Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Tim McCoy’s Rye Griddle Cakes

Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook and today’s recipe is from one of the big western stars of the era, Colonel Tim McCoy.

(You can catch up on all my taste tests here.)

First thing’s first: Yes, McCoy was a real colonel, not an honorary one. He got his foot in the Hollywood door by acting as a liaison between Native American extras and the movie studios that hoped to hire them. McCoy worked in this capacity during the production of The Covered Wagon (still only on VHS, sheesh!) and was subsequently signed on as a star in his own right.

The Code of the Cactus: Don’t sit on me.

While McCoy’s sound films are easy enough to find, his silent work is harder to obtain. Winners of the Wilderness, and The Law of the Range, two of his MGM westerns co-starring Joan Crawford, survive but are unavailable to the general public. (Ahem, ahem, TCM…) If you know of any McCoy titles available on the home video market, I would obviously love to hear about it.

McCoy remained a popular figure as a fixture of the movies, live shows and television. He was a Wheaties spokesman and the only person I have ever heard of being credited as a “buffalo wrangler” in a film. (The Vanishing American, if you’re curious.)

Tim McCoy was the real deal as a western star but could he make a tasty breakfast? That’s what we’re going to find out!

The recipe:

So, I obtained dark rye flour (Bob’s Red Mill) and whole wheat (King Arthur). Everything else in the recipe is a pantry staple for most Americans. (Please excuse me if I sound like I’m stating the obvious. I’m trying to write these recipes with the international audience in mind as I discovered that a fair number of you are not from North America. Hi and welcome! Be sure to let me know if you have any questions.)

I bought flours!

I tested this recipe out on my parents. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? I did it because my father was a fan of McCoy’s local Los Angeles television show from the early fifties (they were the first family in their neighborhood to have a TV set) and because both my parents are whole grain fanatics. The other kids had Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. I had All-Bran and Shredded Wheat. (I’m not complaining. I tasted Lucky Charms as a kid and was disgusted.) Brown rice, whole wheat bread, dark rye, bran muffins, bran bread… Yeah, we definitely got our fiber.

So, this recipe was obviously a great match. Here’s how it went down:

Because my taste test crew was smaller than usual, I halved the recipe. (One cup of milk instead of a pint, one egg, etc.) I tried not to mix the batter too much and ended up with this:


It’s thick. Really, really thick. So thick, in fact, that it won’t spread on the pan. I recommend using one or two tablespoons per cake and going for more of a silver dollar pancake size, which sounds more old west anyway. You may have to spread the batter with a spoon. I also used a frying pan and not a griddle. Scandalous!

Behold my perfectly round griddle cakes!

My griddle cakes done, I served them with butter and a choice of maple syrup or strawberry jam. As they are not sweet on their own, they could also be served with a savory topping if that’s your thing. Smoked salmon, green onions and some nice, creamy cheese, perhaps? They’re basically thick blini.

These things are rustic. I mean rustic. They’re heavy and have a very strong whole grain flavor. I was a bit meh about them but my parents thought they were the bee’s knees. Not a single griddle cake was left. So if you decide to make this recipe, know that your mileage may vary and the more whole-wheaty you are, the happier you will be.

Score: 3 out of 5. Pretty good but heavy, plain fare. If that’s your thing, you should be satisfied. Me? I like fluffy buttermilk pancakes, thanks very much!


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  1. Ross

    Are Bob’s Red Mill flours as super expensive in US as they are in Australia? The sat unsold on the shelf of the local s/market for many months.
    But recipe looks good. “Entire” = wholemeal I guess?

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I paid about $4 USD for the 22 ounce bag of rye flour. A little spendy but not insane. (Ballpark for all-purpose white flour is about $2-3 for 5 lbs.) The brand seems to sell pretty well in these parts, all the local grocery stores carry a wide selections of their products. Yes, “entire” is wholemeal, whole wheat, whole grain… the point is, the brown stuff. 😉

  2. Gene Zonarich

    Was this your first time using rye flour? (I’m guessing not, since you are an experienced baker!) It is a bit different than wheat, as I found out a few years ago when I first learned to bake bread. Having “graduated” from white to whole wheat, I thought I’d go full speed ahead of myself and try rye bread. Let’s just say I settled on a recipe that mixed white and rye — much easier than the heavy, sticky rye flour. (but it wasn’t any more expensive here than the King Arthur whole wheat, same price for 5lb bags if I recall correctly.)

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      It was my first rye pancake but the batter was pretty easy to handle, just thicker than a classic pancake batter. So, nothing to fear for anyone who finds rye dough to be a bit much. (My go-to whole grain bread recipe is a whole wheat/honey/oatmeal affair. Yum!)

  3. Joe Thompson

    Hi Fritzi. I loved Colonel Tim’s memoir “Tim McCoy Remembers the West.” He reminds me of my Ohio uncles, soft-spoken gentlemen whom you wouldn’t want to mess with. I’ll bet he made this recipe over a campfire. Everything tastes better with fine ash in it.

  4. Marie Roget

    In my wild youth when visiting errant relatives in backwoods Quebec province this would have been a welcomed component to what was called the “Work Breakfast,” as in you do a heap of work around the farm after eating it. Black coffee, sausages, fried eggs, griddle cakes… yeah, remember that well. You had to clean out the barn and micro-weed the truck garden most of the day just to work it all off! These days, I’ll take crepes with a drizzle of maple syrup or rolled up with some local preserves, thank you very much 😉

  5. nuwansenfilmsen

    Ha!! This was interestingly unique!! I started reading about a colonel who was acted as a liaison between Hollywood movie studios & Native American extras; and ended up with pancakes!! 😀

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