Monday, March 01, 2010

Quest for the perfect pancake

Weekends are good for breakfast foods that require some effort. During the week, I generally stick to cold cereal, oatmeal, or, on the odd occasion, hard-boiled eggs. Weekends, when breakfast doesn't usually happen until noon, allow more time for things like omlettes, muffins, and pancakes.

We've been eating a ton of pancakes around here lately. Which is funny because I'm not the biggest fan of them. Don't get me wrong: I'll eat a stack of pancakes if they're there. I'm just not over the moon about them. To be honest, I could take or leave most breakfast foods. I realize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — but it's not my favorite meal.

Being not from a box, I make my pancakes from scratch. Why use a mix when it takes just a couple extra steps to make your own (without all the preservatives)? I'd been using the basic recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, when one day, the Anthropologist commented that my pancakes seemed chewy. Determined to make a fluffy version, I attempted Bittman's "light and fluffy" recipe, which requires more effort in the form of beating the egg whites separately before folding them into the batter. The verdict? Still chewy — and tasting more of egg than cake.

Well, what was the problem? I'm not Alton Brown, so I didn't know. But I decided to try an entirely different recipe: the one on the side of the package of Baker Josef's (Trader Joe's) all-purpose flour. What makes it different from Bittman's recipe is that it calls for both baking soda and baking powder (Bittman only uses powder), as well as melted butter and a smaller amount of flour. This all apparently aids in losing some of the chewiness of my previous pancakes.

In the last couple months, I've made strawberry pancakes, nectarine pancakes, and yogurt-flaxseed pancakes with nectarines (all made with fruit I had in the freezer from last summer). Pancakes are so easy to fiddle with, and since they're incredibly easy to make, you really could eat different kinds of pancakes every day and (probably) not get sick of them.

A final note: When melting butter in the microwave, keep en eye on it. Butter melts very quickly in the microwave, so it only takes about ten seconds or so — and if it doesn't, it's easy enough to add another five seconds of cooking time. Even though I know this concept very well, I somehow manage to forget it whenever I stick some butter into the microwave. I punch in "45," and let it rip. This typically results in a popping sound and melted butter dripping from the ceiling of the machine. Let this be a lesson to you!

Baker Josef's Light n' Fluffy Pancakes

1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1-1/4 c milk
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. In a measuring cup, measure the milk, then add the egg and butter (and vanilla, if you're using it), and beat until well combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or skillet over medium heat. Add batter by 1/4 cupfuls for each pancake. When edges look dry and small bubbles begin to form on top, turn and cook till brown.

Makes about 6-8 pancakes.

- Substitute plain yogurt (thinned with a little milk if very thick) or buttermilk for milk.
- Add chopped fruit, such as strawberries, peaches, or apples, to the batter with the wet ingredients.
- Substitute half the flour for whole wheat flour or cornmeal.


Nara said...

We put canned or fresh corn in; and I put the dry ingredients up ahead of time in ziploc bags so all I have to do on Saturday morning is pull out a bag, heat up the pan, and dump in the wet ingredients. It's like making them from a mix, only NOT. I can give you our recipe, if you like; it gets generally good reviews from the picky eaters around our house.

Teresa said...

I like corn, too, though I haven't done that in a while. I'm always making things in advance and freezing them, but I hadn't thought about making my own dry pancake mix ahead of time (even though it's something the above-mentioned Alton Brown talks about). I'd love to get your recipe.