Food

Infinite Pancakes

After last week and the very lively discussion that erupted on my fb wall when I asked a simple question, I decided to try creating a series of breakfast bread recipes. There will be about ten of them, ranging from sweet, to savory, and they all center around this:

Biscuits =/= Scones

Because, as those who were commenting and reading my thread that day learned, people use the same word for different things. Scones, for instance, are viewed as ranging the gamut from hard, dense things more like shortbread to the light and fluffy progenitors of the southern biscuit, to a version of fry bread in Utah, which may or may not have been adapted by early settlers from the Navajo fry bread.

As the First Reader and I kept watching the debate range on, with contributors from around the world, we discussed our childhood breakfast foods, and what our American culture will serve (or not) at breakfast. We came up with a list, and I’ll be checking them off, and posting thoughts and recipes here for the next several weeks. Some of the recipes are ones I’ve already done, you can find them listed below. Enjoy!

Pancakes

nut meal pancakes
Finished Walnut pancake stack

I rarely use a recipe for pancakes. I’d say that 98% of the time I’m making them, I’m scooping mix out of a box. It might seem like cheating, but really, it’s the easiest, and cheapest, way to do it. I’ve made up my own baking mix in vast quantities, but these days that’s too much to store, and besides, a box of the generic stuff is less than $2 if you know where to look. The brand I’ve got in the pantry now calls for addition of milk, egg, vanilla, and sugar to 2 cups of the dry mix. I omit the sugar, and it tastes fine.

making pancakes
I like to lay out my tools and supplies before I begin

Except… pancakes are almost infinitely variable. Sure, you can just mix up the batter, dollop them on the griddle and serve with maple syrup. Nothing wrong with that. But there are other ways. Keep two things in mind, and then, carry on. If you are adding something moist, like applesauce, to the batter, put it in your measuring cup and add the milk to the desired amount, then you can add milk a splosh at a time until your batter is the desired consistency. If you are adding something dry, like nut meal, or blending flours, keep it to about 1/2 cup in addition to the regular mix until you are comfortable with how it interacts in the recipe (some flours are not rich in gluten, or lack it altogether, and if you have too much of them in proportion, the pancakes will fall to bits).  Here’s a list of things you can add in no particular order:

  • chocolate chips
  • blueberries
  • any berries, fresh or frozen
  • applesauce
  • crushed pineapple
  • leftover mashed potatoes
  • shredded cheese
  • crumbled bacon
  • chopped chives
  • trail mix
  • granola
  • jam
  • nut meal
  • 1/2 c pumpkin puree, with 1/4 tsp pie spice
  • nuts
  • M&M’s (First Reader’s contribution)

Getting the idea? Pancakes don’t have to be sweet, they don’t have to be white, and you don’t have to serve them with syrup. You can also reheat them in the toaster for later, something kids love: homemade eggos.

pancake batter
The consistency I like for pancake batter

Now we get into the nitty-gritty. If you’ve had trouble with getting pancakes to work for you, this might help. When you mix up your batter, you come to a point when it’s all clumping on your whisk, and you have to choose one of two paths: thick cakes, or thin ones. My personal preference is somewhere in the middle. Too thick, and they might not cook through evenly. Too thin, and you get crepes which is a whole ‘nother thing. Once I get to that giant clump stage I add more milk, very slowly, until I reach the point where the batter’s just clinging to the whisk. Don’t worry, if you go too far, you can always add a little baking mix (or flour, if you’ve run out of mix) to coagulate it back up.

Before you even started all this with the whisk, you turned on the heat to your griddle. I’m currently using a ceramic flat griddle, electric, because my cast iron griddle didn’t make the move, and I’m not sure it would work on a glass-topped electric stove (I miss my gas range, but you adapt to what you have).  You don’t want it too hot, and in our house, we’re cooking bacon up nice and crispy before we do the pancake batter. With practice, you can take this off, and start putting ‘cakes on almost in the same motion. Bacon grease burns at a low heat (340-350 F) so don’t let it sit on a heating pan for long.

nutmeal pancakes
1/2 cup of batter for a nice size of pancake. You can see the nutmeal in the batter.

I use a 1/2 cup measure to scoop batter for pancakes, which creates evenly sized ‘cakes that are a good size for the griddle. When I was little we’d get playful, and do plate-sized pancakes (you can only eat one!) or dollar cakes (you need a thinner batter for those) but now, I’m pretty stodgy about it.

pancakes
The heavier batter might not always show the little bubbles, but you can see your edges getting done.

