Back in the day, my wife Amy and I would spend our summer weekends in Quogue with her sister and parents. Her father Lou is famous for his pancake breakfast, which he makes frequently. He has an electric griddle that he puts on the table so all gathered can watch the pancakes cook and enjoy them fresh off the griddle. As Amy is responsible for dinner (and just about everything else), I thought I’d better follow in her father’s footsteps and learn how to make decent pancakes!
Ironically, after trying many, many pancake recipes, I ended up settling on the recipe her father uses, which was out of an ancient Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. (Another plus is the fact that it’s incredibly easy to remember.) I think my only modification is to use butter instead of oil.
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Combine in a large mixing bowl. Mix together well with a metal whisk. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine:
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. melted butter
Whisk the liquid ingredients together. Now here is the secret. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Do not–I repeat, do not–use a whisk to overly blend the combined mixture. The batter should be kind of lumpy, not perfectly smooth. Smooth batter equals bad pancakes.
The key is also to use fresh baking soda and baking powder. If it’s been sitting in the cupboard for two years, throw it out and spring for a brand new $2.39 box of baking soda and 99 cent box of baking soda. It will make all the difference.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can sour regular whole milk as follows. Just add two tablespoons of white vinegar to a measuring cup, then add milk to bring it to a full cup. Let sit for 5 or 10 mins.
A single batch hardly makes any pancakes, maybe 8. I usually make a triple batch for our family (on most weekends that is 4 adults + 4 kids ages 4-8). Also, better to make a bit extra, as the ingredients are so simple. Also, a quad batch is so easy to remember — a quart of buttermilk, a stick of butter, 4 eggs, 4 cups flour, etc. but that will make a lot of pancakes, so you’d better be hungry!
Lastly, you may need to add a bit of extra whole milk to thin out the batter. This really just a feel thing: you want the the batter to easily spread on the griddle, but not be a soup. Like a good risotto!
Cook pancakes on a griddle pre-heated to 325-350°. Flip them when the edges look a touch dry, and the tops are covered with little bubbles.
I should add one final thing: for me the only topping is real maple syrup. Seriously, it’s almost not worth it to make pancakes without it. I hate cold syrup on hot pancakes so I heat it: get a large bowl, fill it with hot water, let the bottle of maple syrup warm up before you start to make the pancakes.