Pancakes are pretty much the fastest food on the planet to make — and that’s without a mix. If you’ve got the basics in your kitchen — flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, oil, eggs — you can whip together a breakfast, lunch, or dinner of this easy, pleasing food.
For years I visited a friend who made pancakes from a mix and they tasted like it: dull, insipid, processed, palatable only with the copious addition of syrup (it was fake) and margarine (even fakier). I spent time with my friend not for her food, but her company.
In later years, she experimented with a pancake mix that she put together from ingredients on hand, but this didn’t last long because life got busy and she didn’t have energy to devote to making the mix once it ran out. So we were back to the bag of insipid.
But seriously, making pancakes from scratch is so fast, and so easy, that you don’t have to buy, or make, a mix. If you’re not used to spending time in your kitchen, the first few efforts will take longer, but with practice, you’ll have the batter ready to go in five minutes flat.
Pancakes — Makes 12 pancakes, 4 to 5 inches diameter. The more whole wheat flour you use, the more filling the pancakes, and the fewer that people need to eat. This saves both money and calories.
We serve pancakes with an assortment of toppings, from organic maple syrup, which we get at Costco (what am I saying? We get pretty much everything from Costco, unless it grows in our garden or squirts from the udder of a goat); to peanut butter, honey, and homemade jam; to our naughty little indulgence, Nutella.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all whole wheat flour, or 2/3 whole wheat flour; you can also use all white flour, but why not incorporate whole grains, with their higher nutritive value, into your diet? This is a painless way of doing so)
1/3 cup sugar (you can use less; I like the sweet. Just don’t eliminate the sugar entirely — it helps with the final texture and color)
2 teaspoons baking powder (go for aluminum-free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla (the real stuff is an investment, but it lasts a long time)
7/8 cup milk
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons oil or melted butter
Sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (If you don’t have a sifter, this is what mine looks like; it’s a handy tool to have around for baking quick bread items like pancakes, muffins, and tea breads. Like many good tools, it does basically one thing, but it does it well.)
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon juice, and butter.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir quickly but not violently. The batter will be a little lumpy, but all the dry ingredients will be incorporated into the wet.
As far as texture, you’re looking for a pleasing blend between thick and thin — you don’t want the batter to look like heavy cream, and yet you don’t want it as thick as cookie dough. There is no exact “right” texture — if your pancakes seem dry, add more liquid; if they’re too flimsy and wet, add more flour. Pretty much anything you make will be edible, and if it’s really bad and you own a dog or chickens, then you won’t be wasting any “failures.”
Heat a griddle to high (mine says 455 degrees) or a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until a few drops of water skitter over the surface. Even when I use a non-stick surface, I spray it the first time with cooking spray or rub the cooking surface with a stick of butter. Often, I do this with every batch, as this treatment produces the mottled surface that I, personally, like so much.
Spoon the batter onto the pan with a large serving spoon and let the batter naturally spread itself out. My griddle (it looks like this) fits 5 pancakes in an array of 2/2/1; I could fit six across like the six on a dice, but it’s easier to flip the pancakes with five.
Many pancake recipes tell you to cook the pancakes until they are bubbly across the top and all the bubbles have burst. I have found that this is too long, and the top dries too much, and the bottoms are too cooked. I wait until a few bubbles have formed but the top is still moist, and the bottom is a medium, pleasing brown. Flip the pancakes ONCE — not over and over again as Eldest Supreme and a friend did one memorable weekend in their teenaged years — and let the bottoms cook until they are light brown. Kick up the heat if it seems to be taking too long; lower the heat if your breakfast is burning.
Fast, easy, cheap, nutritious, tasty — pancakes are a poor man’s food that make us all feel rich and decadent indeed. Enjoy them at the table, with a cup of tea and good company, and be grateful that you are full, warm, safe, and satisfied.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I share a simple recipes on Tuesdays.
You know, the more that you know how to do for yourself, the better you will live — economically and mentally. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re too old to learn a skill; most of us are over the age of 5, which is the conventional, mythical age by which we are supposed to begin piano lessons, and most of us can manage to become competent in areas where we have an interest and desire to learn.
My book, Live Happily on Less, is a series of easygoing essays that show you where you can make simple, sustainable changes in your lifestyle, so the money you do make stretches further. Give it a try.
If writing is something you wish you were better at, you don’t have to enroll in a college course. Just start reading good books, and writing as much as you can. Another book of mine, Grammar Despair, addresses the common challenges that many of us face and throw our hands up in . . . despair over. There’s no reason to do this.
Many people have secretly longed to learn art, but have given up on thinking they could ever achieve this desire. The Norwegian Artist has created a digital workshop DVD, Step by Step Watercolor Success, that is geared to the beginning and intermediate art student; with the PDF drawing sheets you receive when you e-mail us and ask, you don’t even have to know how to draw to create a painting for your wall.
If you’ve got a desire to learn something, go for it. You’re the only one who can make it happen.