When the edges start to get big bubbles, and the center little bubbles, and the edge bubbles pop and leave a crater, it’s time to flip. If you haven’t got the pan up too high (again, with electric griddle, about 340-350F which is about 170-175degC) then the other side will be a nice golden brown. I like the griddle for pancakes, because a stove element can often heat unevenly, not cool with a pancake.

pancake cooking
Poke, poke…

After you’ve flipped, you no longer have the bubbles to tell you when it’s done. But now, you get to poke. Give it a minute or two, and gently press the pad of your finger against the top of the cake. It’s not hot enough to burn you, and you’re going to pull right back. If it feels resilient and bounces right back to where it was, then it’s done. Remove to a stack on a plate. Eat.

What to put on your pancakes that isn’t maple syrup? My First Reader grew up having Caro (corn syrup) on his. He also points out that pancakes can be rolled around breakfast sausages.

  • applesauce
  • fresh fruit
  • jam or jelly
  • chocolate syrup
  • cheese (for the savory ones!)
  • Nothing (for the ones you’ve thrown all sorts of goodies in)
  • whipped cream
  • cream
  • honey
  • Bacon (First Reader’s suggestion)
  • Butter
  • cinnamon and powdered sugar
  • What can you think of? 

 

Bacon
Gratituitous Bacon Shot

11 thoughts on “Infinite Pancakes

  1. Pancakes all the way down?

    Mia has managed to perfect her sour dough bread. It’s now our exclusive source. She’s now trying to branch out into sour dough noodles. Maybe pancakes will be next.

  2. I already finished breakfast and now I am hungry again for my favorite meal of pancakes, bacon and Vermont Maple Syrup – yum yum!!

  3. I had made bacon pancakes before. The way I did it was, I’d fry the bacon to the same consistency of your photo, and reserve the fat. Then I crumbled some of the bacon, used the bacon fat to fry some pancakes, while crumbling the bacon into the pancake’s soft side. Serve, topped with bacon and drizzled with maple syrup, with a side of sausage, scrambled eggs, and fruit.

      1. =( Sadly for this bubs, I don’t like the smell of frying bacon. I don’t mind it if it’s already cooked, but the smell of frying… ;_; Happily, I know that goes away after pregnancy.

        I kinda want pancakes now, much in the same way I’ve been craving chewy doughnuts for a while.

  4. When I was a child, one way we frequently had pancakes (hotcakes to us!) was with meat gravy (usually venison) and served with venison steak. We seasoned the venison backstrap with salt and pepper, dredged it in flour and cooked it in moderately hot fat in an iron skillet on the wood-burning kitchen range. When it was all fried, we added some flour to the meat-flavored fat in the skillet (which was referred to simply as a frying-pan) stirring until it was a fairly dark brown, but being careful not to burn it. Then sweet raw milk (from our cows) was added, with constant stirring until it had thickened to the right consistency. The milk jug was kept handy in case the gravy got too thick; then more milk was added, a little at a time. The gravy was put into a bowl and set on the table so we could each spoon whatever amount we wanted onto our hotcakes. The steak was on an enamel-ware tin plate, to be passed around the table. (The only issue there was that when all out plates were filled, the plate of venison steak would have to be out of reach of my little sister, or she would eat nothing but venison!)

    1. I see that you list berries, and also whipped cream, but separately. I used them together on hotcakes, as berry shortcake. I made my hotcakes from scratch, quick and easy, because I made them often enough that the recipe was in my head. On the Oregon coast, certain kinds of wild berries thrive. My favorite were the tiny Rubus ursinus, our only native blackberry (there are other blackberries that are escapees from cultivation). They have long trailing stems and thrive in burns and clearings and it takes a lot of picking to get a bucket full, but I picked gallons of them.
      Guess I’m a mite off the subject here, but I’m remembering the day I was on a steep hillside in a burned-over area when I saw a black bear on a log downhill from me, running toward me. When he realized I was there he took a sharp right turn without slowing down. After that I took a rifle with me when I went berry-picking.
      Anyway, there was at least one summer during berry season that we had hotcake blackberry shortcake with fresh cream two or three times a day.

  5. Back to pancakes (hotcakes, griddle cakes, or whatever you call them) I preferred making them from scratch. With practice, and if you make them often enough, you get the hang of the ratio of flour/liquid. Which is kind of important because best results are obtained when the batter is neither too stiff nor too runny; and when it is stirred as little as possible. When the batter is of a medium consistency, if you stop stirring before all the little pockets of flour are incorporated, they will pop open by themselves and further thicken the batter–therefore, it is important to leave the batter a little thinner than you want, as it will finish thickening by itself. Too much beating, or mixing it to a thick mass like bread dough, will pop the little bubbles that would otherwise make the product light. (I accept no responsibility if this doesn’t work for you!)

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