Perfect pancakes 101

The art of making pancakes has been lost in favor of IHOP and microwave flapjacks. Even when pancakes are homemade, they are often from a boxed mix that yields breakfast banality. It is time to exalt this quintessential breakfast dish and honor it by making it from scratch and creatively adding ingredients to turn it savory or sweet.

PancakesOnce you master the basics of making the perfect pancake, the near endless variation of add-ins and toppings will be irresistible. You can enjoy a different pancake every day of the week and for any meal of the day.

10 Tips for Perfect Pancakes
1. Start fresh.
Before you even begin to pour the batter, make sure your ingredients are fresh. Even though flour is a pantry staple, it can get stale or – in the case of whole wheat flour – rancid. Baking powder can lose its leavening power over time, especially if its absorbed any moisture. If you are using fruit or other perishable ingredients, be sure that they are fresh and free of mold or decomposition.

2. Flour for fluffiness. All-purpose flour will yield a light, fluffy pancake. However, you can substitute other whole grain flours for half of the all-purpose flour for a heartier texture. Pancakes made solely of whole grain or bread flours may be tough, dense, and chewy.

3. Love the lumps. Never whisk the batter until smooth. Leaving lumps of unmoistened dry ingredients will result in fluffier pancakes.

4. Butter up. Melt butter and use a heat-resistant brush to coat griddle or skillet. Excess butter will burn

5. Limit your ladle. Unless you have a giant spatula, keep pancakes a manageable size. Using a 1/4 to 1/3 cup ladle or measuring cup is a good standard.

6. Let some bubbles burst. After you pour batter, let it cook until edges are just set and bubbles on the surface just start to burst. Flipping them after all the bubbles are gone makes a flatter pancake.

7. Add on. Evenly sprinkle extra ingredients such as berries, nuts, or chocolate morsels on top of the pancake right after batter is poured. Dry ground ingredients, such as cinnamon or chili powder can be whisked together with the flour.

8. Keep warm. If you are making more than a few pancakes, place them on a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven set on low.

9. Adorn them. Pretty your pancakes with an array of toppings from pats of butter to dollops of whipped cream, maple syrup to chocolate sauce, ripe berries to slivers of lox, toasted nuts to fresh herbs. Let your culinary imagination soar.

10. Save them for later. Pancake batter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days but will need to be refreshed with a pinch or more of baking powder. If it gets too thick, thin it with milk until desired consistency. Cooked and cooled pancakes can be kept in a resealable plastic bag layered with wax paper for up to four days. Reheat them on a warm griddle or skillet. Pancakes can also be frozen in a resealable plastic bag for up to a month. Let frozen pancakes thaw in the refrigerator overnight and rewarm on heated griddle or skillet.

Classic Pancakes
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk, egg, and melted butter. Whisk until moist and slightly lumpy. Heat griddle or frying pan over medium high heat and brush with melted butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter on griddle or pan. Cook for 3 minutes or until air bubbles just pop on the surface of the pancake, the edges are just set and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until second side is golden brown.

Cookie pancakes:
After pouring batter onto griddle or pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, or a combination of chips.

Cocoa or espresso pancakes: Mix 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or espresso powder into batter and top pancakes with ice cream or whipped cream.

Berry pancakes: Sprinkle berries or diced cherries onto batter and serve with berry flavored syrups.

Toasted nut pancakes: Pour batter and sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts.

Peanut butter banana pancakes: Mix 1/4 cup peanut butter into batter and top pancakes with chopped peanuts and bananas sautéed in butter.

Pumpkin pie pancakes: Substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar and add 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice to dry ingredients. Add 1/3 cup cooked pumpkin to the batter. Serve with whipped cream.

Honey lavender pancakes: Mix 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers into the batter and top pancakes with honey mixed with lavender flowers.

Fresh herb pancakes: Mince fresh herbs and sprinkle them on batter. Serve with whipped cream cheese and lox.

Butter and maple syrup are but two tantalizing toppings for pancakes. Try one of these for a delicious change.

Fresh fruit syrup: Saute fruit in butter and sugar until fruit is softened and its juices have released.

Creamy applesauce: Whip together applesauce and cream cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese and spoon over pancakes.

Honey nut sauce: Whisk together warm peanut butter and honey, thinned with a little apple juice for a sweet nutty sauce.

Hot and spicy cream sauce: For savory pancakes or to add some zip to your meal, blend chipotle or chile powder with cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream or whipped cream cheese.


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