Recipes

Mastering the art of the perfect pancake

Coconut-banana pancakes topped with toasted coconut flakes, honey and banana. Pancakes are the definite breakfast meal, beloved by almost everyone — in other words, the perfect dish to master.
Coconut-banana pancakes topped with toasted coconut flakes, honey and banana. Pancakes are the definite breakfast meal, beloved by almost everyone — in other words, the perfect dish to master. The New York Times

Through all the breakfast fads – the avocado toast and the green smoothies and the eggs poached in a microwave – pancakes stand resolute, the definitive breakfast meal, something almost everyone loves and all of us should master.

There they are on the tray for breakfast in bed, studded with blueberries. And again after the 8-year-old’s sleepover, this time with bananas and coconut and maybe whipped cream. Did someone say Father’s Day is coming up? Pancakes are heroes of the breakfast table. Fluffy stacks, with crisp edges and lots of butter and syrup, are indulgent and yet always appropriate.

Making flawless pancakes is an exercise in patience. There may be burned bottoms and raw interiors in your past, but with an excellent batter and enough practice on the lowest settings of your stovetop burners, you can achieve pancake perfection.

The Batter

The ideal pancake should be fluffy and taste like breakfast: a little eggy, almost salty and just this side of sweet. It starts with the batter. The right ratio of eggs to buttermilk will create a tangy, custard-like interior; baking powder and baking soda will build the ideal lift and a light texture, and the right amount of sugar will help crisp the edges without crossing into dessert territory. And yes, there is quite a bit of salt. But if you try to cut back, you will miss it. As with any food, pancakes need proper seasoning.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then create a well in the center to pour in the buttermilk and add the eggs (no need to combine the eggs with the buttermilk first; there are only so many mixing bowls you should wash this early in the day). Using a whisk or fork, starting from the center and moving toward the outside, thoroughly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.

As with cakes, pancakes should not be overmixed; the batter develops gluten and results in a tough pancake. Do not be afraid of a few lumps. They’ll take care of themselves.

The Mix-Ins and the Flour

Pancakes are a great platform for mix-ins: berries, bananas, chocolate chips, spice. And because of their small size and unfussy cooking method, they are the perfect place to experiment with different flours. You can use almost any flour, and then pair it with a mix-in that complements the taste.

A good general rule is to substitute 25 percent of the all-purpose flour with another grain.

For example, swap in 1 / 2cup of coconut flour and add some sliced banana for a creamy, tropical pancake. Or try cornmeal with blueberries, fresh or frozen.

The Fat

Cooking pancakes is no time for restraint. You need lots of fat (say, a tablespoon) to get the exterior properly browned and the edges wonderfully crisp, which may be the best part.

Most people think cooking pancakes in butter is the way to go. But it is not. Butter definitely belongs inside and on top of your pancake, but it will burn at the heat needed for cooking. Try a neutral oil instead. Choose one with a high smoke point, like vegetable or canola. Or try coconut oil for a subtle, nutty flavor.

Cornmeal-Blueberry Pancakes

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup/170 grams cornmeal

1 1/2 cups/192 grams all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons/45 grams sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons/22 grams baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons/22 grams baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons/43 grams unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups blueberries

Vegetable, canola or coconut oil for the skillet

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt together in a bowl. Using the whisk, make a well in the center. Pour the buttermilk into the well and crack eggs into buttermilk. Pour the melted butter into the mixture. Starting in the center, whisk everything together, moving toward the outside of the bowl, until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat. (Lumps are fine.) Coat your blueberries in a teaspoon of flour so that they don’t sink, then stir them into the batter. The batter can be refrigerated for up to one hour.

2. Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet, preferably cast iron, over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Turn heat up to medium-low and using a measuring cup, ladle 1/3 cup batter into the skillet. If you are using a large skillet or a griddle, repeat once or twice, taking care not to overcrowd the cooking surface.

3. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, after about 2 to 4 minutes. Cook until the other sides are lightly browned. Remove pancakes to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet, and keep in heated oven until all the batter is cooked and you are ready to serve.

Coconut-Banana Pancakes

Yield: Four servings

Total time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup/170 grams coconut flour

1 1/2 cups/192 grams all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons/45 grams sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons/22 grams baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons/22 grams baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs, brought to room temperature

3 tablespoons/43 grams unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups bananas cut into 1/2 inch slices

Vegetable, canola or coconut oil for the skillet

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt together in a mixing bowl. Using the whisk, make a well in the center. Pour the buttermilk into the well and crack eggs into buttermilk. Pour in the melted butter. Starting in the center, whisk everything together, moving toward the outside of the bowl, until no dry bits remain. Do not overbeat. (Lumps are fine.) Fold in banana slices. The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour.

2. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, after about 2 to 4 minutes. Cook until the other sides are lightly browned. Remove pancakes to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet, and keep in heated oven until all the batter is cooked and you are ready to serve.

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