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Aurelia

Perfect Pancakes

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I've spent the past two years perfecting my pancake recipe, making minute adjustments every time I get that pancake urge [the best off-to-college present I ever gave myself was a griddle]. First of all I add sugar [lots of it] because syrup is too thick and messy to be dumped on delicate pancakes [contrary to popular opinion]. No, a pancake needs the sweet and savory blend of butter and sugar, but in a more subtle way. So, what you need to do is add sugar to the batter, then eat the finished pancake with just the butter.

That problem solved, the dilemma has always been the pancake's consistency. If you follow the recipe on the box you get thin batter and week pancakes with no fluff. If you try increasing the batter to milk ratio [i don't even want to discuss using water instead of milk] then your pancakes simply get more and more dense until they're indigestible. No matter how subtle the change, increasing batter/milk adds no fluff. So keeping batter/milk constant if you add an egg to induce fluffiness what you get is better than the previous two but it becomes this weird cake-pancake hybrid that's not so much dense as in need of frosting.

But now, I have received a momentous bit of advice from Nick and Ashley. By separating the egg whites from the yolks and whipping them to a fine froth before folding it into the batter you can achieve fluffiness. So this is my newly revamped and ever evolving pancake recipe:

Basic Pancake

2 cups pancake mix

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup milk [i use skim, which works fine. If you use a different type you may need to adjust.]

Measure out pancake mix into a large bowl. Separate egg whites and yolk, pouring the white in a separate small bowl and dumping the yolk into the batter. With a whisk mix milk and egg yolks thoroughly with the batter. The whisk is very important! Not only will you need it for the whites, but if you don't beat the batter thoroughly with a beater or whisk you will get a lumpy batter with bits of undissolved powder, which you will then need to sift out. The whisk makes pancakes happy and easy.

Next, rinse your whisk, and beat the whites until as frothy as possible or until there are "stiff peaks". That is, when you pull the whisk out some egg white froth follows, breaks off, then stays in a cone-like form because of its stiffness. Blend into the batter. Fry at 350 degrees, preferably on a griddle.

A few tools I consider indispensable: one big and one small bowl, whisk, rubber spatula, extra thin extra wide metal spatula, my cheapy Presto griddle from Wal-mart.

Some variations on the basic pancake that I've experimented with and like [just add the listed ingredients to the basic recipe]:

Plain Pancakes - 1 cup sugar

Banana Pancakes - 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 black mushy banana, thawed. To handle the mushy black banana, peel open the tip, squeeze the other end, and let it slide out into a small bowl. Use the whisk to mash it up and beat it into a semi-smooth puree.

Spiced Pancakes - 3/4 to 1 cup sugar [to taste], 1 tbsp cinnamon, and possibly a dash of other spices [e.g. clove, anise, mint, nutmeg].

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I know, who doesn't have a box of pancake mix in there cupboard? I often don't. And there's a simple recipe, probably the same that my mother once taught me, that I got from Martha Stewart's website most recently. Basically, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, milk.

How would your recipe alter if you make the pancake mix from scratch?

I like my pancakes thin. But I don't mind fluffiness. So I'll try doing the egg white thing.

Now, I like syrup on my pancakes, and sometimes jam. I like syrup because I like my pancakes with a side of not too salty, nor fatty bacon, and I like to pour syrup on them too.

And I have some great memories of adding chocolate chips to the pancake batter on the pan.

Jose Gainza.

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I've spent the past two years perfecting my pancake recipe, [...]

You might be interested in Alton Brown's website and TV show (Good Eats). He's a culinary wizard, a fount of scientific knowledge about food and food preparation.

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I know, who doesn't have a box of pancake mix in there cupboard? I often don't. And there's a simple recipe, probably the same that my mother once taught me, that I got from Martha Stewart's website most recently. Basically, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, milk.

How would your recipe alter if you make the pancake mix from scratch?

I like my pancakes thin. But I don't mind fluffiness. So I'll try doing the egg white thing.

Now, I like syrup on my pancakes, and sometimes jam. I like syrup because I like my pancakes with a side of not too salty, nor fatty bacon, and I like to pour syrup on them too.

And I have some great memories of adding chocolate chips to the pancake batter on the pan.

Jose Gainza.

To make the mix from scratch (and quite a few other helpful recipes), I highly recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It is full of, as the subtitle states, "simple recipes for great food," and Bittman is good about explaining why certain substitutions in recipes will work and others will not.

Oh, and for the stiff whites...you can whip your arm into jelly doing it with a whisk! I have a KitchenAid stand mixer for that job, and it performs admirably.

