Huckleberries enjoy a late season here in California. From September through November, the tiny, indigo fruits can be found dangling blithely from green-leaved bushes in cedar and redwood forests throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Huckleberry harvesting requires the patience of a zen monk. While painstakingly picking the miniscule fruits, you’re better off living in the present moment and smelling the musty earth; listening to the twittering of birds and scuffling of hungry mountain lions in the bushes; noticing the sensations of spiderwebs clinging to your skin, cedar fronds catching in your hair, and dust coating your berry-juice stained fingers. Focusing on your goal merely ensures frustration as you watch your reused yogurt container fill at an agonizing pace. Thoughts like, “Don’t I have enough berries for a batch of pancakes yet?” “Why, god, did you make huckleberries so small. Just to torture me?” “What the hell am I doing wasting my time in the middle of this stupid forest? I’ve got photos to edit!” and “Please, god, don’t let me get eaten by a mountain lion. I’m sorry I questioned your judgement re: huckleberry size” will emerge. Notice these thoughts, then let them slip from your grasp like a handful of berries falling into a pit of brambles and mountain lions.
With the harrowing labor involved in our recent huckleberry-picking expedition, I was eager to make good and quick use of them. Huckleberries are tangier than their domestic counterparts – blueberries. They’re also smaller, firmer, more flavorful and have a lower water content, all of which makes them excellent candidates for baking into cakes, muffins or scones. (More recipe links below.) I found a fantastic base recipe for Wild Berry Pancakes in a favorite cookbook, Mani Niall’sSweet!, and adapted it to use sprouted wheat flour, yogurt, and maple sugar.
I began experimenting with sprouted flour several years ago at the recommendation of a nutritionist friend. When a grain sprouts, its starches convert to sugars, making it not only sweeter, but easier to digest. Some people who are wheat-sensitive can tolerate its sprouted counterpart (though not people with Celiac Disease). My sister, for instance, has a skin reaction to any amount of gluten, but can eat all the sprouted wheat she likes to no ill effect. I personally enjoy happier digestion when I bake with sprouted flour.
These pancakes, made with 100% sprouted wheat flour, cooked up into surprisingly light, fluffy pillows with crisp edges and soft middles that reminded me of oatmeal – moist, earthy and mild. Pockets of tangy berries pepper the cakes, bursting from the heat of the pan and infusing the cakes with their intense flavor. A pat of butter or scoop of thick, Greek yogurt and a puddle of maple syrup make a deliciously healthy breakfast full of protein and fiber to keep you feeling sated and energized all morning. Extras store beautifully and re-heat quickly in a toaster oven or hot skillet.
Luckily, making a batch of these pancakes in the comfort of your own kitchen is much less painstaking than forest-foraging (and probably safer if, as in my kitchen, the only wildcat around weighs 9 pounds, prefers stalking feta cheese, and high-tails it under the bed at the turn of a doorknob). Though feel free to use blueberries – wild or domestic, fresh or frozen, foraged or purchased – in place of the high-maintenance huckleberries.
Cake for breakfast:
Huckleberry Sprouted Wheat Pancakes
Sprouted wheat flour has a sweeter flavor and softer texture than regular whole wheat flour. I found Arrowhead Mills organic sprouted wheat flour at my local co-op; it’s also available here, though you could try whole wheat pastry or spelt flour in a pinch.
You can use regular yogurt in place of the greek, though the pancakes will be a bit thinner and more spready. Lacking huckleberries, blueberries wild or domestic make a fine substitute.
For a gluten-free version, try these Buckwheat Pancakes with berries in place of banana.
Makes 4-6 servings (about twenty 3-4″ cakes)
1 1/2 cups sprouted wheat flour
3 tablespoons maple sugar or turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup Greek yogurt (I used full-fat), plus more for serving
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 – 2 cups huckleberries (fresh, or frozen and not defrosted)
oil for the pan (clarified butter, sunflower oil and coconut oil are all good options)
maple syrup, for serving (grade B is the darkest and most flavorful)
Make the pancakes:
Preheat the oven to 200º – you will use it to keep the pancakes warm as you fry them up.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the yogurt, milk and eggs until smooth. Add the melted butter in a steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. Gently fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined and lumpy, then gently fold in the berries. The batter should be fairly thick, like a fluffy porridge.
Heat a griddle or wide frying pan over medium heat and coat with a thin film of oil. Drop 3 tablespoons of batterat a time into the pan(a #24 spring loaded ice cream scoop works wonders), spacing the pancakes well apart to allow for spreading. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the edges look dry and a few bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minutes. Flip the cakes and cook until the second side is golden, another 2 minutes or so.
Remove the cakes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb excess steam, and place in the oven to keep warm as you cook another round.
Serve the cakes with butter or yogurt and plenty of maple syrup at the table. Extra cakes keep well in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days and can be reheated in a skillet or toaster oven.