When I was growing up, pancakes were a culinary rite of passage. I remember well my first batch. I got up early on Mother’s Day and decided to surprise my mom with breakfast in bed. I had watched her prepare them often enough, always turning to the same, stained page in the three-ring bound Betty Crocker Cookbook so I figured, how hard can it be?
Pancakes are typically assembled via the “muffin method”; that is, the dry and wet ingredients are mixed together separately (with the sugar typically included as “wet”), then the two are quickly brought together immediately before cooking. My approach is to make up a big batch of the dry ingredients as a kind of almost-instant mix, which you can always have on hand.
When it comes to cooking, it’s tough to beat a nonstick electric griddle. There’s plenty of surface area and low sides so you don’t have to fight to get your turner under the cooking cake. If you don’t want to go that route, try a thick, square, non-stick aluminum, griddle for the stovetop. And remember, the first few cakes that come off tend to be uglier than the later ones. So feed the mother-in-law first.
SEMI-INSTANT PANCAKE MIX
- 28 ounces all-purpose flour (see note)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 ounce sugar
- 10 ounces semi-instant pancake mix (above)
- 2 large eggs (separated and at room temperature)
- 2 cups low-fat buttermilk at room temperature (plus another ounce to adjust consistency of final batter)
- 2 ounces unsalted butter (melted in a small saucepan and cooled)
- 1 ounce unsalted butter (shortening or non-stick spray for the pan)
- 8 ounces fresh fruit such as blueberries (optional)
- Sift all ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 3 months. Shake vigorously before each use.
- Heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees F or set a heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat.
- Heat the oven to the lowest possible temperate (not more than 200 degrees F).
- Place the pancake mix in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk the egg whites and the buttermilk in a second bowl.
- Whisk the egg yolks into the cooled melted butter (right in the pan in fine).
- Whisk the butter mixture completely into the buttermilk mixture.
- Dump the wet team onto the dry team and quickly bring together with a large whisk. I allow myself only 12 stirs, then I just walk away. Yes, there will be some lumps in the batter and that’s fine.
- Check on the griddle. When a drop of water skittles across the surface like a little hovercraft, it’s ready. If you’re surface is truly non-stick, no butter or non-stick spray will be needed.
- Ladle 1 ounce (by volume) of batter onto the griddle. (How will you know how much batter is 1 ounce? Because you’re going to use either a #20 disher or a 1-ounce ladle.) As soon as the batter hits the pan use the underside of the ladle or disher to gently coax the batter out to a disk about 4 inches in diameter. Cook for 3 minutes, or until bubbles around the upside edge set. If you wish to integrate the fruit into the pancake itself, add it after the batter has been on the griddle for about :30 seconds.
- Carefully flip with a wide spatula and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.
- Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven by placing cakes on a half sheet pan and covering them with a tea towel for up to 20 minutes.
To freeze cooked pancakes, cool completely, then place them in zip-top freezer bags. Seal the bags, removing as much air as possible. The frozen pancakes can easily be heated up in a toaster or toaster oven.
Flour note: I’ve made these in several different locals and have found that when I’ve been up north and faced with Gold Medal flour, I often have to loosen the final batter by stirring in another ounce of buttermilk.