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By separating the egg whites from the yolks and whipping them to a fine froth before folding it into the batter you can achieve fluffiness.

In addition to your wonderful idea of separating and fluffing the egg whites, you could also try folding them into the batter instead of mixing them. This would allow for more air to stay in the whites and even fluffier pancakes! I have used this technique while making fudge before.

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To make the mix from scratch (and quite a few other helpful recipes), I highly recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It is full of, as the subtitle states, "simple recipes for great food," and Bittman is good about explaining why certain substitutions in recipes will work and others will not.

Oh, and for the stiff whites...you can whip your arm into jelly doing it with a whisk! I have a KitchenAid stand mixer for that job, and it performs admirably.

Yes, the Kitchen Aid Mixer is one of the best inventions every designed by the mind of man ...

So I wonder if I use Martha's recipe.....

Basic Pancakes

will that suffice to succeed with the alteration Aurelia has advised?

And it were these Pancakes on Martha's Live show ....

German Apple Pancakes

that showed me how to take pancakes to heights never before dreamed of yet. I didn't know men were capable of such pleasure until that morning, watching Martha's smile, while pouring the batter. And I still haven't tasted this recipe. Perhaps the idea was enough, just like I can still taste the first crispy cream donut I had several years ago, and never since.

Jose Gainza.

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How would your recipe alter if you make the pancake mix from scratch?

"from scratch" is a phrase I like to keep far away from my kitchen. So, short answer: I don't know, never tried it. But if I were to give it a go I'd start with 2 cups flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, and increasing the milk to 1 1/2 cups. I'd also experiment with salt, baking soda, and yeast. But with cooking I tend to make things up as I go, so I suggest deffering to Martha.

Now, I like syrup on my pancakes, and sometimes jam. I like syrup because I like my pancakes with a side of not too salty, nor fatty bacon, and I like to pour syrup on them too.

I'm not saying syrup doesn't have its place, it does indeed go excellently with sausage and bacon. There are just more tasty ways to do a pancake.

And I have some great memories of adding chocolate chips to the pancake batter on the pan.

They are great that way, so open to variation. :)

Oh, and for the stiff whites...you can whip your arm into jelly doing it with a whisk! I have a KitchenAid stand mixer for that job, and it performs admirably.

Congratulations, that is a singularly excellant peice of machinery. I don't own one, but I used it once and have seen what Martha can do with it. I greatly covet.

In addition to your wonderful idea of separating and fluffing the egg whites, you could also try folding them into the batter instead of mixing them. This would allow for more air to stay in the whites and even fluffier pancakes! I have used this technique while making fudge before.

What is "folding"? I had assumed that it was repeatedly scooping the mixture from the bottom to the top, but that doesn't seem vigourous enough to bring plenty of air into the whites. Do you find that it works as well as or better than the beating?

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What is "folding"? I had assumed that it was repeatedly scooping the mixture from the bottom to the top, but that doesn't seem vigourous enough to bring plenty of air into the whites. Do you find that it works as well as or better than the beating?

I'm guessing what is meant here is to first whip the whites to stiff peaks (either with a whisk or a mixer), and then fold the whipped whites gently into the other batter ingredients, rather than stirring the whipped whites (since the more vigorous motion of stirring would cause them to lose some of the fluffy consistency you've worked so hard to achieve), not folding in unwhipped whites. Am I right?

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I got the tip from somebody else, also. Just so you don't think that I'm a cooking genius from anything Aurelia says. :) Anyway, I'm hesitant to share the recipie that I use as I got it from a wonderful book called The Cake Bible. The author is an amazing cook and I learned that one should always find the mass (use a scale) rather than use volume for measuring ingredients as one may pack ingredients into the cups and things at differents densities, giving drastically different results every time. Anyway, yes, the recipie as she tells it does say to fold the egg whites into it, and I agree that folding is better to keep the fluffiness.

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I highly recommend a subscription to the Online Edition of Cook's Illustrated, or a combination of the On-Line and Print editions. I have found this publication to be one of the very best for its informative articles with respect to food science and cooking techniques as well as the actual recipes themselves. This thread led me to review a 1996 article from the magazine detailing the proper technique for preparing "Perfect Pancakes". Much of what was originally posted here is mirrored by that article's recommendations with the added benefit of variations for different "types" of pancake (Whole Wheat, Toasted Pecan) as well as for different desired textures. In addition, the On-Line Edition provides additional links to related pieces (Keeping Pancakes Warm, Maple Syrup, etc.).

Happy Pancakes!!

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