Biscuits come from cans, and pancakes come from boxes. Like these:
I remember helping make pancakes (plus muffins, cakes, and Jiffy cornbread) in the kitchen when I was a kid. Measure some mix, measure some oil and crack some eggs (unless your box contained one of those fancy complete mixes where you just add water), and cook. So easy, a kid can do it (and I often did).
I remember liking all the from-a-box baked goods I ate as a child.
Even buckwheat pancakes.
My mom, ever persistent in her quest to make her kids eat healthy, often bought buckwheat pancake mix instead of the coveted Hungry Jack or Aunt Jemima’s, and in place of butter and syrup, we’d top our grainy griddle cakes with unsweetened applesauce. Those dense, wheaty pancakes were pretty good, I think, but comparing them to a tall stack of fluffy, home-style buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup is a bit of a stretch.
Now, there used to be a charming little greasy spoon in my hometown (Hartwell, GA) called the S&W Diner, and when you ordered off of their menu, you didn’t order pancakes. You ordered pancake. Because just one of these babies had the circumference of a dinner plate, not to mention a fluffiness index of about three quarters of an inch. Those were pancakes.
I think I was in college when I tried making pancakes from scratch for the first time. They were much less of a disaster than my first batch of biscuits, and pretty soon I felt confident that I could whip up a quick batch whenever the craving might strike. Which is usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings when Micah and I sleep late, brew some coffee, and assemble a lazy brunch that we might finally get around to eating around, oh, noon.
Cornmeal pancake trials aside, our favorite recipe lately has been a buttermilk pancake recipe from Allrecipes.com. All the 4- and 5-star reviews this recipe has received are well deserved, because these pancakes kick ass. It’s hard for us to convince ourselves to try new recipes, because these are so ding-dang delicious.
Well, the other night, we were watching Worst Cooks in America on Hulu…
[Other folks watch Survivor or The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars, but we’re hooked on food-centric reality shows like Top Chef, Chopped, Worst Cooks, Iron Chef, and The Next Food Network Star. When we cancelled our cable and then figured out that we couldn’t watch whole seasons of Top Chef on Hulu, it was a sad day.]
…and Anne Burrell had her recruits on the red team making pancakes, and she separated the eggs so that she could whip the whites into a gorgeous meringue-y fluff before folding them into her batter.
Ever since, Micah’s been obsessed with trying this out to see if it really does make the pancakes fluffier.
It does! This batch was probably my favorite we’ve ever made, and about twice as tall as when we’ve made the same recipe made without separating the eggs. You can see in the picture how thick they were, but these pancakes were about as dense as the puffy feather filling in a down comforter.
What’s in it:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup regular milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
- Beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until you have nice, stiff, fluffy peaks of meringue. I tried to do this by hand, but eventually gave in and used my stick blender with a whisk attachment. Much quicker and easier!
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolk and buttermilk together.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg/buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined, then add the melted butter.
- Gently fold in the egg whites.
- Heat a griddle to 350°F or a skillet on medium heat. It’s hot enough when you can toss a drop of water on the surface and watch it do a little samba before it sizzles out of sight.
- Use a ladle or measuring cup to scoop your fluffy batter onto the griddle. If you use heaping 1/4 cup measures like I did, you’ll get 6 pancakes (perfect for a brunch for two!).
- Cook the pancakes on the first side until the bottoms are a deep golden brown and you can see a few bubbles on the surface. Flip ’em and cook some more, until the bottoms are nice and brown, too. I think ours took about 5-7 minutes per side, but this would vary depending on your cooking surface and how big you make your pancakes.
- Keep finished pancakes warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
- Serve with maple syrup, honey and fresh fruit, or other pancake toppings of your choice, plus a steaming hot mug of coffee, if you’re so inclined. 🙂
We chose to top our pancakes with plain old maple syrup, and they were pretty darn amazing.
As we were enjoying this lovely, simple breakfast, Micah asked me if I thought it was worth it to do the extra step of whipping the egg whites separately. I emphatically nodded yes, because it’s kinda hard to answer with your mouth full of fluffy, delicious pancakes. 🙂