Everybody loves pancakes.
I have never met anybody who said they didn’t and was telling the truth. The words hate and pancakes do not even belong in the same sentence. And I owe it to my love of pancakes to write up this post for anybody who’s looking to take their pancake game from 0-100 without surmising a huge amount of effort. Of course, we’ll be looking to science to give us the most trustworthy methods of pancake preparation, so get your spatulas and aprons ready.
What do we want from pancakes?
This is the first question that you ALWAYS have to ask before you go hunting in the fridge. The perfect Saturday morning pancakes are: light in colour and weight, have a fluffy texture and are as thick as Shaniqua.
Right, so now that we know what we want, how do we achieve this? Tout d’abord we have to use the right ingredients, and no perfect pancake is made without buttermilk. Buttermilk a.k.a. lacto (really Zimbabwe?) is the magic ingredient that makes the texture that much fluffier. You can take it one step further by including ricotta in the mixture. Ricotta is just an extra step but you can still yield a batch of hella delicious pancakes without it. But trust me, it is so worth it. And since I learnt how to make my own ricotta, I’ve been putting in everything from my scrambled eggs to my pizzas and most notably, these Red Velvet Ricotta Buttermilk Pancakes. It’s just 3 ingredients, milk, lemon juice and salt. Go forth and produce my children, this is golden.
One of the keys to getting uber fluffy pancakes is to NOT OVERMIX THE BATTER. PLEASE HEED MY CAPITALISED WORDS. One of the principal proteins in flour is gluten. Now when flour is dry and in its natural state, gluten molecules are just chilling being antisocial pricks. They do not like each other and tend to stick on their own. And they’re happy to remain that way until you add something that makes it a little wet, think water, milk or melted butter. Now this makes the gluten molecules excited, and they start to link to each other, forming a tight structure. Now this is what we want, because once we add the leavening agent (think baking powder/bicarbonate of soda), bubbles will be produced that will make our pancake rise (Yay), but we still want out pancake to retain its shape. So we do need that gluten structure. Now, the more you mix, the tighter that gluten structure becomes. And the tighter it becomes, the tougher and chewier your pancakes become. Big no no. Solution: mix your batter JUST until the wet and dry ingredients are combined, who cares if there are lumps? Not me.
We want thick pancakes. So we’re going to add all the baking powder! Wrong. We are not going to do that. As much as we want those pancakes to be as thick as possible, we don’t want to compromise taste in this endeavour. I would only add about 3 tsp of baking powder for every cup of flour you add, at the most. Using self raising flour can also help give you a boost here.
Now once your pancakes are cooked and thick, you want them to remain that way. To do this, you are going to flip the pancake once and ONCE ONLY. You are not an overexcited 5 year old, flipping it five times is just excessive. It also means that you lose some of the height that the baking powder worked very hard to give you. Shame on you.
To separate or not to separate?
This is an issue I am still conflicted on myself, but Ill give you the gist of the situation. Legend has it that separating your eggs can help you get even thicker and fluffier pancakes. The logic works like this: you add the egg yolks with the rest of the wet ingredients and you keep the egg whites separate. You beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then you carefully fold it in right before you cook the pancakes. This methodology makes sense to me, because the concept is similar in pavlovas and meringues, where the egg whites are beaten until stiff and this makes them appear to double in volume as you incorporate air into the protein structure. This should work with pancakes too right? Unfortunately, even after testing numerous times myself, I’m not entirely convinced that this makes a marginal difference, but I’m still going to do it anyway.
So it’s 10 am and you’ve mixed up your pancake batter and you’re starving and you’re ready to just cook and eat the pancakes and you just cannot wait to start cooking BUT –
You can wait. As much as I’m killing your vibe here, it’s essential that the batter rests before frying. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but put the spatula away and take a time out for ten minutes. Spatula, away, now.
Even better: whilst your batter is resting, heat your pan on low heat to allow it to reach temperature. Also, take this time to preheat your oven to 100°C and start warming your plates in there. Once you’re doing cooking a pancake, stick it on one of the warm plates and let it sit in the oven. There is nothing worse than having a stack of pancakes that are all at different temperatures. You’re welcome.
Now we’ve all been told by one cookbook or another that you should turn your pancakes as soon as bubbles form. Incorrect. You’ve only had to have a couple of pancakes fall apart on your spatula before you realise that that piece of advice isn’t totally legit. Wait about a minute before you flip that bad boy over, trust me, you wouldn’t have burnt the pancake by then. Speaking of burning….
Your pan should be so hot that a drop of water instantly evaporates as soon as it touches the surface. Nothing less. The problem with this vague description is that it is possible for the pan to be too hot, and then you’ll end up with a stack of pancakes that is perfectly crispy and golden on the outside, but gooey and undercooked on the inside. And I don’t plan on giving you salmonella. My advice for fixing this would be to heat your pan on low heat for ten minutes whilst your batter is resting, just until it reaches temperature. Then to increase the heat ever so slightly to medium low whilst you’re cooking.
And you are going to use butter to fry your pancakes. No excuse. This is not a compromise, this is a must. Your heart will hate you for this but think of how happy your stomach will be.
I suggest that you start with this great recipe for Oreo Pancakes by Must Come Hungry. It rocks.
Or try this Citrus Dutch Oven Baby Pancake that’s already on the blog
Now that I have bestowed unto you all my undue pancake knowledge I send you forth unto the world to go and preach the gospel. As well as making some lekker cakes of pan. If you have anything to contribute, make sure to drop a comment below!