Monday, July 21, 2008

Relaxed: Best Buttermilk Pancakes

What says lazy and leisurely more than a stack of pancakes? Pancakes are Sunday morning food, vacation food. I remember going on vacations as a kid and eating at the hotel restaurant and ordering pancakes. I never got pancakes at home, so I took every opportunity to order them when I could. Even fast food pancakes are a food for a slow day. You can’t eat them in the car, so you have to have the time to go in and sit down. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like pancakes in some form or other.

My kids are being indoctrinated into this mindset as well. On Sunday mornings they always beg Daddy to make pancakes. Usually by the time they’re made all the kids have had something else: a peanut butter sandwich, a bagel with cream cheese, a bowl of dry cereal (or possibly all three). But the sentiment is there.

Pancakes work for any season. True, in the hottest depths of summer, if you have no air conditioning (very common in the Pacific Northwest: we have only about two or three weeks of “air conditioner” weather per year; and I always say that you don’t need air conditioning often, but when you need it you need it) standing over a hot stove or griddle flipping pancakes may not be your favorite thing to do. But for the most part, pancakes aren’t season-specific as other things can be.

And pancakes are pretty hard to screw up. Short of not getting them to flip properly (a situation easily remedied if you make them a little smaller so the pancake turner fits under them easily), a good recipe will result in good pancakes. We’ve used several recipes over the years, all of them producing a pretty good product. In our young, carefree, childless days we ate a whole grain pancake recipe from Cooking Light. The scrap of paper lived on our fridge for years and was called into service every Sunday morning.

Then we moved, and the recipe got packed somehow, and we were thrown back to random other recipes from various sources. For awhile we used one from Marie Claire that used self-rising flour and few other ingredients, making it a great kid recipe. Then one morning I stumbled on a recipe that I think is the one I’ll be using from now on. I found it in The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. I’m not sure what led me to this recipe, but I’m certainly glad to have found it.

It’s got enough interesting ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla) for my kids who now want to feel like they’re doing more when they “help” us cook, and it makes a light spongy pancake that soaks up the maple syrup but doesn’t fall apart. This is key. So often there’s not enough body to a pancake for it to withstand being drowned in syrup. They just collapse in a heap of soggy mush, impossible to pierce with a fork. You end up kind of shoving it onto the fork with the remains of a half of a slice of bacon, and sticky crumbs dribble back though the tines to the plate. Most disheartening.

If you’re still searching for that perfect pancake recipe, you should try this one. You can make the batter as thin or as thick as you like by adding a little more buttermilk or flour, and using only ¼ cup of batter per pancake means that if you have a reasonable sized pancake turner, you can flip it easily, without that horrible smeary mess that sometimes happens when they’re too big. The vanilla isn’t in the original recipe, but I love the little whiff of flavor that vanilla gives to pancakes, so I add a little.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
from The Martha Stewart Cookbook: The Original Classics
The recipe claims this makes nine 6-inch pancakes, but we’ve always gotten way more than that out of it; it alll depends on how big you make the pancakes.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Butter for pan or griddle (if desired)

Preheat an electric griddle to 375, or place a skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Check the pan or griddle by flicking a few drops of water on it. They should bounce and spatter right away. Brush on ½ teaspoon of butter, if desired, and wipe off excess with a paper towel.

I use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop some batter into the pan. If you have room for multiple pancakes in your pan (I don’t) you can pour out pools about 2” apart. When pancakes have bubbles around the sides and in the middle, and are slightly dry around the edges, flip over (this will take about 2 and a half minutes). Cook until golden on the bottom, about another minute.

Repeat with remaining batter. Keep cooked pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven. Serve warm.


erin said...

These sound like the perfect pancake, now my daughter wants pancakes for diner :)

Off to cook pancakes

TD said...

Ah yes, the old "breakfast for dinner." Hope they're yummy! :)