them in the freezer for several months. Reheat in the toaster for a quick breakfast.