Thinking back, I can clearly remember what got me into homemade mixes. It was an industrial-sized box of Aunt Jemima’s “Complete” Buttermilk Pancake Mix purchased at a local warehouse store.
My youngest son was still a toddler then and was acutely addicted to a relentless diet of pancakes, crepes and waffles. Pancakes in particular (silver dollar as well as the traditional stack size) were seeing a lot of action.
Naturally, I started off the Pancake Era with good intentions, using nothing but homemade batter, but pretty soon I tired of mixing up the inevitable flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and all the rest three and four times a day.
Fine, then; pancakes the little lad wants, pancakes he shall have, only they had to be convenient. So it came to pass that I purchased (gasp!) a mix.
Then one morning, in one of those glazed stupors that can overtake a fatigued mom at any given moment, I found myself intently pondering the back of the Aunt Jemima box. “Why couldn’t it come in both buckwheat and buttermilk variety?” I wondered. You could get buttermilk, or you could have buckwheat but no “buttermilk/buckwheat.”
And what was in the list of ingredients anyway, I thought, that I couldn’t replicate? Some mystic, unusual, inaccessible specialty item, I was willing to bet. But no, bless Aunt Jemima, after examining the box’s list of ingredients, I found absolutely nothing that was too exotic.
Then it hit me. If this 2-pound box only contained the usual dry pantry items, why not make my own mix? With a little sleuthing, I could very well have my buttermilk/buckwheat combination or any other I cared to manufacture.
I launched into mixes, as I do every other culinary task, with maniacal gusto, and soon, the homemade Multi-Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix inspired a host of others.
Essentially, the mixes I liked best were those that made foods I regularly wanted to eat, such as pancakes. And I liked those that were versatile, such as the muffin mix, which hosted just about any fruit admirably.
The next time someone asks you the classic question “Is it from scratch or is it a mix?” You can proudly, (and honestly) answer: “Both!”
Before beginning any of these recipes, take a look at your pantry to make sure you have all the ingredients required. When dealing in dry mixes, you will find yourself consuming quite a bit of baking powder, salt and flour, so stock up rather than run the chance of coming up short in the middle of a recipe.
You might notice that the mixes call for dry buttermilk powder, available at most supermarkets. Buttermilk is acidic and reacts with the leavening agent baking soda once water is added to produce the air bubbles that make pancakes, scones and biscuits light. If you prefer, you can substitute the same amount of dry skim milk powder for the buttermilk powder.
Baking soda and baking powder can lose their effectiveness; always make sure your leavening agents are fresh before using them--check the dates on the can or box.
Look for buckwheat flour and corn flour at health-food stores. If not using vanilla powder, add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla when reconstituting.