Pancakes – a good start

Pancakes are always a good beginning.

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On weekends when I was growing up, my dad would make pancakes. For as long as I can remember my parents’ copy of the Joy of Cooking has opened automatically to the page for pancakes. The spine is broken, the pages are stained with batter and vanilla, occasionally they stuck together. Sometimes I would help make pancakes, sometimes not, but when they were almost done I would pull out every jam and syrup in our house to get ready for eating them.

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You may know that the recipe for pancakes in the Joy of Cooking gives the option to add more milk than egg or more eggs than milk. I found this part of the recipe endlessly confusing as a child. It seems like every time I tried to help make pancakes I would get stuck on this part. “One egg or two? One cup of milk or one and a quarter? How do you choose?” And every time my dad would patiently remind me that either choice was ok.

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I now know that more eggs means a fluffier pancake. If you choose to use two eggs, you can separate the whites from the yolks, beat the whites separately, and gently fold them into the batter. More milk will make the pancakes more pourable and they may just a little bit flatter. Normally, I can’t be bothered with beating the whites and folding them in – when I want pancakes I want them as quickly as I can make them, which means skipping the beating. This recipe already has chemical leaveners in the form of baking powder. So I opt to use more liquid in the form of buttermilk. There is almost no recipe that could not be improved with the use of buttermilk in place of plain milk and pancakes are no exception.

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Making pancakes with my dad taught me a lot of things. Always give the batter a few minutes to rest between mixing and making the first pancake – this leaves time for the dry ingredients to become fully saturated, gets rid of most of the lumps, and creates a fluffier pancake. It also leaves time to turn the oven on to warm so the first pancake isn’t cold by the time the last one gets out of the pan. Only flip the pancakes when you see a good number of bubbles on the top, otherwise they’ll probably be too light and you’ll need to flip them more than once. And most importantly, pancakes taste better together. It’s always a good way to begin.

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Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbs sugar
1 ¾ tsp baking powder

1 egg
3 tbs butter, melted and cooled
1 ¼ cups buttermilk

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the egg and beat it gently. Pour in the butter and buttermilk and stir until just mixed. There should still be quite a few lumps. Let the batter sit for around five minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 170F (or as low as your oven will go) and put cooling rack on the middle shelf.

Heat a large griddle, skillet, or my preference, a cast iron pan with a tablespoon of butter or neutral oil. When water drops skip along the surface pour on your first pancakes – if the water evaporates instantly the pan is too hot and the pancakes will burn before they cook through. Cook about 2-3 minutes until you see a lot of bubbles in the uncooked batter. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer finished pancakes to the oven to keep warm.

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