Recipes

Perfect pancakes

As a varation, you can’t go wrong with a 50/50 mix of wheat flour to oats in your pancake batter.
As a varation, you can’t go wrong with a 50/50 mix of wheat flour to oats in your pancake batter. Chicago Tribune

There are precious few foods that slip easily under a door. Lettuce leaves come to mind, along with matzo and veal scaloppine. But it will never replace my favorite from the flat food group: pancakes.

WHY LEARN THIS

What if company comes? And spends the night? And you’re out of Cap’n Crunch? Or, gee, you told Mom you’d make her breakfast.

THE STEPS YOU TAKE

These little discs of deliciousness have more names than Satan: flapjacks, hotcakes, griddle cakes … I could go on. Whatever the moniker, though, what they have in common are four ingredients: wheat flour, eggs, dairy and a leavener.

As you probably know, it’s the gluten in wheat flour that allows the pancakes to rise and become fluffy and light. All-purpose flour is dandy, though some cooks prefer softer flours. Seriously, though, all-purpose is fine.

(If you’re gluten-intolerant, I suggest you leave this article. Leave it now. It will only bring you despair, cramps and bloating.)

There are just two basic parts of the pancake process: mixing and cooking.

1. Mixing: Don’t overmix your batter. Use the “muffin method” of mixing: Put all your dry ingredients in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another, then pour the wet into the dry. Mix only enough to incorporate. Overmixing develops gluten. Leave some lumps, and your pancakes will be as soft and tender as a Michael Bublé ballad.

2. Cooking: Pour your batter onto your griddle. If you don’t have a griddle, use a cast iron pan. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, use whatever wide, flat pan you have. (If you don’t have a wide, flat pan, carefully scrape your batter into the garbage and go out to brunch.) I never grease the pan, but if you want, you could add just a bit of oil or butter, then pour the batter. After about a minute, when the pancake bottom is golden brown and bubbles form and begin to pop on the top, flip and brown the other side to cook through. Yum.

VARIATIONS

Even if your constitution can handle gluten, you still might like a little change of pace. Just take my basic pancake recipe (above right), and make the following tweaks.

Oats. Grains such as oats have been shown to be good for your heart. Generally, you can’t go wrong with a 50/50 mix of wheat flour to grain in your batter; the flour, with its aforementioned gluten, still gives your pancakes that nice fluffiness, while the oats add texture and nutritional value.

Mascarpone. The more fat your dairy has, the richer and more luxurious your final product. Try 1 cup mascarpone with 1 cup milk and 4 ounces butter, plus the dry ingredients from my basic recipe. Once cooked, stack up your pancakes and spread mascarpone between layers.

Bananas, blueberries or chocolate chips. Here’s the thing: Add pretty much whatever sweet treats you like to your batter, and cook it up the same way you would otherwise. It’s all good. Now, grab the syrup and dig in.

ON THE SIDE

Make it a full brunch spread by serving a fresh fruit salad with your pancakes, plus plenty of coffee or tea. Your mom will be so impressed, she’ll never miss the hotel buffet.

Excellent pancakes with apples

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5 to 8 minutes

Serves 12

Use less liquid for thicker batter and pancakes, more liquid for thinner. You’re the boss.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt

1 1/2 cups milk

3 eggs, beaten

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Butter, unmelted, as needed

Maple syrup, as needed

Sautéed apples, see recipe at left

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, eggs and melted butter.

Pour liquid into flour mixture, and combine with a rubber spatula or whisk until just blended. Do not overmix.

Pour desired amount of batter onto a greased hot griddle or cast iron skillet and cook until bubbles form on top and just begin to pop.

Flip pancakes and cook on other side until done, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately with butter, maple syrup and sauteed apples.

Per serving: 182 calories, 10 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 5 g protein, 216 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Sautéed apples

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5-8 minutes

Makes about 24 ounces

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter

4 apples, peeled, cored, cut into medium dice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 ounce brandy, optional

Cinnamon, as needed

Salt as needed

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. When foam subsides, add apples and sugar; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, add brandy, then return pan to heat and tilt to flame. When flames subside, season with cinnamon and salt to taste; serve immediately.

Per 1/2 cup serving: 64 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 0 g protein, 1 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Fresh fruit with orange-ginger syrup

Serves 8 to 10

Your fruit choices are flexible but should include whatever is freshest in the market. Note: Remove zest from an orange using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Avoid the white, bitter pith as much as possible.

For syrup:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons orange zest (the orange used can be included in the salad)

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

For salad:

2 pints fresh strawberries, cored and halved

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 2-inch cubes

1 large cantaloupe, 3 mangos or 3 navel oranges, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

Make syrup: Cook all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Remove and discard ginger and orange rind. Cool syrup; chill 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Combine prepared fruit in a large bowl. Pour syrup over the fruit, gently tossing to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour, then serve.

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