Monday, October 08, 2012

The Joy Of Cooking with rice flour

Regular readers of this blog - and visitors to my home - will be well-acquainted with the horror that is my pantry cupboard. I was pleased to see its chaos would finally pay off (or so I thought) for Belleau Kitchen's October edition of Random Recipes, in which participants have to select a neglected ingredient from their storecupboards and make something with it from a randomly chosen recipe.

Just about everything in my pantry is a neglected ingredient. If it's not in the front row of either shelf, it's out of sight and out of mind. Choosing something was as easy as reaching past the olive oils and tinned tomatoes and grabbing the first package that came to hand. Choosing the book was simple too, since my bookshelves are nearly as chaotic as the cupboard.

If it wasn't for my handwriting on the brown paper bag I would swear that someone else had put this package of brown rice flour in my cupboard. I have no recollection of buying it and no idea what I was planning to use it for. I hoped that my fondness for my tattered paperback copy of The Joy Of Cooking would see me through. This book, first published in 1931, is a fascinating historical record.  I have a fourth-edition copy - there are now eight, with the most recent update in 2006 done by Irma Rombauer's grandson, Ethan). I love dipping into it at random, partly to horrify myself with the recipes for things like 'Variety Meat Patties' (brains, liver, kidneys, among other things) and advice on how to prepare bear, beaver tail, raccoon or muskrat. Fear factor aside it's actually still a very useful resource and I had high hopes that the Rombauers would see me right. I was wrong.

Rice flour griddle cakes
I had a funny feeling about this from the start. Recipes in The Joy Of Cooking are often prefaced with a line or two about serving tips or a dish's provenance. The recipe for Sour Cream Waffles on the facing page describes them as 'superlative'; the recipe for Crisp Corn Flapjacks comes with an amusing tale about them being renamed 'Crepes Sauvages' by a Parisian botanist. This recipe had none of that, so I'll supply it:
'These pancakes, with their gritty texture and unpleasant aftertaste, will make you run straight into the arms of a waiting omelette. Avoid at all costs.'
I don't think I can blame the rice flour - can I? - and I'm pretty sure my technique was blameless. I even rested the batter for the suggested three to six hours first. It produced very thin, but somehow still slightly spongy, pancakes with a peculiar taste. I include the recipe here in the hope that someone else may have better luck. It's supposed to make '18 four-inch cakes' but I gave up after making five and poured the batter down the sink.

2 cups rice flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp golden syrup (The Joy Of Cooking uses 2 tsp maple sugar)
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp melted butter

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and golden syrup until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the egg and melted butter. If possible, cover the batter and leave to rest for three to six hours. Cook as for pancakes on a greased, heavy pan. Or you could just pour the whole lot down the sink and make proper pikelets instead.

Do you have a well-thumbed copy of The Joy Of Cooking? Should I be grateful that I didn't end up with the recipe for 'Halibut Ring Mold' or 'Liver Dumplings'? Pin It


  1. Ew. Won't try that one.
    I sometimes dust a fish fillet in rice flour before frying it in a bit of oil / butter.. just makes a very thin and lightly crunchy coating.
    If I ever want to cook liver dumplings, I'll know who to call ;)
    x R

  2. Oh dear, I share your pain. And your pantry disorganisation disorder. Never owned the Joy of Cooking - now feeling like I'm missing out.

  3. A great example of how to do a great post on a bad subject. Oh well, next time you use this book it might be a dish featuring bear, beaver or raccoon. Can't wait to see your pet photos then.

  4. fantastic post... and oh my dear... what a mess... but to be honest, at least now you've used up that odd bag of flour... never trust a brown bag i'd say!

    Thanks so much for taking part this month, it's always interesting to find out what's going to go wrong with your recipe Lucy!

    Dom x

  5. This made me laugh a lot. I have plenty of anonymous brown bags in my pantry; luckily by the time I discover them they are usually weevil-ridden so I can throw them out with a clear conscience.
    Never mind about the blasted hotcakes, the chocolate chilli cake was amazing. Great recipe, thank you

  6. I am always wary of gf recipes that use just rice flour as I have found it to be gritty - but if mixed well with other gf flours it is sometimes great - shortbread is a great way to use it up - sorry these griddle cakes let you down - make a black mark in the book methinks!

  7. Halibut ring mold - how can you resist? The book sounds great though. I love books which are more social documentation than recipe book, I've got some good housewife style books from the 50s and they're so entertaining.

  8. Ick! Nothing should ever be described as 'variety meat' - that did make me laugh! Reminds me of a newspaper shop in the west end of Glasgow that used to advertise its 'unique sandwiches'. Erm, nah thanks!

  9. Well even if your pancakes didn't turn out like you'd hoped, reading about them has made lots of people smile, so they've done a good job!

  10. Thank you for providing the comic relief for this month's foray to the 'back of beyond' - rice flour has its uses, but I'll be damned if I can see them gracing a good pancake recipe! Maybe with a bit of xanthan gum powder ... but that would be where on the pantry shelf?

  11. I hear you on the pantry disorganization....mine becomes a crazy like tetris game until I can't squeeze in anything else in & then I clear out & make space by clearing out various bags & jars lingering at the back of the pantry well passed their use by date!

  12. I hear you on the pantry disorganization....mine becomes a crazy like tetris game until I can't squeeze in anything else in & then I clear out & make space by clearing out various bags & jars lingering at the back of the pantry well passed their use by date!

  13. just ran into this tracking the "Crepes Sauvages" quote.
    Just a thought: while I too have felt many JOC recipes needed tweaking, it strikes me that the rice flour pancakes just /might/ be WAY different with the specified addition of real maple syrup, which is much more strongly flavored than the relatively tasteless golden syrup. Worth it for some non-wheat person to explore.


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