My middle son loves to whip up huge weekend breakfasts. He and his dad have perfected the egg sandwich, the egg in a hole and bursting breakfast burritos, and my son is often found making unicorn-shaped pancakes for his pint-sized sister. As perfect as his egg sandwich might be, his pancakes don’t always gratify; oftentimes they are burned on one side, others turn out too dense, and frankly some of his ingredient combinations just taste better than others. Then there are the recipes that lack even the slightest bit of nutritional value, and since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, these are unambiguously are not my favorite.
So my son set forth to discover the art of the perfect pancake, and I tagged along to ensure his concoctions possessed a thread of nutrition. He experimented with different recipes until he found a few family winners. He never did test Chelsea Clinton’s much discussed spinach pancake creation, but I urge her to ignore the haters and to keep feeding her baby healthy food.
When planning for the perfect pancake we cannot ignore maple syrup. Grade B maple syrup is usually produced later in the season and is more nutrient-dense than a grade A variety. Be sure to buy pure maple syrup without any additional ingredients, additives or sweeteners. Sauteed fruit makes a tasty pancake topping, too, without the extra sugar.
Perfect pancake do’s
- Measure ingredients carefully. This was my and my son’s downfall. Even an extra dash of flour can change the texture of a pancake.
- Mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet, before combining. This ensures all ingredients, especially the baking powder and salt, are evenly mixed, and the flour can uniformly absorb the liquid.
- Use a griddle or a heavy cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. If your griddle has a temperature control, 375 degrees is the ideal. Your griddle or skillet is primed when drops of water dance on the surface and evaporate immediately.
- Let the batter rest five to 30 minutes before cooking. Waiting much more than five minutes is not going to happen in our household, as everyone is markedly hungry when the cooking begins, but even that five minutes counts.
- For the fluffiest pancakes, separate the eggs. This means you add the yolks with the other wet ingredients but then beat the egg whites separately and fold in at the end.
- Use a ¼ cup-sized measuring cup for the most uniform, easily flipped pancakes.
- Leave a two-inch space between pancakes in the pan.
- Flip the pancakes when bubbles appear on top and the edges begin to lightly brown.
- If a pancake sticks, breaks or does not seem amenable to flipping, cook a little longer.
- If the pancake bottoms are getting too brown, rather than golden, turn down the heat.
- Cook for two to three minutes on the first side and one to two minutes on the second side.
- Eat immediately. Do not make ahead for the child who is still sleeping, the pancakes will not taste as good. Save the batter for him to make when he wakes.
Perfect pancake don’t’s
- Never overmix the batter or it will make the pancakes tough.
- Don’t let the griddle or skillet get too hot or the pancakes will burn before they are cooked through.
- Skip the butter on the skillet or griddle if yours is non-stick; otherwise apply it to the heated surface with a paper towel rather than pouring directly into the pan where it can pool.
- Do not press down on the pancakes while cooking. This does not make them cook any faster, yet it does make them less fluffy.
- Don’t flip twice. Master the art of getting the first side golden so they don’t need to be flipped a second time.
- Use almond flour for extra protein.
- Use walnut oil in batter instead of canola oil.
- Sprinkle cacao nibs in batter for a sugar-free chocolate treat.
- Top pancakes with sauteed fruit instead of syrup.
Oatmeal Banana Pancakes, Serves 4
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups water
2 T maple syrup
¼ t sea salt
1 t vanilla
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Let stand for 5-30 minutes until batter thickens. Add cacao nibs if desired. Pour ¼ cup servings of batter into skillet and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on the first side and 1-2 on the second side. Serve warm with grade B maple syrup, grass-fed butter or fresh fruit.
Almond Flour Pancakes, Serves 4
1 cup of almond flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 T baking powder
½ t sea salt
1½ cups almond, oat or rice milk
¼ cup walnut oil or coconut oil
Mix together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk and oil. Combine egg mixture with the dry ingredients. Let stand for 5-30 minutes until batter thickens. Add blueberries or cacao nibs if desired. Pour ¼ cup servings of batter into skillet and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on the first side and 1-2 on the second side. Serve warm with grade B maple syrup, grass-fed butter or fresh fruit.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, April 27, 2016.